INTD105 – Subverting Expectations

INTD 105: Risks, Rewards, Rent Paying was not what I expected. Before entering the class, I’d signed up for two other INTD 105 sections that I thought I’d enjoy, both of which became unavailable in some way or another, therefore I got stuck with Risks, Rewards, Rent Paying. Not to say that I was necessarily unhappy with the position I found myself in, it just wouldn’t have been my first choice. At that point in registration, there were only a few spots open and Risk, Rewards, Rent Paying seemed like an interesting opportunity to learn about rent and money paying, something I’d been unable to learn about in high school. It might also be helpful to note that I’m not sure I had the best understanding of what INTD 105 even was as a course. The sections listed on registration had titles ranging from “Tolkein” to “Thinking about Death”. I wasn’t sure there was even really something that connected all of these courses other than they were all shoved under the INTD 105 umbrella. Either way, what was waiting for me on the other side was something I couldn’t have expected beforehand, though not any less valuable than I was anticipating.

Risks, Rewards, and Rent Paying focuses (quite fittingly) on the idea of risks and rewards in almost anything you can imagine. One of the first activities I remember doing as a class was a group activity where we all brainstormed the risks and rewards of social media and how it has affected society as a whole either negatively or positively? While not necessarily related to any of the writing we’d be doing overall, these brainstorming activities (of which there were quite a few) would be incredibly helpful down the line as they aided us in our thinking skills. Brainstorming two sides of the story, the risks and the rewards, the “they say” and the “I say” was one of the most important aspects of the class as we began reading the short story by Octavia Butler, Bloodchild. I’ll be honest in saying that the story caught me off guard when we read it through the first time. We had done some short readings on some of her more biographical/realistic work in which she talked about her experiences as a sci-fi writer. Even with this information, I still wasn’t expecting something like Bloodchild to show up in a class titled Risks, Rewards, and Rent Paying. My brain was still half-operating under the assumption that this was some sort of economics class, that later in the semester we’d learn all about how to navigate rent paying in today’s society. Bloodchild squashed that idea for me, revealing a bit about what this class actually was which somehow confused me even more. What did the alien Tlic and human-like Terrnans have to do with Risks and Rewards? The in class readings helped a bit with my understanding as the professor was careful to point out moments that were note-worthy or otherwise thought provoking and students had the opportunity to air out their questions or thoughts about the piece as we read on. Shortly after these in class readings, I began struggling through the second essay prompt of the semester, asking us to relate our experiences in college to the events contained within Bloodchild. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to connect the two as they seemed so hopelessly separate from each other. I got to thinking though and managed to form a fairly personal response that helped me move forward in the course a little more comfortably.

After completing this first essay I found the bits and pieces of the course starting to form a more complete picture in my head. Looking back on it now, the course epigraph is a perfect encapsulation of everything this class represents. Originating from the main character, Gan, in Bloodchild, the epigraph states “If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” I came to realize that much of the course focused on partnerships and the risks (and rewards of course) that were contained within them. Whether it be a student’s partnership with a college and their professors, a Terrans relationship with Tlic, or a tenant’s relationship with a landlord (a connection with rent paying I was finally able to make). The early reading’s of Graff and Birkenstein’s They Say / I say began to make more sense to me as well in the context of partnerships and dealing with that “they say.”

None of this is what I expected. Risks and rewards are nothing I ever explicitly thought about in an everyday context. I’m sure subconsciously I was aware that every decision/situation had its own set of payoffs and consequences but this class had me think about it outwardly in a way I never would have thought to do otherwise. It’s a class about preparing for your own future, about using the resources available to you and carving your own path forward, always thinking about the risks and rewards you may encounter. Maybe it’s a simple concept but it’s a necessary and useful one I think for students who are new to college, even ones who may think they know what they’re doing like me. Since my first day arriving on campus I knew that I wanted my career path to be writing related, with the end goal most likely being an author writing novels in a cozy house somewhere in the middle of nowhere. And while I’d obviously thought of the risks that came along with such a career path, it wasn’t until this class when we were visited by Heather Morens from Geneseo’s Career Design Center that I was given a visual representation of one of these risks. We were shown a website called Focus2 which allowed students to explore different careers side-by-side, including a comparison of average annual income. I don’t remember the exact number, but next to some of the other science related jobs, the income from being a writer looked small. Of course I knew this wasn’t ever something I’d be doing to get rich and the visual representation of this “risk” hasn’t persuaded me from pursuing my career, but it has made me think more consciously about the risks and rewards afforded to me in my life in just about any scenario.

I think my biggest regret in relation to this class is that I wasn’t able to take it any sooner. I believe INTD:105 is a course intended for first years yet I was never really made aware of this fact so I registered as soon as I could in my sophomore year. It probably hasn’t made much of a difference but I do wonder how differently I would have navigated this first semester of my second year if I had been able to take this class as a freshman. I think everything I learned in this course is invaluable, more than I could have anticipated coming into it. Not only do I feel my essay writing has improved tenfold (helpful for a future career in writing), I also think I’m more prepared to move through college and adult life with the thought of risks and rewards floating around in the back of my head. The lesson of this class isn’t to never take any risks or avoid them at all costs, but more so that weighing the pros and the cons is important and can make or break the outcome of a lot of things. Something else I learned too is that expectations can be deceiving. The reward I got from this class was much more than anything I could have gotten from what I thought the course would be and that’s ok. Let yourself be surprised and never stop thinking about the next step forward.

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