Live to Write

Despite my insistence that 1990 was ’about 10 years ago’, this year my class (K’94) will meet in Kalamazoo for our 20th reunion. When I visited the reunion page to start making plans, I found a link to our class yearbook and in the yearbook I found this picture:

Vintage class photo of fifteen students with handwritten note Job-hunting English majors: Live to write! Don't write to live. You can't eat words! Signed, Ellen Caldwell
(That’s me, second row, second from the left.)

I was lucky enough to be an English major at K, and I was even luckier to have Dr. Ellen Caldwell as my advisor, mentor, and teacher. She knew her students well….so well, in fact, she could almost see into the future with her sage advice.

Her encouragement to “live to write” instead of writing to live may not have made much sense to me at the time, but 20 years later, I think I can finally see the difference. The times I have tried to “write to live,” I’ve ended up going down dead-end paths and feeling lost. On the other hand, when I have been able to “live to write,” I have had incredible journeys that have filled me to the top.

Since I’ve left K, I have lived to write while teaching English to Hmong and Somali refugees. I’ve lived to write as I tried to help prisoners learn to read. I lived to write through 15 years of trying (and finally succeeding!) to get a Master’s degree. I lived to write while getting married and raising two daughters. Now, I live to write at my dream job — combining my degrees and teaching experience in a flexible, innovative way.

As you consider your college journey, I hope you too will be able to take Dr. Caldwell’s advice to heart. Live to write, no matter what form that might take for you.

-Hillary Frazey ’94