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“I was born to be a wanderer”

Posted by on Thursday, January 11, 2024 in Blog, RPW Events, Undergraduate.

Aashi Gurijala is a 2023-24 Humanities in the Real World Fellow. This year’s undergraduate cohort are blogging their interviews with professionals who majored in the humanities.

“I was born to be a wanderer,” Cat said boldly. 

As a humanities major, it’s hard to ignore the power of words and their ability to change us. What is largely understated, however, is how words themselves effect change. Collections of letters strung together in syllabic harmony carry within them an inherent promise of flexibility and growth. 

Cat’s story is an extraordinary example of what it means to live in the humanities, not just study them.

Cat Acree, former deputy editor of BookPage, knew the very same to her core. I was honored to be interviewing her as part of our humanities alumni panel for the Robert Penn Warren Center. As a creative writing major at Vanderbilt University, she confronted the importance of words every day. Fusing her literary skills with a corporate strategy minor, she applied her passion for books and literature to her sought-after position at BookPage in a troubled economy.

Through her time at BookPage, she understood how writing as a process is more than the words on a page, but also the words exchanged between editor and client, or even mentor to mentee. She was lucky to have great mentorship in Nancy Reisman, who taught her how writing in any form—but especially in a workshop format—is an art that requires nurturing to galvanize meaningful and positive change.  

At one point, she wanted to experience that change herself. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when reading was one of the greatest vehicles of escapism, she came across seven words that changed her deeply: “I was born to be a wanderer.” These were the opening words of Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. She knew then that being part of the humanities had left her with one great understanding of the flexibility of life and accepting changes as they come. 

So, she changed career paths. She decided to become a pilot. Now, Cat is well on her way to becoming a certified commercial pilot after completing a designated number of hours as a flight instructor. 

Cat’s story is an extraordinary example of what it means to live in the humanities, not just study them. The humanities teach students about reflection, compassion, and growth by forcing them to continually confront such topics in their education and goals. They rouse a fearlessness of change and an acceptance of self-pliancy.

In order to truly honor what we study, we have to embody the lessons we learn. Opening ourselves up to possibility and accepting where it may take us is a crucial first step to following in Cat’s footsteps and more. Whether it be through various job opportunities or persisting through failure and unprecedented hurdles, humanities students are well suited to be not only resilient but welcoming of the chaotic and surprising turns life can take. 

Not everyone was born to be a wanderer, but choosing the humanities as a career path teaches us to find joy in wandering the unknown. 

Aashi Gurijala is a junior majoring in Neuroscience and Creative Writing from Phoenix, AZ. In her free time, she writes novels in the genres of sci-fi or fantasy. Aashi’s research interests are in the intersection between science and the humanities, specifically with how the humanities build bridges between the objectivity of the sciences and the nuances of human experience.