Teacher has essay printed in Newsweek

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

For a guy with no goals, Matthew Wolfe is doing OK.

He is an English teacher at Ohio University Southern’s Proctorville campus and one of his recent writings ended up in the June 25 issue of Newsweek.

The essay, “Reaching My Goal of Having No Life Plan,” is in the weekly news magazine’s “My Turn” section, which features articles written by people based on their life experiences.

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Wolfe, who teaches English part-time and is a musician, writes how he became obsessed with his life plan and setting goals. So much so that he wanted to write the definitive book on goals. But he eventually realized that, like John Lennon said, “Goal making is an exercise in futility.”

Wolfe wasn’t just a person who set goals, he obsessed over them. He lectured about them. He wrote them down and revised them on a regular basis.

“I had two sheets of rules about how to maintain goals that I kept on the bulletin board above my desk,” he said. “Every three months I would go through the goals I had set for myself and see how well I was doing. I was that fixated.”

His obsession came to an end four years ago when he asked himself an important question.

“How often do things turn out exactly like we thought they would?” he asked.

Wolfe wrote the essay as part of the freshman English class he teaches at OUS-Proctorville where he has taught off and on for 12 years. He said he often does a writing assignment with his students to demonstrate the writing process.

“I was writing the first draft, I said that it had the sound and flavor of a ‘My Turn’ essay,” he said. “I’ve subscribed to Newsweek for years so I had a sense of what they look for, so I decided to give it a try.”

He had sent in essays before and been rejected. But this one was accepted.

“I was elated,” Wolfe said. “I thought it would be an adventure, that it would be fun.”

The first inkling that it was big was Newsweek flew in a photographer to take his picture.

“I figured they would just have a local photographer do it,” Wolfe said.

He also expected maybe a phone call or two and maybe an e-mail.

He has fielded phone calls from all over the country and has been tracked down through MySpace and the Google search engine.

“There was a woman who tried an e-mail account that I had back in 1995,” he said. “I didn’t even know that was out there. It’s all been very complimentary.”

He said many of the people agree with his point of view, even if they aren’t ready to give up their own lists of goals.

“Most of them said they would like to do that,” Wolfe said.

As for goals, he still has some. He is working on a novel and a collection of short stories but doesn’t have an end date set.

“If something comes up, I’ll follow that or if I want to stick with the novels, I’ll do that,” he said. “I have general plans of what I would like to do, but I’m not fixated on it.”

And he does keep track of upcoming events and his teaching schedule.

“So I have to still plan a little bit,” Wolfe said. “That’s just life in the 21st Century.”

Besides, he has achieved at least one goal he set for himself.

“I have a wonderful daughter,” Wolfe said. “And as a kid, I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to be a musician. And I am those things.”