Deborah Byrd,  GPC Faculty, Rockdale

 

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

 

Who could have known, way back in 1976, as I sat in a night class at DeKalb Community College after a hard day on my job at a local bank, that one day, far, far into the future, I would be teaching English at Georgia Perimeter College?  Certainly, not I!

As an average high school student, I should have gone on to college when I graduated in 1973, but the lure of big money caught me.  I could buy a car, move away from home, and get my own apartment—all on my bank salary of $5,400 per year!  By 1976, I had ridden the bank’s corporate elevator all the way up to $7,000 per year.  And without a college degree, that’s where I was stuck.

So, with loud neighbors, a clunky car, and no vacation that hadn’t included Lithonia, I began realizing how limited my future actually was.  Several of my friends from the bank attended night classes at DeKalb, so I thought, “Why not?”  What did I have to lose—a couple of evenings out of my week?  Maybe I’d even meet a nice guy…. 

I made the decision.  During the spring and fall of 1976, I gave up two nights each week to take classes in English, psychology, economics, and American history.

 And my world changed.

I studied Flannery O’Connor’s epiphanies, Joseph Conrad’s anxieties, George Washington’s tragedies, and President Ford’s calamities; I chewed over gestalt theory and cognitive dissonance, the empirical verification of alliance dimensions, and I heard about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a relatively new term for the time. During these months, slowly, slowly my future began to emerge from under the rock where I had tried to bury it after high school.

Oh, it took a few years, but eventually, due to the spark of curiosity and determination that was ignited in those night classes at DeKalb College, I completed my B.A. in English at a small college in Tennessee and then my graduate degree at the University of Chicago.  In the years since DeKalb College, among other things, I have explored Mayan pyramids, strolled through London’s foggy streets, ducked for cover during a sortie in Jerusalem, stood atop a volcano on Maui, recited Robert Burns’s poetry in Edinburgh Castle, sung Beatles’ songs on Rome’s Spanish Steps, and celebrated Oktoberfest in Munich! 

Yes, my world changed.

 By 1999, after living in several states across the country and traveling to parts of the world that I had once only dreamed of, I returned to Georgia with my dear husband—also an alumnus of DeKalb Community College!  For the past five years, I have taught English at the Rockdale Center of GPC, and I have never been happier.

How far I have come from that woman-child of 1976 who didn’t know a lot about life, but who did understand that education was the magic carpet that could take her places far beyond her limited reach.  And now, all these years later, I count it as pure joy to be teaching at GPC and giving back to the college that nurtured my love of learning and opened the world of possibilities to me.