As my freshman year of college draws to a close, I am rudely reminded of the fact that time is carrying me on a ruthless and irreversible line to The Real World.
Although, what does that mean? I’ve been in institutions of education since I was two. When I finally left the public school system, I felt like I had just finished a 12-year process of pulling myself out of a swamp. When I emerged, I was grubby, confused, and only had a few basic survival skills. I knew how to write a paper, how to raise my hand in class without having a panic attack, and how to make friends with someone who is also bored in math class. Having emerged from this exercise in endurance, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.
Never fear! shout a zillion people in college. They are whispering hellions, darting forth from out of nowhere to hiss something about job markets and then disappearing into the mist. Each of them carries wisdom that would seem to be crucially important to my future as a Person Who Has Money To Buy Food, but at the same time, I just don’t know who to trust.
Don’t get a liberal arts degree. You’ll just end up working at Starbucks.
Ethnomusicology absolutely has a job market. Come to the Careers in Ethnomusicology Mixer so you can placate your parents!
Business school is the best way to a stable livelihood.
Undergraduate law degrees are a waste of time. Lawyers don’t even do pre-law.
Your major doesn’t even affect what job your go into. You’re probably going to work at STARBUCKS.
What did the business student say to the English major? I’ll have a venti caramel latté, please.
And so on, ad nauseum. The only common theme is pervasive foreshadowing of a career in Coffee Artistry.
Here’s the thing I would like to say to the crowd that’s been telling me, basically, that the world is a hard place and that I am kidding myself if I think I will make money with writing. I know! I’ve been informed how screwed I am! Please, leave me to blindly row off the waterfall that you insist is my future!
I remain hopeful that my decision to opt out of business school has not doomed me to a life as a barista, that my interest in writing will be used for hashing out the symbolic resonance of those weird hanging cardboard ads at Target whilst scanning people’s groceries for all eternity. I would be incredibly grateful if I can make a living, at least part-time, doing something that I enjoy, something that is meaningful to me.
But hey, I know where I’m headed. No one is clamoring, or even vaguely trying, to read my work (except you, gentle friend). I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that:
a) a life in engineering or pharmaceutical testing or (insert other practical, lucrative, non-creative job here) would probably make me want to die
b) this means that I’m gonna have to work an unremarkable day job and live off rice and probably not succeed at getting anything published until I’m about 40, if ever
But all isn’t lost for the artists stuck working boring day jobs, I think. Matthew Dickman, one of my favorite poets, works in a bakery. In the heyday of my high school career, I went 14 hours a day from school to work to extracurricular activities. Although the fogginess of the future is scary, I feel my pessimism has ensured. And as I mentioned before, high school taught me how to slog through the boring and difficult times.