For decades, I have been fighting my packrat tendencies, trying to cut down on retaining unnecessary paper in particular. The advent of regular recycling has been a blessing in this effort, because the print material is not going into a landfill, but will be reused for newsprint, corrugated boxes, or other needed things, and so it's easier psychologically to toss the glossy magazines and other bits of pulp-based flotsam into the bin, rather than keeping them around indefinitely.
One area, though, in which I have continued to accumulate is academic papers. Since high school (almost a quarter century ago!) I have resolutely (and neatly) retained folders and large manila envelopes of notes, handouts and essays for all the liberal arts classes I have taken (I did recycle all my Chemistry and math notes). I was convinced that I would eventually end up teaching one or more of these subjects, and I wanted to have a sense of the pacing, content and assignments from my own experience to guide me.
And this weekend, the retention of this information paid off. On July 2, one of the local parochial schools posted an opening for a middle school language arts instructor, and among the application requirements was the procurement of three letters of recommendation. As expected, trying to contact people on a holiday weekend was challenging. The position really called for an English major, but although I had come close, I did not actually achieve that, because I left college a year early. So, I felt that a letter from the former English department head from whom I took four undergraduate classes (lo these many years ago) would stand me in good stead.
Turns out, he and his wife had just arrived in Oxford, UK, for a visit of six months, and though he'd brought student records of the last decade with him, he didn't have those of the previous ten years. I was substantially impressed that he would have so many with him, and responded that it would be ridiculous to haul more overseas. He emailed me back that if I had copies of any of the work I'd done for him, he would be able to compose a recommendation based on that. Of course, I did! The man is a saint. He was one of the best teachers I've had in any subject, and his willingness to go the extra miles on behalf of a former student is awesome.
My other recommendation-writers include my friend Ira (that we've worked together creating beautiful English from beautiful Russian for many years I thought would make her perspective valuable), another two former professors (these from Georgetown), and an emeritus pastor from my church in DC. I didn't know who all would be able and willing to compose such endorsements--that some could comment on my Christian faith in the context of English language appreciation while others could only assess my demonstrated work ethic made the choice about whom to approach a challenge. Plus, the job itself begins August 1, so I know the school's turn-around time for hiring is minimal--and I needed a critical mass of positive outside commentary to support my somewhat shaky application (given my lack of a teaching certificate or of an actual English major).
We'll see. I told them in the cover letter that if hired, I would immediately enroll in an Education MA program, seeking a specialization in English. Frankly, I would like to have done this already, but the money simply isn't there. Ah, well. Now, off to apply for part-time secretarial work! I wonder if a "real job" wouldn't be more relaxing than the job of finding one!