Talking To People 101: My English Major Life Lesson

Collin SuttleA major in English is just about the cushiest place an introvert like me can be. Every fundamental aspect of being an English major happens in my room or in the University of Mobile library. We don’t have to be performers. We don’t have to socialize or rub elbows with strangers on a regular basis. I was in a safe place, metaphorically speaking.

That’s why I wasn’t particularly worried about my senior thesis. It would just be a long paper. I didn’t have many ideas, and my favorite idea just wasn’t cut out for a thirty-page defense, but it would come together. A paper is a paper is a paper.

Then came one conversation with my advisor, Dr. Katherine Abernathy. We talked about my thesis, and then we talked about the idea of a University of Mobile writing journal. I jokingly asked if the two could become one, if I could help with the journal in exchange for a thesis credit. Dr. Abernathy, however, didn’t think of it as a joke.

Bay Window was born: a University of Mobile English journal. My thesis.

In the seven months since the real work began, I’ve spent five hours over the Call for Submissions, a single sheet of paper; I’ve rewritten and rewritten emails before they were sent – and then again, in my head, afterwards; I’ve typed out messages, even to friends, that I’ve lingered over for minutes, even hours, before sending. I’ve done things that I never wanted to do, and certainly never expected to do as an English major.

But those things happened. Dr. Abernathy challenged me to take this wild idea and run with it, helping me when I needed it, letting me do alone what I needed to do alone. My other professors have been far more supportive than I could have ever hoped. My University of Mobile friends and contacts have offered up their talents, gifts, and creativity when I asked for them.

And those difficult things that involve people? They’ve gotten easier. In August of 2016, the emails I’d write would sit on my desktop for maybe an hour while I stewed over wording and punctuation. Last week, I wrote an email in five minutes and subsequently forgot about it, except to check my inbox for a reply. Walking into someone’s office to ask for something is still not something I enjoy, and I doubt it ever will be. But I can do it now, with minimal hand-wringing or hyperventilating.

It’s doubtful that I would have grown up this much if Dr. Abernathy hadn’t encouraged this project, if a nontraditional thesis like Bay Window hadn’t been accepted, if my professors weren’t as flexible and even as excited to guide me as they have been. If I’d been kept to a normal thesis, back in my room or library or coffee shop, I wouldn’t have learned firsthand that I’m brave enough to talk to people. I’m brave enough to admit that I like what my fellow UM students have to say, that bringing together their works, their creative spark, has been one of the most fulfilling, most humbling works I’ve experienced in my life so far.

It’s been a difficult project, every step of the way here at UM, but – and this is a new one for me – I’m grateful that I’ve never been alone.

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Collin Suttle is a senior English major at the University of Mobile, with a minor in Art. She has been a lover of words, stories, and creativity for as long as she can remember. As a student member of the One Year Adventure Novel community, she won first place in its yearly Novel Contest in 2012 and in the community’s first short story contest in 2016. Her biggest goal is to become a published author as well as an editor of young adult fiction. Her other interests include painting, needlework, cats, and the intersection of art and spirituality.

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Talking To People 101: My English Major Life Lesson

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