I wish I had a job as a Congressman so I could do absolutely nothing and get paid for it. It must be nice to be able to shut down the very government you work for and still get a paycheck. It must be the one job on the planet where you can screw-up (almost) as many times as you want and still keep your job. But I’m going to be realistic: as a technologically savvy 26-year-old who loves to laugh at the most offensive memes a person can create to make fun of a politician, I would spiral into a suicidal depression if I ever held a public office that opened me up to such ruthless criticism. The very confines of my position would keep me from saying exactly what was on my mind, and I’m sure those over at “Anon” would discover any pen names I created to keep my identity a secret. (But maybe that’s the problem with these modern-day politicians; they say too many stupid things with their real names attached and send penis shots with their personal twitter handles.) As a writer, any criticism thrown my way can easily be fought back with more words. Choice words. Like sarcasm and mockery.
Until now, I never realized how much my job search would define my educational career, and vice versa. When I was in high school, I wanted be a Crime Scene Investigator. Admittedly, all those CSI shows made it look fun ,and I was going through a slight obsession with serial killers at the time so I was attracted to such a position, naturally. By the time I was in my junior year, I had collected numerous books on psychotic notables such as Jack the Ripper and Charles Manson, but was struggling in my chemistry class. Discouraged that I was never going to be able to become a CSI if I didn’t understand chemistry, I abandoned the idea of becoming a CSI and focused on a few other emerging artistic talents of mine, the main one being creative writing. (Admittedly, I did not do much research into the subject of becoming a CSI nor did I have any outside influences to help push me in that direction, so all it ever became in my mind was an ideal that I wasn’t smart enough to accomplish.)
I decided to go to school to get my BA in English/Creative Writing without a clue as to what I wanted to do career wise after I graduated. All I knew what that writing and being involved in theater made me happy, made my brain light up with a creativity I never knew I possessed, and made me realize that I had an immense amount of artistic potential and natural talent. After an internship with an independent horror production company in Los Angeles, I decided that I wanted to try to get into the film industry, but then the economy crashed just a few months before I graduated. No matter how hard I searched for ANY job with any amount of relation to my degree and experience, that magical beginning to a career I was told my whole life I would get immediately if I got a college degree just wasn’t materializing.
A few months later, a job interview did materialize for a corporate copy and print center that paid $8.75 an hour. I took it to pay my bills (sans student loans) and put gas in my car to visit my boyfriend at the time, who my parents hated as much as the Westbro Baptist Church hates homosexuality. (That’s a lot of hatred.) There was plenty of work to be done, and the days didn’t drag on most of the time. However, it was the worst job I have ever had. My coworkers gossiped and right-out talked crap on each other, and my boss made fun of me behind my back to my coworkers. Perhaps I had been spoiled job-wise before that point, as all my experiences had been quite unique and encouraged personal growth; I didn’t have to deal with corporate soul-sucking demons because every company I had worked for was small and related to the arts. Six months into my copy and print center job I threw up my hands and said, “Fuck this, fuck the United States. I need out.” Three months later I was on a plane to Ireland where I spent the next year of my life studying film and screenwriting, and exploring as much of the country as I could.
Even though I dug myself a deeper student loan grave, living and studying in another country changed me and it was one of the best decisions I have made so far during my 20’s. My most favorite moments are the simplest: walking a mile in drizzle rain to get groceries; late Friday Irish breakfasts with my classmates/friends; and late-night weekends spent at our favorite pub — all good craic. The creative structure of my writing classes was very different from the classes I took during my undergrad, but they were equally fun and further expanded on my talents as a writer. (Not to mention I also got some amazing photography to add to my portfolio.) I moved to Ireland with the intention of not only experiencing a different way of life, but I also thought getting my MA in Screenwriting would make me more marketable to film studios in Los Angeles. I still do not know if I made the right choice in that regard because after living in another country, I lost all desire to move to Los Angeles and work for a production company. It wasn’t the life I wanted anymore and I was scared of being miserable in a city overflowing with people and traffic hazards every five feet.
Once I had that figured out, I decided to try to stay in Ireland. I got my visa extended and I went to school to earn my TESOL certification so I could teach English language learners. Unfortunately, the combination of a terrible Irish economy, fear of failing as a teacher, and a subconscious realization that I did not want to be a teacher caused me to move back to California. I got a part-time job working in an office (where I still work), while trying to figure out what I wanted to do career wise. I figured out one thing: I definitely wanted to make independent films and publish my fiction writing, but what job would I do in the meantime could I do to fully support myself? The subconscious thing about not wanting to be a teacher hadn’t really materialized yet, so summer of 2012 I started a teaching credential program.
I grew less and less enthusiastic about it each quarter — one or two shitty professors will do that to you, as well as not being able to get a teaching internship so you can financially support yourself while finishing your credential. Then I realized that the Common Core standards being rolled out for schools across 46 states tells teachers to teach in exactly the opposite way that they learned in their credential classes, especially when it comes to reading. What’s the point of becoming a teacher, I asked myself. Finally, I realized that I had no desire to become a teacher. But, what in the hell was I supposed to do NOW?! This becoming-an-adult-thing is sure confusing and I’m not sure I’m even doing it right.
Then a funny thing happened — my boyfriend got a job as a CHP dispatcher, (after years making a living as a musician, then working for “the man” at a grocery store) and the idea of looking into a CSI career was reborn. (Don’t get me wrong, I still need a better job in the meantime so start paying off my student loans.)
So, a BA, a MA, a TESOL cert and three-quarters of a teaching credential later, I will be saying hello to a community college CSI certificate program this winter semester. Almost exactly 10 years to the day later I realized that my original career-dream of becoming a CSI is more of a possibly then I led myself to believe. (I still want my MFA in Creative Writing though. Writing is my number one passion and collecting clues from dead bodies is my second.)
If there is one thing that I can say to those who are in the same position as me it is to keep exploring and if you need to, re-explore an old idea of a career choice. This economy and higher-education costs isn’t going to be fixed tomorrow, so you do what you need to do to keep yourself happy, even if it means going back to school a few times. A friend of mine got his degree in political science. He spent a few years working on tall-ships on the east coast before he moved back to California and try out a nursing program. While in school, he started working at a hotel. He ended up hating nursing school, but he loved working at the hotel. He quit nursing school and decided to make hospitality his career choice.
We cannot compare our blooper reel to someone’s highlight reel, so be open; you could find that you enjoy something that you never thought you would.