For the past two years, I’ve been working toward my Masters in English at Southeast Missouri State University. Since I went to college in the same town I grew up in, this was the first time I lived anywhere fully on my own, other than a semester in D.C. in undergrad. I had my own apartment, I had to make my own connections, and essentially learn how to be a grown up (while still having fun). I’ve also been working as a Teaching Assistant in the English department, which is probably the greatest thing that could happen to me ever because it helped me realize I want to be a teacher forever. I always thought teaching was boring and hard and, while it is hard, it is so in a rewarding way. But it is never dull.
So today, I had to finish my last assignment ever of graduate school, and of course I was dragging my feet. As Aziz Ansari so aptly put when he appeared on Letterman, it’s the minute you try to get everything done that questions like, “How many Home Alone movies were made?” pop into your head. But, also, I had a nervous feeling in my stomach as I was typing. This could very well be due to the expired milk I accidentally put in my cereal this morning (more than a week old, yikes), but I’d like to think it was because of the anxiety and excitement of completing something that will encompass two years of work. My students also had to turn their final papers in today, and as the box fills up with their work, I can’t help but to be really cheesy and accept that these amazing two years are coming to a close.
So, for kicks, I want to write about my 25 favorite moments of living in Cape Girardeau, including being a teacher, working as a server, making friends, learning how to be a graduate student, and all else.
1. A student who asked me on the first day of class if I was married because I wrote “Ms.” on the board instead of “Miss”.
2. Wednesday night bike rides through the city with anywhere from 5 to 25 people.
3. Thursday night drinks with co-workers.
4. Sorry, Rebecca Black, no Friday to come next…but, speaking of weekends, when Jess and I met the “Diaper Genie”–a guy, when asked where he worked, responded “I’m a diaper engineer.” We decided this was basically the equivalent of a sandwich maker.
5. Showing Kayne’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” video and Zach Galifianakis’ parody of it to my class, only to have a student tell me it was one of the worst things she had ever seen.
6. Returning home after a weekend away to find Mickey, who had been watching my fish, had labeled everything in my apartment in German. He also replaced 12 pictures in one of my frames with pictures of him and our other friend Rebecca. Best. Prank. Ever.
7. Speaking of pranks, filling up the M&M candy dispenser in my office with first full-sized candy bars and then candy hidden in Easter grass, knowing one of my co-workers would take the whole thing apart just to get to the candy, especially after realizing you can’t turn the knob to dispense wrapped candy.
8. And one more prank(ish)…filling the cart at Wal-mart with every brand of American cheese I could find while grocery shopping with Mickey after hearing him explain on several occasions how much he hates American cheese. Priceless. Also, in the same train of thought, grocery shopping with Mickey and Jess.
9. All the amazing people I was able to interview as a freelance writer for the Southeast Missourian. The 6-article series on Alzheimer’s was definitely the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to write, but also the most rewarding.
10. One of my students who, while trying to request a late date for an assignment, realized how much work I had to do as a grad student and teacher. You could literally see the lightbulb turning on.
11. Farmer’s Market trips with Amber, Mickey, Jess, Missy, and anyone else who joined.
12. Spotting a little person riding a bike while driving Rahul through downtown during his first visit to Cape. He is still upset I didn’t tell him in time to get a picture.
13.Being able to serve as an editor on two editions of the school’s literary magazine, Big Muddy (thanks, Dr. S!) In the same way, being able to serve as a T.A. in general (thanks, Missy, really you have no idea).
14. Tour de Cape with Jess, Missy, and Jeanine–awesome 15, 30, 60, and 100 mile bike rides around Cape Girardeau.
15. Winning first in my age group at the Mardi Gras 5K.
16. Having to wake up at 5 am to drive to a conference in Carbondale, Ill. on a Saturday only to open my front door to find my next-door neighbor had pushed my whicker rocking chair right in front, hoping I’d trip, I guess. Thanks, Jeff.
17. The amazing friends who have visited me while I’ve lived here. Same goes to family.
18. When students tell me my English class was the best one they had ever taken. Those are the moments when it sinks in more and more how awesome it is to be able to help students grow when you’re a teacher.
19. Jess spitting her beer on poor Julie.
20. Domino nights!
21. Living on my own for the first time.
22. Halloween 2010, especially when Danny used his tongue to unlock his iPhone because he didn’t want to take off his gloves.
23. Becoming a server at Outback Steakhouse; I worked as a host at a different Outback for 2ish years while in undergrad, so it was about time.
24. Defending my Masters thesis, especially having my mother there to witness it.
25. Writing my Masters thesis.
…and one more
26-infinity. All the amazing, wonderful, beautiful people I have met and become friends with while in Cape Girardeau. I will miss you more than I even know how to say, and you made the past two years some of the best.
In my hometown, many of the people I met were through other friends, or through family members. Combined, my parents know more than half the residents of my hometown. When my grandparents moved to town 15 years ago, that added even more connections. Many Wal-Mart, Sam’s, JCPenny know us as Henry’s family. The fun thing about living in Cape Girardeau was that it gave me the chance to establish my own connections. Make my own friends. Reach out without the help of my parents. In less than two years, I’ve made countless friends, held jobs at four places, and learned the greatest asset you have is yourself. While I always thought reaching out and meeting new people was a terrifying thing, I soon learned it is as easy as holding out your hand and saying hi.