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I was a terrible janitor on the Maintenance Crew my first year at Wilson. I mean, seriously awful. I was in one of the Ballfield dorms, which I think are called something else now. I'm fairly certain I nurtured colonies of bacteria that had never grown in a bathroom or on earth before. I refer to this shameful period in my book. In my second year, I was an R.A. in Sunderland. My bosses, Andy Foskey and Erica Engelsman, were graduates who become residence directors. They were really great people and we're still friends today. I also worked at the Cowpie Cafe for extra money, and was a member of the Writing Crew.
I completed my service at an outreach clinic for migrant workers.
As for mentors: Ann Turkle and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (the Joan Beebe Fellow) were awesome. So was Richard Blomgren, who was my boss for a summer at admissions and who I still count as a friend. I didn't have a lot of contact with Rodney Lytle but I grew to admire his spirit and devotion, and Sharon Lytle was my awesome transfer counselor. Ben Feinberg was a great anthropology teacher, really funny. Lorrie Jayne was a fabulous resource in so many ways. I loved her intercultural communications class, and she was just a really good person. If I could go back in time, I would have studied much harder for David Mycoff's grammar and punctuation class! He was such a fun teacher, and I'm re-learning grammar now in my capacity as a freelance editor and writer for a variety of websites. Louise Solomon, the former Dean of Students, was really a fantastic person and encouraged me to write.
In addition to freelancing as an editor, blogging for Wonkette and Comedy Central's political humor site, Indecision Forever, part of the Daily Show/Colbert Report brand and making silly web videos for them (I was the Indecision Delegate to the Rally to Restore Sanity/Keep Fear Alive in D.C. in 2010, which meant I ran around with a camera crew from Comedy Central making goofy AT&T-sponsored videos -- they're here), doing occasional TV spots (most recently on Joy Behar -- here's a link to a clip on the always-fond-of-me Andrew Breitbart's site -- the comments are delightful) podcasting and doing comedy shows, I travel the country today to speak to college students about mental health, suicide prevention and good self-care. I can honestly say that Ann Riddle Lundblad (who was Ann Riddle at the time) was an incredible force for good in my own struggle with depression and anxiety. Art Shuster was also excellent. Wilson has such caring, involved mental health providers. Thanks to Wilson, I was also able to find an excellent psychologist and psychiatrist off-campus who really helped support me in my quest to live a happier, healthier life. If I were a parent with a child who had dealt with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or addiction, I would feel very happy knowing that he or she was at Wilson. The community really keeps tabs on you and cares. If I remember correctly, there is a brick outside the (present or former?) work office that reads, "You saved me." I think this is true for a lot of people who end up at Wilson. It's not a utopia, and my time at Wilson wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, but overall my experience was quite good.
I did AmeriCorps in the Southwest and then moved to NYC to get my M.A. in teaching. I look at my college lecture tours as a form of teaching. Honestly, I haven't given up on the teaching dream. In fact, I'm considering applying for an M.F.A. in creative writing so I can teach at the college level and hopefully be as inspiring a teacher as some of the professors I met at Wilson. A professor at a top (I mean, REALLY top) M.F.A. program suggested to me that with my current career and my travels, a low-residency program might be best. And she asked if I'd ever heard of Warren Wilson College. I was like, "Do you have two hours to listen to me talk about that place?"
Wilson showed me the importance of community and friendship. I tend to isolate myself as a protective reflex, and Wilson made it impossible to do this. You have to interact with other people and work for the common good. I also learned a lot about the importance of good, healthful living -- good food, time spent in nature, the importance of wellness and self-care. Wilson was where I first really experienced reiki, yoga, and various forms of massage. It was where I first learned how wonderful a bonding experience it can be to make and share a meal.
I'd love to work at Wilson one day. I like to come back and do shows in Asheville when I can, and 6 years in New York have not cured me of my incredible fondness for the Swannanoa Valley. Comedy has taken me from Los Angeles to Austin to Oslo, and I hope my book takes me on even more traveling adventures, but Asheville remains my favorite spot in the world. I will tell anyone who listens about how great Wilson is. Someone recently asked me what my dream job was: writing for a TV show, writing books full-time, producing my own sitcom, acting in films, etc. I said, "My number one dream job is to be a writing professor at Warren Wilson College who also writes bestselling books. My number two dream job is to be the student activities director at Warren Wilson College who also writes bestselling books. My number three dream job is to be an actor/producer/writer who teaches comedy and memoir workshops at Warren Wilson College."
Basically, my dream job is to work at Wilson. Doing anything but maintenance. History shows I'm just really, really bad at maintenance.