Final Course Reflection

Over the course of the last semester attending ENGL 300, I’ve been exposed to a number of concepts and lessons that I never had really considered or even thought about before. If someone had walked up to me previously and asked me what I knew about work and the meaning of work, I probably would have walked away from them as fast as possible, not just because I had no idea what they were talking about but also because this weirdo was trying to get me into what sounded like some sort of cult. Now though I think I’d be able to engage in that conversation pretty well, granted that it really wasn’t some sort of cult of course.

Going though this course really has helped put some things in perspective for me, as well as shed some light on things that have bothered me in the past. Before I had always been overly concerned about how the work that I was involved with would go, wether I’d succeed or not. Now however, I hope to better myself by using both my successes but also my failures to learn and become better for it. I may not know what exactly I wish to pursue as a professional interest but I will definitely be using what I’ve learned and apply it to my future work. This course may have been difficult, but without that difficulty to challenge us, then I don’t think we would have gotten enough out of it as we have. All I can say is thank you.

English Department Event: Email Building

Recently I attended an event hosted by the UNL English Department that sought to help people interact in a positive and respectful manner with their professors and peers through email by providing basic email etiquette advice among other things such as to make certain that if they have a doctorate that you refer to them as their work has earned. An event like this would certainly be of huge help to recently arriving freshmen as well as anyone who may not be familiar with communicating with their professors over email. As an extra treat, the students who presented the material, also introduced us to the people that they consider their “mentors” and how they have helped them through their academic careers to become the people they are today. A short but sweet get-together with good food, good company and good advice for the future.

Career Fair: Public Service/Non-Profit

On March 1st of 2017, I attended the UNL Public Service/Nonprofit Career Fair. Despite my own reservations at the time, as I wasn’t looking to get involved with public service work at that time, I had an extremely informative and all around great time. During my time there, I had extremely interesting discussion with two people in particular, the representatives from both the Peace Corps and the UNL Graduate School Program. While my conversation with the Graduate School rep was mainly focused on my own possible choices for the future, the Peace Corps was different.

During my discussion with the Peace Corps rep, we discussed just how an English degree could be utilized in an organization such as theirs and what other sorts of degrees and academic backgrounds were welcome. As is turns out, English degree holders are often put into groups that handle linguistics and teaching, often teaching English in classes for those in the country they happened to be visiting. We continued on with talking about how those with degrees in agricultural economics or biology could apply for positions where they could aid in foreign populations food production, teaching proper crop techniques, what sorts of foods would be most health beneficial, and other things of that nature. Really, while some of the other stands were rather dull, I thoroughly enjoyed my discussion with the Peace Corps representative and I wish her well in her future endeavors. In my opinion, the attending of the Public Service/Nonprofit Career Fair was an entertaining success.

Mentor Profile

Over the course of my life, I haven’t had very many people I could rightly call a “mentor”. I’ve had teachers in the past of course, and I enjoyed speaking with many of them as well, but there was never a time that I believe I could call them something like a full-blown mentor. That being said, I have had people that I’ve looked up to and saw as inspirations and individuals to be learned from and there are very few people that I have as much respect for as my father Chad. Born just outside of the town we live near to this day, my father has lived in Nebraska all his life. He grew up here, attended elementary through high school here, and eventually followed the course to attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as well. When I asked him why he decided to attend at UNL rather than somewhere out of state, he said that he couldn’t imagine living in a place where his family and the place he grew up would be farther than a few hours away, so he just decided that the natural follow-up to that would be to attend a nearby college.

As for his profession, my father is a farmer by trade. He’s owned, plowed, and harvested his own fields for years now, just as his father Chuck, my grandfather, did before him. He was raised around a farm, tending cattle before they expanded their corn and bean harvesting operations, and as he puts it, “just fell into it”. That isn’t to say that my father went into UNL looking for an agricultural degree. He actually majored in Business with minors in Communications and Foreign Language. After he graduated, he left to work for Union Pacific for a time, but he claims he could never get used to working in a cubicle. He worked there for a time, made connections through the business and when time passed and he returned to farming, he used those connections and business degree to expand on the already existing farming operations, slowly phasing out the cattle work before eventually becoming a dedicated bean/corn producer.

When I asked him just what sort of academic experiences had a lasting impact on him, he claims that the one that has had the most effect would have to be attaining his Business degree. He gained so much experience both from the work it took to gain that degree as well as with the administrative work that came after, that he was able to utilize that into his eventual  farming career. It had proven its worth time and time again and has only helped him throughout his life, both before and after he became his own boss. Though to go along with this, he said that much of his experience also came from working with his own father, Chuck. Working on the cattle with his father at a young age may not have given much in the way of academic experience, but it gave him the work ethic to see things through to the end, not shy away from things that need to be done, and to always remember that you have to love what you do or there’s just no point.

When I asked him what sort of reading he would suggest to a student that was trying to find their way in life, he did’t have an idea off the top of his head. What he did say was to not be afraid of trying different things once your’e out in the world and more importantly not to be afraid of failing in those things. Life isn’t always about success, despite what many people would claim these days. It isn’t our success that show who we are and help us grow. We learn more from out failures than we ever could from our successes. So, as he said, go out there and find something you love doing. It may take a while to find that thing, but it’ll be worth it in the end and you’ll have learned a lot along the way.

His current position, as I stated earlier, is that of a self-employed farmer. He owns his own land, equipment, and other such things. His time with the Union Pacific helped him learn and experience a number of situations that helped teach him what he would need to know for what is essentially him running his own business. His work at earning a Business degree was certainly no small factor to that either. His time with his father Chuck as a hired hand helped him learn just what a real days work was and the satisfaction that could come along with that. His time tending cattle as a child may not have been glamorous, but it gave him more life lessons than any self-help book or research document ever could.

And as we were closing out, I asked him of there was any other bits of advice he had for college students like me and many others. He thought about it, and simply gave the simplified version of what he had said previously. “Don’t be afraid to fail.” In a time were the push to succeed, come hell or high water, rain or shine, seems at an all time high and people can become so petrified at the thought of failing that they freeze up and fail because of that fear, these sorts of words are the kind that people need to hear more often. Do your best and give it your all, but if things still don’t work out, then to heck with it. Try again or maybe consider moving on to something else. Failure does not equal defeat. You’re only defeated when you don’t learn from your failures.

I appreciate the time you’ve taken to reading this article and remember, don’t ever stop looking for that thing that makes you happy and always learn from the times you don’t succeed.

Book Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

How do you even begin to rightly describe Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life”? I must have sat here for a full ten minutes of just thinking of ways to try and describe it. Finally, after much deliberation, I believe the best term that can be used is complex. “A Little Life” is very very complex. Now that isn’t to say that it was difficult to understand. Yanagihara’s writing is impeccable and easy to understand. I didn’t lose my place trying to understand what the people were saying or what exactly was going on. I could clearly see the events that unfolded around the group of friends, Jude, Malcolm, JB, and Willem. But that being said, that does’t mean I wanted to.

I will be the first to admit that there are topics that if I had my way I would avoid reading about. Such topics include abuse in the various forms it can take. I’ve always been very fond of my “happy endings” in my reading and to read a story where for a character that arguably deserves a happy ending the most yet spends nearly the entire novel suffering in one manner or another is heartbreaking. The character of Jude hit a lot of buttons for me that I would have preferred to go unpressed. I hate the idea of anyone, even a book character, appear to be created solely for the purpose of suffering. And that’s all Jude really does. He suffers constantly in nearly every way possible until he (SPOILERS AHEAD) finally succeeds in taking his own life. It’s just upsetting.

Does this mean I hate the book? No, of course not. Do you hate King Kong for the giant ape inevitably being shot and killed? No, its tragic yes, but it aids in making the story what it is. Without any tragedy, “A Little Life” would literally be a much shorter story about the lives of a few people where nothing really happens. There are conflicts but nothing that would keep any readers engaged. I think the elements of tragedy, despite making me very sad for a few days, is what makes the book what it is because that is what the readers will remember. Perhaps not fondly, but it will be remembered.

That tragedy also brings another aspect of the novel to mind though. At what point do we look at the events in the novel, specifically those surrounding Jude, and continue to see them as realistic? At what point does it become painfully obvious that any event around this character will only lead it something painful because that is the majority of what we see him in. Simply put, is it believable to have so much misery dumped onto one character and when does that begin to detract from the novel as a whole? For me, it eventually became both parts distracting and a driving force. After all, you want to see what happens in the end, but at the same time it gets to the point where you feel as if you have to slog through all the depressing stuff to get there.

So did I enjoy “A Little Life“? No not really. It was a rollercoaster of emotions that I would have been content to not ride. Does that mean it’s a bad novel? Not in the slightest. Hanya Yanagihara achieved exactly what she set out to do. She created an engaging story with characters you feel real emotions for. You want to see them get past those obstacles, you want to see the friends succeed, you want Willem and Jude to be happy together, you want Jude specifically to be happy. You do have to work at it, getting through all the stuff that may cause a few nights where it’s difficult to sleep but regardless of the end result of the novel, the fact that the readers care that much, is the reason why this book is good and why I would recommend it to any reader who enjoys emotional and heartfelt literature. Just make sure to keep a few hankerchiefs handy.

Below is a link to a review of the novel by the New Yorker

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-subversive-brilliance-of-a-little-life

LittleLife

What’s the Point?

After posting a number of discussions dealing with various aspects of history, from certain events to specific individuals, I found myself thinking on the reason why I bother posting such things. What’s the point? All of this is in the past so what does it matter? Honestly, some times it’s pretty difficult to answer. It would be easy to say that it’s because I find it interesting and that is certainly a major factor. I’ve always enjoyed reading and that is what led me to reading about history. But so what? Doesn’t that make it more of a hobby rather than anything else? Yes, but the more I think about it, the more it seems to me to be more than that. The studying of history can mean many different things to many different people. Some look to history for lessons learned and to not make the same mistakes. Others might look to prominent people of ages gone by for inspiration, to see them as heroes and celebrate them for it. Or maybe it can be just a casual interest in history as a whole. I don’t think that the reasons we have to look backwards invalidates it in any way. If anything, I think that the fact that we are willing to do so is an indication to the importance of the past, even if some do not acknowledge it in the moment. So yeah, history may just be what’s over and done with, but the fact is that no part of today could have been possible without the many yesterdays that came before it, and will undoubtably be imperative to the tomorrows still to come.

Adrian Carton de Wiart: The Ultimate Soldier

There are few soldiers that can rightfully claim to be as hardcore and dedicated as Adrian Carton de Wiart. Born into Belgium aristocracy in 1880, the most that was expected of him was to finish his studies in a prestigious university and continue his father’s work in international law. Instead of this, Wiart would abandon his academics midway through college, enlist in the British army under a false name and age, fight through three separate wars, two of them being the first and second World Wars, live through eleven serious injuries in total, including being shot in the face twice, survive his plane being shot out of the sky, be admired as Winston Churchill described him as “a model of chivalry and honor” and in the end live until the age of 83. Wow.

Wiart’s story is one that deserves twenty time over to be remembered for the amazing epic that it was. Joining the British Army just in time to take part in the second Boer War, his time there was fairly brief as soon after he arrived, he received multiple bullet wounds to the gut which forced him to return to England. This of course was only his first time in defying death as when WWI began he eagerly returned to the service as a fully instated British subject and joined the Somaliland Camel Corps against the forces of the “Mad Mullah” Hassan. During this time, he would be shot both in the arm and the face, losing an eye and a portion of his ear and once again be returned to Europe. During his recovery, he given a glass eye, but was rumored to be so annoyed by it that one evening he had enough, popped it out and hurled it at a passing taxi. He then took to wearing a black eyepatch.

Instead of staying home as many others probably would have done, Wiart was chomping at the bit to return to the fighting and hurled himself into the fight on the Western Front. There he continued to fight until his hand was mangled in a German artillery barrage. Demanding to return to the fight, Wiart proceeded to rip off two of his own fingers on his disfigured hand when the medical doctors there refused to amputate, forcing the doctors to amputate his entire hand less he bleed to death. After this, he convinced his superiors that he was once more battle ready and was given command of a battalion of his own, where he served as a symbol of unwavering solidarity and courage to his men until the end of the war. After the first World War ended, all he had to say on the matter was that “Frankly, I enjoyed the war.”

 

With the end of WWI, Wiart settled in Poland until WWII erupted. Despite being in his sixties, Wiart immediately returned to the British Army, leading a campaign in Norway as well as being stationed in other areas around Europe. He would eventually be captured by the Italians after the aircraft carrying him was shot down over the Mediterranean, but became infamous for his numerous escape attempts. He would be released two years later once the war ended and living until the age of 83. There is no reason to explain further on why Wiart’s story should be remembered. The sheer tenacity it must have taken to fight and survive through one war is amazing enough but three? Plus with two of them being the most infamous in human history?! Wiart is a man that makes Captain America look like a pansy and in my opinion, is one of the single most badass people in human history.

Sir-Adrian-Carton-de-Wiart-1

Agustina of Aragon: The Spanish Joan of Arc

In the early years of the 19th century, the Napoleonic Wars were in full swing with the forces of the French Empire and its allies spreading throughout Europe intent on conquest. By 1808 the battle for control of the Iberian Peninsula was well under way. During what would become known as the Spanish War of Independence, Napoleon’s forces advanced to capture one of the few cities in Northern Spain that remained out of French control, the city of Zaragoza. Historically a city of peace, having not seen war for over four hundred and fifty years, the city only held a token force of Spanish soldiers and when news reached them of the approaching forces, it was believed the defense wouldn’t last even a day.

When the French arrived and the opposing forces clashed, the ranks of the Spanish crumbled and took heavy casualties. Retreat seemed like the only course of action available and the soldiers quickly began to flee. However, in the midst of their retreat, the soldiers noticed one individual who seemed to be fleeing in the wrong direction. Agustina de Aragon, a local townswoman who had often been seen bringing baskets of apples to the gunners, had ran onto the battlefield, commandeered an abandoned cannon and began firing at the invading forces at nearly point-blank range, blasting away dozens of French troops. In awe of her bravery and ashamed of their cowardice in the face of the enemy, the Spanish forces immediately dove back into battle, aiding Agustina and together driving the French forces back through sheer zeal and ferocity. That day was won through the actions of one woman and that isn’t even the end of her story!

agustina-goya

She would be eventually captured by French forces and imprisoned. That however didn’t last long as in short time, she managed not only to escape, but kill a French official while doing so and take command of a band of local Spanish guerrilla fighters to harass the French army. After these achievements she would in time be made an official officer of the Spanish Army, reaching the rank of Captain. Years later, after serving with distinction and honor, she returned to the city of Zaragoza where she settled down, married a prominent doctor and lived to the ripe old age of seventy-one. There are truly few people who have lived a life as action-packed and outright amazing as Agustina of Aragon and it is definitely one to be remembered.

Galvarino: Champion of the Mapuche

Galvarino was a warrior of the Mapuche, a tribe of indigent natives of the Chile-Argentina region of South America, who was born in the early 16th century. His life would be dominated by the brutality of the Arauco War, a bloody conflict between colonial Spaniards and the local Mapuche. Eventually, he along with over one hundred Mapuche warriors would be defeated in battle and taken captive by Spanish forces. While many of these warriors would be executed, the Spanish governor of the region, Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza wished to send a message to the “insurrectionists” who continued to rebel against Spanish rule. He ordered a portion of the warriors to be left alive and released, albeit at a price. These warriors would have one hand cut off as well as their nose, while a smaller number would have both their hands cut off to ensure they could never take up arms again against the Spanish. Galvarino was of the latter.

GalvarinoWiki

 

Devoid of his very hands, Galvarino was sent back to his people as a warning of what would happen to them if they continued to resist. However, instead of doing as the Spaniards ordered, Galvarino instead used his now handless limbs as a symbol to the Mapuche, demanding both action and an even larger rebellion than before. Moved by his demands for justice, thousands of Mapuche were drawn to his cause. After strapping knives to his mutilated wrists, Galvarino rejoined the fight for his people. Side note, if that isn’t the most hardcore thing you’ve ever heard, then I don’t know what is! Eventually, after an hour of pitched battle between over three thousand Mapuche warriors and the forces of the Spaniards, as well as Galvarino personally killing Mendoza’s second in command, Eric Demand, the Mapuche warriors were defeated and many of the survivors, Galvarino included, were executed by hanging.

While it may not be a story of victory against overwhelming odds, it is one of defiance to the bitter end and having the will to continue fighting for what you believe in regardless of the obstacles placed in your path. Galvarino will always be an example of what determination, willpower and sheer stubborness can inspire and deserves to be remembered as such.

Galvarino

The Lost Colony of Roanoke

In 1587, over a hundred English settlers were led to what would become North Carolina to form a settlement on the island of Roanoke. The settlement enjoyed relative peace for the next two years, but tensions began rising between the settlers and the local Powhatan tribe. With tensions between the groups rising and food stores dwindling, the settlement’s leader John White, would be forced to return to England for supplies and military aid.

A war with Spain would delay White’s return for three long years, but when he did return, where was once a thriving settlement on the rise, there was now a ghost town. Homes were dismantled and not one person could be found, including White’s own wife and daughter. The only thing found was the word “CROATOAN” carved into a nearby post. Modern day scholars have debated the meaning of this message, with theories ranging from the supernatural to the setters finding aid and shelter among the Powhatan tribe located on the nearby Croatoan Island, interbreeding and eventually fully integrating into their society. Theories have come and gone over the years, but one thing is certain. Not one of the settlers of the lost colony of Roanoke were ever found and their disappearance remains a mystery to this very day.

RoanokeMystery