The Culmination of a Classics College Career

Alex Coates

At this point, I am unsure where I will be in a few months. Will I be accepted into the graduate schools of my choice? Will I find myself landing on the path toward full-time academia? Will I be one of countless college graduates who look back and regret the major and degree they have chosen? Certainly I hope not. If that turns out to be the case, then so be it; I can adapt. I’ll find something else to do. I’ll teach high school or elementary school kids. I’m sure they’d be interested in Latin and Greek, right?

These questions all came crashing down upon me at the beginning of this year. While studying for my written comprehensive exams and I began to wonder what would happen if it all didn’t work out the way I wanted. I began to feel powerless and hopeless; the life I had wanted seemed, for some reason unknown to me, to be slipping away or worse, seemed to be itself pointless. The despair I felt welling up was unbearable. It was hard to study.

The day the exams arrived, I was very somber, but very focused. I knew that, no matter what the future holds, I had to do my best now. I brushed up on my Cicero and thought about Callimachus and Catullus’ response to him. I memorized the first seven lines of Homer’s Iliad and I reviewed the timeline of authors I had on my wall in my head. And then I sat down at the computer and read the question. I remember joking to my friends that my question would probably be something like, “Latin and Greek Literature: Go.” In a dawn of terrifying anxiety, I saw that I was not too far off. “No matter,” I told myself. “It was time to focus.”

After four hours, I had completed 12 pages of writing. I was relieved. And yet, that feeling of helplessness crept up out of the pit of my stomach once more. It said to me, “This all means nothing.” But then, for the first time in weeks, I realized something that wasn’t scary or petrifying. I looked at the words on the page and read through some of them. They had all come out of my head. The last four years of my hard work at Wabash College on a page. Nary a note or article citation was used. Everything was from my own mind. I smiled and breathed deeply in relief.

Every time I get discouraged about the post graduate possibilities for a Latin and Greek double major with a Classics minor, I try to recapture what I felt in that moment. No matter what happens, I’ve learned a lot and I can tell it to you if you ask. That fact makes me feel like my life is worth something; the degree I’m pursuing and near completing will be useful to me in some way or another, regardless of whether or not I make it in the academic field.

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One Response to The Culmination of a Classics College Career

  1. john chew says:

    I admire your decision to major in Greek and Latin. I believe your academic choices to be sound. Please continue to blog about your progress post-graduation.