Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Last night, I was sitting in at home in the living room on the couch, watching a rerun of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" on BBC America. It was about 11pm. My company was comprised of between 3 and 5 cats, the variance in number due to an uneasy "cat peace" momentarily reigning between opposing feline factions. After games of "Superheroes" and "Party Quirks," I suddenly had this feeling that I wanted to pack everything up and go to Washington DC--just like that. I could only liken the sensation to moments during my graduate school research and writing when I was suddenly compelled to throw necessities into a carry-on and hop the next train to who-knows-where in England. However, there was one striking difference. Previously, I needed a few days' respite from the monotony of a research-oriented lifestyle. This time, I wasn't looking for a momentary reminder that there was a "rest of the world" out there. Instead, I wanted to go somewhere I really wanted to set myself down for a longer haul. I wanted to find a job, an apartment--generally, a life.

Several years ago, I graduated from college and there was this looming emptiness before me. Some call it "possibility" whereas at the time, I saw it as a huge black void of time without the structure that education previously, and comfortably, imposed. I have thought a lot about that experience, and more specifically, how very naieve I was. I was convinced that I would find myself suitable employment as a BA with no professional job experience. Well, I can't fault myself for that completely--the year I graduated was the first year the economy registered recession in the form of net job loss, and after years of the booming 1990's market, no one, much less the college careers center, was prepared for hoards of qualified applicants pressing for a handful of entry-level positions. I'll never forget my first real push for a job I truly wanted--and the utter failure all of my efforts ultimately gained. An onslaught of rejection letters from jobs I applied to followed over the summer. The result was my consideration of unpaid work that would earn me the experience that could possibly make the difference for me if I had it.

The one significant difference between then and now, even though I am sitting on the tail end of an academic experience in the same fashion I was in 2002, is my view of where the next step ultimately was meant to lead. Even if I had earned gainful employment right out of college, I would not have viewed that as part of a permanent state. I was aware of a desire to feel around a little, take a position maybe but without the obligation of long term commitment, pick and choose between living spaces, etc. However, the sensations differ now. Although I am realistic and I do know that any acquisition of a job may or may not be something that will last a while should have some relationship with what I may be ultimately aiming at doing, even if that concept only falls in the category of "type of work" rather than in the form of a specific job. I am more drawn to identifying a place I would like to be for a longer span of time than one year (which has been the average tenancy of any of my previous places of residence) and to activities that require a more considerable commitment on my part. This may just be due to the passage of time, but I think it more has to do with what my experience in England ultimately symbolized to me. I took off and conquered what was for me the greatest challenge--moving in and successfully living a long distance away from what it is that I know and have known. The result is my feeling more comfortable in my own skin--not completely comfortable, mind you, but there is a detectable improvement--and now, the next challenge falls into a new category.

I don't think I ever thought finding a life would ever be the challenge in the scheme of things that it has ultimately become. However, I do know that it comes at the right point--my taking it on at this time at least ensures that there won't be any "what ifs," and had I done it sooner, I can guarantee that would not be the case.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

It's a big step at this time.

Matt said...

A huge black void. That sounds familiar. There are SO many paths open for me and that is so much better than so many have it but it's difficult for me. I could stay on my present course and get a job in Germany (which my boss would recommend) or I could switch careers completely (which I am recommending to myself).

I just don't know. But I do know that I'm going to Vegas this weekend and I'm going to forget all about it!

ellesappelle said...

It's really interesting reading this particular post because I'm starting to get to the point where I have to envisage life outside of university, and make meaningful decisions about what I want to pursue. Just like you, some people say it means I have lots of options etc etc but personally I feel really rather scared about it all. There's a high likelihood that I will end up doing a PhD or something just to avoid having to break out of the nice comfortable structured world of studenthood where I don't have to find a life.

Nihilistic said...

SF beats DC!!! SF SF SF!! ;)

Matt said...

Nihilistic, Never been there but living in DC I'd have to give you the benefit of the doubt--it PROBABLY is....

Anonymous said...

I am also sitting in that place of "not knowing" after a four year University career my impending graduation is giving me chest pains. The plan is to head on into a Masters Program in Religion, as is my Major, but even that is in question.

I have questions like, "what for" and "what am I really going to do with that degree at my age" (I'm 40 years old next summer)I'm feeling alot of pressure because my hubby in in his 3rd year of studies as well, and I need to find something financially stable in the coming months....Oh my goodness..

I find myself worrying about the "what next" and "what if's" in the job market here in Canada. I've scouted some areas I'd like to work in, not necessarily a specific job-role.

The luck of being in the U.K. or in Europe is the proximity of "everywhere."

North Americans don't have that luxury even in Canada, and who wants to go to the U.S. eeeek! But I like to think, have passport, will travel.
I could fancy a stint in the U.K. or somewhere else in Europe, really.

I've been following your journey very closely. I am to see my academic advisor this week to try and calm my nerves. Keep writing.


Anonymous said...

Shoot, after my university life ended, I was tossed to the wolves of the business world. I have a degree in history and have been employed as an insurance agent since leaving college. Its nice because my current job has nothing to do with what I studied and I like to dabble in my areas that I enjoyed in college. But I plan to return this spring to get my masters. I didn't go at it they way most of you here did, I had to join the army for money to go to college and that had the most profound effect on me. Nothing phased me much after my 2 years, 9 months and 24 days as a US Army soldier.

DC is better than SF. Been in both places. More diverse culture in DC.

booda baby said...

Hm. I'm one of those people who see it as possibility. (I probably could have standed a little more of the fear factor, though. lol.)

I don't think that's entirely a consequence of the 'job climate' (in truth, the job climate had nothing to do with it) but a consequence of ... something else. I'm guessing it has to do with metrics, or what we've been taught to measure ourselves and our experience by.

It's Me! said...

seems to be a common predicament...and one I know all too well. The one thing they don't give you in college, or university, or any sort of post secondary, is the knowledge that the diploma/degree/masters/etc is only useful because everyone else will have one and you need it to be on par with "everyone else".
I know how you felt though when you said you wanted to move...just drop everything and move. I have come extremely close to simply quitting my job and moving many times this week/month/year/etc...the only thing holding me back is the "what then?" And really, What then?