The Story of Alisa, Part 2

What I should have been when I grew up

When I was in 5th grade, I wrote a series of book reports for extra credit. My English teacher gave me a C- on each and every one of them. When I asked her why she had not given me the A+s that I’d become accustomed to getting, she said, “I gave you a C- because you can’t write.”

Well, if you read Part 1 of The Story of Alisa, then you know that I was not your usual kid. Your usual kid might have been a little disappointed. Your usual kid might have said, “So I can’t write. But I’m good at math and history! And what President has ever needed writing skills anyway? That’s what speech writers and ghost writers are for!”

I wasn’t that kid. I was the kind of kid who, when a person tells her she can’t do something, becomes downright determined to prove that person wrong. Because, after all, that person IS INDEED WRONG. I was brilliant. Even my grandmother thought so.

So, on that day, I decided to become a writer. That would show Mrs. C.

Then in 7th grade I took an aptitude test. I was sure that the test would reveal just one thing. It was this: I destined was to become America’s next great Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.

But that’s not what the test found. No, according to this aptitude test? I had great aptitude to become a mail carrier.

Now that I had to prove Mrs. C and the aptitude test wrong? A career in writing was almost inevitable.

Plus, it must be said that some member of my family who was very loosely related to me had worked as an editor of some sort at a publishing house somewhere in New York. As far as I was concerned, a career in writing was in my blood.

So, in high school, I started writing for the school paper. That, don’t you know, I won a Scripps Howard Journalism Scholarship to Penn State. I was really proud of that fact.

Penn State decided that I was not smart enough to enter as an honors student or start during fall semester with the other really smart kids. I had to start during summer session, with the kids who were deemed not quite as smart. The admissions people apparently had never had lunch with my grandmother or aunt. If they had? They would have accepted me for fall semester because they would have known about my brilliance.

I now also had to prove to Penn State that I was smart enough to be an honors student.

When my journalism teacher gave me an F on my first assignment? I called my mother at 5 a.m. and cried my heart out, telling her that I sucked, was fat and was going to drop out of school. She sent me flowers and told me she loved me.

After I finished crying, I realized that dropping out of school would mean that Mrs. C was right. It would also mean that I did not have what it took to be an honors student, and that Penn State probably shouldn’t have accepted me at all.

If I’d dropped out of school, I also would have had to pay back my scholarship, because, it would have meant that another kid deserved it more than I did.

I pulled myself together and pledged to not only become an honors student, but also convince Professor Johnson that I deserved to pass her class.

I got an A. Professor Johnson went on to mentor me and become one of my most favorite people of all time.

I became an honors student.

I got a job at the Writing Center as a writing tutor. I helped some of Penn State’s football players pass their writing comp classes.

I became a reporter and then an editor at the student run newspaper. I met some of the coolest and most talented students at the Collegian–students who were better writers and reporters than I was. Even my grandmother would have agreed. They awed me every day.

Along the way, I also did the following: perfected the art of the keg stand, swallowed a goldfish while it was still alive, did shots of all sorts of varieties of alcohol, painted my face blue and white, threw marshmallows at my fellow students, spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not the library was haunted by the student who’d been murdered in the library’s stacks years before, and overslept my 8 o’clock classes. This was all a normal part of Penn State life.

Despite all of that, I graduated with a really ass-kicking GPA was invited into Phi Beta Kappa.

Now I’m going to give you a Cliffs Notes version of my career, because 1) it seems only fitting since I just told you about college life and Cliffs Notes are a big part of college life 2) I can’t think of much of anything interesting to say about the various jobs I’ve held other than the fact that I held them. So here goes:

  1. I got a job as a newspaper reporter.
  2. I really didn’t like knocking on doors and asking grieving parents for photos of their dead children, so I quit after three years and, instead, got a job working as a staff writer at a publishing house. While there, I bought my first home computer. It was a used 386 PC that the company was getting rid of. Another highlight from these years: I met my husband.
  3. I got bored writing A to Z health encyclopedias, so I quit that job and instead started working as an editor at Runner’s World. While there, I ran three marathons. Another highlight from these years: I married my husband.
  4. Eventually, I realized I could make more money as an independent contractor, so I quit that job and went freelance. I doubled my salary that first year. I now support my family with my income.

As a freelancer, I ghost wrote 7 NY Times best sellers and got published in Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Prevention, Yoga Journal and more.

Mrs. C? Soooo wrong. So, so wrong.

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