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Finding inciting incident in graduate school

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POSTED January 22, 2013 9:20 p.m.

A good story starts with an inciting incident — an event that gets the plot moving.

Conflict then continues to drive the plot until the credits roll at which point you leave the theater with half a box of $15 over-buttered popcorn under your seat.

Life doesn’t function along this continuum. Life provides enough conflict, but sometimes you have to go find your own inciting incident.

I will admit that for my mid- and late-20s I got a little distracted. You finish high school, you go off to college, you get a degree, you get a job and the subsequent sigh of complacency keeps you looking back at what you’ve done rather than where you can still go. 

For the past two weeks I’ve been a Kent State graduate student working toward a Masters Degree in journalism education and can’t help but think I should have done this a long time ago. I don’t want to paint myself as the victim of a one-third life crisis, but at some point you have to consider the undone and ask, “If not now, when?”

If I would have looked a little more long term when I was say, 27, I would have the benefits of this degree already and I could be looking for the next thing. But no. I’m here, years from my third graduation, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.

After a couple assignments, lots of reading and plenty of work, I must say it is great to be back in school.

The best part of college wasn’t rushing the football field, mud wrestling during the homecoming week, post game trips to Old Chicago for dollar pizzas or getting $3 steaks at a coffee joint on dead day study sessions just to see how they taste. College was about me seeing if I had what it takes. I didn’t think it was, but that was it — seeing what I was made of.

At any given moment there are more people in Raley’s than were in my senior class in Alaska. There are more Walmart greeters than calculus classmates. I went to the University of Arizona, which would rank third if it was a town in Alaska, and made it out in four years.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think I am unique. In fact, test scores, and just about every other calculable assessment would probably agree with my normalcy.

When I was 14, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which was a national test, not just one for Hawkeyes, said I scored in the 98th percentile in science. My lowest score was a 54 in written expression. I scored higher in math than reading. I was very average on the SAT and ACT tests, and if it weren’t for a GRE waiver I received, I would have again solidified my ordinary status. But I’m happy and excited I’m once again a college student sacrificing free time and money for “the long run.”

Sometimes easier isn’t better. Sometimes you have to force yourself into inciting incidents and risk failure enough to be your brand of successful. I had to remind myself of this to get back in school, and I’ll have to do it later with something else.

Fishing, perhaps?

 

To contact Jeff Lund, email aklund21@gmail.com.

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