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Letting Passion Influence Your Future

By Aliesia Berryman

From the moment one can hold a conversation, a common question is: What do you want to be when you grow up? Upon entering junior year of high school the pressure surmounts and wrong decisions can cost time and significant amounts of money.

There are many approaches to figuring this out for oneself: one might go for a career that is financially advantageous while another might want a career that allows them to stay at home with kids. Yet another option is to go for a career that requires traveling the world.

Whatever route one takes, the one thing that promotes the most lifetime happiness is finding a career that involves passion, yet figuring out what it is one loves doing can be half of the journey.

The pressures of family and society can prevent one from doing the things they love and ultimately push them down a career path that leads to misery.

Zoë Von Gunten is someone who pushed past those pressures and is now studying English at Casper College with plans to make a career doing what she loves.

Von Gunten is most often in Strausner Hall where she attends several classes. She is often recognized by her colorful and eccentric clothing. If not at school, Von Gunten can likely be found working at the Bourgeois Pig, a popular downtown cafe.

Von Gunten planned on studying music when in high school.

“I used to think I wanted to be a music major. I played saxophone, and my entire family on my mom’s side, they’re all musicians. And of course my brother played saxophone, so in my brain I was like – I’m going to do what you do,” Von Gunten said. “That wasn’t really where my heart truly lied.”

She said the transition was difficult.

“I literally had to break up with music and be like, I’m gonna go flirt with English now.”

“What you thought was beautiful may actually be harmful.”

Studying English presents its challenges. The University of Wyoming at Casper used to offer an English bachelor’s degree and no longer does due to lack of demand. Even getting an English degree at CC requires some hoop jumping due to only a few classes being offered per semester.

Barriers exist outside of college as well. The financial outlook for most English majors is dreary. Rena Goldman at Business Insider rated the degree path as one of the twelve worst for career potential.

It took a very supportive teacher to show Von Gunten the joys of reading and writing.

Von Gunten said her support came from her high school senior year AP language arts teacher Jamie Tipps. She said Tipps introduced her to the world of literature, particularly short stories and poetry.

“She really fostered my love of English and she encouraged me to be very creative where I couldn’t find this creativity in music,” Von Gunten said, “As creative as music is, I found I was more expansive in literature.”

Of Tipps she said, “She was really the person who grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the water and said, you will be fine.”

Von Gunten described her high school experience as being very stifled.

She said, “There were not a lot of teachers there who truly wanted to invest their time into what I was interested in.”

Tipps fostered in Von Gunten more than just a love for literature and writing, she also introduced her to the world of editing.

Von Gunten is a tutor in the Writing Center at CC, and she is also a literary editor for Expressions magazine. She decided that her goal in life is to become an editor.

Tipps put together a “case book” of her students’ writings, and the creation of this collection is ultimately what steered Von Gunten into the desire for editing. This, she believes, is her one true path.

She said, “I think in there too, that also made me kind of realize that I think I want to be an editor because we would do peer editing and my peers would come up to me and be like: Hey, um, you’re really good at this. Can you help me edit this?… This is something I truly enjoy and I felt like I truly found what I wanted to do and what I really was meant to do.”

Von Gunten is already planning for the future.

“I want to edit for a publishing company and edit books, which first and foremost, I may end up working with authors I’ve read and that I love and being able to read their manuscripts and be helping with it? Like, what a freaking cool thing to do. To help someone put out a book that may change the world. That’s so cool.”

“And on top of that too. I would say very sly of me, but my loophole idea too is as a creative writer. If I work for a publishing company, it may give me more of an in to be like, ‘Hey guys, I have a manuscript. Do you want to read it maybe?’”

A creative writing passion is one that lots of people carry but only an elite few make a living from.

Von Gunten said, “You either make it or you don’t. You have to get lucky. For years, some authors will be putting out books and they’ll be great but they’ll never be known. Some of the best books we’ve ever had, the classics, some of those authors were just totally shunned from society. Later, once they’re dead, you know and have no money to their name and know one knows them, they’re like ‘Wow, this book is life-changing.’”

Von Gunten believes that everyone should read, and that you don’t have to be an English major to fall in love with books.

“Something that really peeves me, is people being like, ‘Well I’m an engineering major. I don’t need to write,’” Von Gunten said. She added, “You do. I wish people understood that writing is such an integral part of our lives. It is a literal written account of history while also being the thing that shows people what you’re about.”

Von Gunten understands the difficulty in understanding and appreciating literature. She subscribes to the idea of some people leaning more towards math and logic while others, like her, lean more towards creativity. Yet she wishes to emphasize the purpose behind literature and working with someone on a piece of their writing.

“We need to understand that there are gray areas and there is beauty in not knowing. And if you can learn to understand that it’s okay to not know everything, I think that just opens up so much more possibility.” she said.

Von Gunten found that those who love creativity will gravitate towards each other.

“We’re all just a bunch of weirdos, and we all just want to write some silly little stories.” she said.

In studying writing and literature, Von Gunten found the confidence to be herself. When comparing herself to others she no longer looked at herself negatively. Instead, she looked at herself as someone who could reach greatness.

She said, “It’s okay that I’m not being the best.”

She said she is formulating a story in her mind that she hopes to write and get published someday. It is a story about getting over grief.

“I finally feel like I found a concept that’s really fun that I’m super excited to actually pursue,” Von Gunten said.

She said she hopes to find herself somewhere in the Pacific Northwest editing her “little heart out with my little kitties around me… Hopefully at least. If that doesn’t work out I’m probably gonna just go running screaming into the woods and vanish.”

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