Posted on December 5, 2006
Terrified of the Real World Like I am? Consider being a professional student!
An article that pretty much describes exactly what Im going through right now. Linked from Knotmag.com. I’m sure plenty of people are in the exact same position that I am, this guy definitely is!
Fear and Loathing of the Real World
According to my father, college is “the best time of your life. You’ll never have more fun or more friends.” He’s right. While we’re in college, we tend to live in this idyllic, Sesame Street sort of world, and no one bothers to mention that it abruptly ends with graduation (kind of like a bad break-up you don’t see coming). Bills are few and far between, especially since I lived in the dorms, and even when I had some I could just use financial aid to pay them off. Use of a credit card comes easily, and in it I quickly found the means to fund my contributions to various house parties; at the time, though, I didn’t realize how excessive use of the credit card comes back to haunt you in the form of bad credit and large bills. Also, thanks to the lovely invention of financial aid, college jobs are entirely optional and are usually taken to fund weekend partying; my job as a dining hall supervisor was only two nights a week, and involved me watching and yelling at the student workers. Cushy? Yes. Boring? Very.
Unlike many of my compatriots in college, I didn’t sleep all day, skip class, or drink myself into a coma, and after receiving the first C of my life my freshman year, I studied more diligently than ever. While this might not seem like such an easy life to the outside observer, it’s easy for me, because I know how to do it-nothing ever changes in college, except one heartless professor may decide to give a dreaded essay test instead of a multiple choice one. Even the college parties never change (one drunken frat kegger is just like any other one, just with different Greek letters on the multi-colored sweatshirts).
As the years wore on, I changed majors like underwear (English, Marketing, and then Journalism), probably in some sort of unconscious attempt to keep myself in school longer, and even switched schools from Syracuse University to Arizona State University for the same reason, although I told myself it was because of the weather. I realized just studying and doing well on tests, while easy and routine, would never prepare me for the workforce or the transition to the real world. After consultations with one of my public relations and journalism professors, I decided to buckle down and attempt an internship, albeit an unpaid one. I got an internship in a Phoenix-based public relations firm specializing in…well, actually, they kind of did a lot of everything. From there, I moved on to the film publicity/promotions division of the firm, and then on to be a public relations intern for a fine arts council (they put on a lot of festivals and sucked up to rich people). After having three internships, I thought I was prepared to enter a career. I realized only three real options exist once you’re done partying your way through college: go to grad school, get a full-time job, or mooch off friends and family. Since my family and friends will only give me a small amount of money and only let me crash at their place for a week at a time, I initially opted to find a responsible, albeit boring, job. With a degree in public relations and journalism, it was a little easier for me to find a job than for some of my friends; amazingly enough, I got a job in the field I wanted, music entertainment, but not in the capacity I desired. Without going to an interview or filling out an application, the CEO of the company offered me a position. I thought, great, that was easy. Turns out the job wasn’t as much fun as I hoped it would be; it took my boss a month to tell me I was hired and put me on the payroll, and I ended up not doing anything related to what I was hired to do (public relations). I thought I would be doing pretty much the same as I did when I worked with the movie studios (setting up promotional events and contacting media about the upcoming events), but, instead, I ended up booking shows, which is a lot more difficult than it sounds, and plastering cars and walls with promotional flyers. Considering I had no experience booking gigs, my first few attempts were rather embarrassing, and usually ended with me saying something to the effect of, “Uhhh, I don’t know how many clavichords the band tours with…what’s a clavichord?” I’ve settled into the routine now, but the stress is entirely different than the type I had in college, and I’m constantly thrown for loop by something at work. It’s not that I dislike entertainment public relations, it’s just that that’s what I want to do, not book gigs; my experience is in publicity and promotions, and I am not adaptable! I don’t want to do something for which I’m unprepared.
I won’t mention my boss’ or the company’s name, since I’m still working for them, and I don’t want to end up doing something degrading to support myself. Suffice it to say, though, that I can’t take any more club owners hanging up on me. Anyway, with my stress level and hatred for my job about to create a personality of their own, I decided to apply for asylum (a.k.a. grad school) at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After months of tense waiting and several nervous breakdowns, I was finally accepted. Me being me, I immediately freaked out and thought about rejecting my admission, because the potential of a life change scared the crap out of me-how could I leave my backstabbing, gossipy co-workers and my flaky friends? Fortunately, my mom pointed out that since I had already rejected admission from USC twice as an undergraduate, the university mafia would probably blacklist me if I deferred admission again. Bearing my mother’s sagacious advice in mind, coupled with a grueling visit to the school, I decided to accept their offer to hide in the Strategic Public Relations program.
The more I think about it, the more I have this strange desire to become a professional student; they never have to face the real world or payback any student loans, according to my accountant friend. I’m sure I could keep myself busy in school-there’s a plethora of degrees I could get. So, if I live to be 70, that’s at least enough time to get 20 degrees of all different types. I would be the most educated and fundamentally useless person in the world. The only thing I would be able to do is be a guest on NPR or PBS shows, and if I didn’t have any real world experience, I’m not even sure I’d be able to do that. And what would I do for income? Since I don’t want to deal with the real world, I guess I could just work at a typical college job. Can you imagine a 70 year old as a Starbucks barista? “Would you like whipped cream on your mocha-oh dear, I think my false teeth just fell in the espresso…”
Though my parents and friends have been supportive of my choice to return to school, a lot of my friends don’t really understand the reason. My best friend, Sean, thinks I’m doing it to please my father, a psychologist and the only person on his side of the family to have graduate degrees. I suppose to some extent Sean’s right, since my dad offered to pay my living expenses if I moved out of Phoenix and went back to school pronto (it’s difficult to pass up an offer like that), but the offer just happens to come at a time when I can’t deal with my job anymore. My mom, on the other hand, just reads her mystery novels, eats chocolate, pets the tortoiseshell cat on her lap, and says, “If it makes you happy, sweetie…”
Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I love public relations; it’s fun and challenging, but I just don’t want to do it yet. Aside from the fact I can make more money as a college professor than a PR practitioner, there’s just something to be said for going back to a point in your life that you remember fondly. For me, that point is college. My friends already enrolled in grad school have assured me that while it’s not quite as much fun as being an undergraduate, the connections I will make with professors and other students guarantee a life-long association which could significantly benefit any career. Not only that, but I will come away with a significantly higher starting salary and a commodity most PR practitioners don’t have-a graduate degree.
Actually, I think after I receive my first and only doctorate, I will try the real world again. After all, no club owners will hang up on me once I’m a respected and stuck up Ph.D. Besides, how am I supposed to open a public relations firm with my friend if I don’t have any actual experience in the field? Although some of the PR people I’ve worked with don’t seem to have a clue, they still get a lot of business for some reason! I guess the real question would be: do I really want open my own public relations firm? I could just become a communication/public relations professor at some university; I know how to do that, and it’s safe
Although, I hate to admit I’m afraid of anything, I think I just did. THE REAL WORLD TERRIFIES ME! Just in case you didn’t get my point, I think you do now. I guess I’m just much more inclined to favor the pleasant, predictable world of academia, instead of the stark bleakness of the real world. The key word here is predictable. I’m all for change, but I want to be creative and different in my spare time when my income and livelihood doesn’t hinge on dealing with instantaneous crises and unreliable bosses. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be your grad school professor when you decide to hide out at the university.