LIFE AFTER COLLEGE
I was asked to write an article about life after college by a former colleague in the field of Residential Life. This came about after bumping into each other at a party several months ago. She inquired as to what I was up to, these 5 years later, and I in turn replied that I was pursuing a totally unrelated field. I graduated from Temple University with a degree in Psychology, and with all but one class to finish up my Pre-Med requirements.
I now find it ironic, if not amusing, that I have no intention of ever being a physician or psychiatrist. Sure, there are plenty of other professions that are attainable with my training, but I think I totally missed my mark. Some say that college prepares you for the rest of your life. I think that college prepares you to make an informed decision about what you want to do for a short period of time after you graduate and, if your really lucky, the rest of your life.
I find it very impractical that at 17 or 18 most people are able to decide what is going to make them happy at 30, 40 or even 80. We are expected to work until we retire at around age 65 or so. For most people who graduate around the age of 22, that is over 40 years of working. And for most people that is 40 years of just showing up and trying to make it through the day. Our parents and grandparents were expected to have one job and keep it no matter what. It was unheard of for a person to work for 3 years here, 5 years there, 2 months here, etc. We now live in a society where you jump around from job to job until you can find one you can tolerate, and then move on to the next place with better pay or benefits. Of course there are exceptions, but not that many. This is why we rarely run into people who love their job and can't wait to get out of bed to go to work.
So how do you find that dream job? You may never. College used to be about preparing for a job. A 4-year Undergraduate degree is now what a High School Diploma was 20 years ago. It used to be that if you had graduated from High School you could get a relatively good job, but now you better put your sights on that Graduate Degree. You can do less and less with a general 4-year degree. That means on average about 4 more years of training before you have a job that you might want to settle into. The nice thing about, oh let's say a Bachelors Degree in Psychology, is that it can be the building block to so much. But that's the whole point - it is preparation for the next step. It is no longer the end and should not be all of education.
What is the point of going to school then? Why not just go and experience life. Without an education in today's society you have limited choices. I truly value my degree because it allows me to work in many professional fields when I no longer want to be a waitress. It gives me the option of waitressing. I will always have choices because I am an articulate and educated woman. Not only does it give me choices, my years in college helped shape me into the person I am today. The responsibilities as a Resident Assistant helped me to become more organized, task oriented, socially outgoing, and able to handle a heck of a lot of pressure. I am also fortunate to have a few great friends that I made in College and still keep in touch with.
So what's next? Well, 5 years later I have moved to New York to pursue a career in Theater and/or Film, whichever comes first. Sounds great, right?? On a good day! The reality is that I borrowed far more than I care to disclose to pay for a college education, one that would prepare me for a lifetime of work and the ability to repay my lenders. Yes, in theory that would have worked out just fine, but I am not a psychologist, nor am I in Medical School incurring more debt. I am waitressing at a local restaurant chain and making just enough money to pay for my voice lessons, acting classes, and a few other expenses. Unfortunately for me, I am of the opinion that I am too old to start over at an accredited institution of higher learning, and therefore I am not eligible for the usual college loans. It doesn't matter that weekly voice lessons alone run me approximately $300 a month. Yes, a month. That's a car or rent payment for some. Not only can I not get loans for this type of training, I can't defer them due to my training. The alternative is to pay for everything on my own or take a few classes at Community College just to postpone payment of my loans for a while.
Although I may sound bitter about the financial consequences of my career choice, I now realize that I could not be happy doing anything else. Entertaining is an integral part of who I am. It just took me quite some time to figure that out. I think I know what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I could be wrong. How do we know what true happiness is until we get there. I plan on enjoying the process as much as I can. There will be many bumps and grooves along the way, and I know that I am going to have to pick myself up and dust myself off many times before I get to where I am going. On the flip side, I am very fortunate to have a great cheering section made up of my family and friends who won't let me back down. It helps on the darkest days to have someone give me a kick in the pants or a shoulder to cry on when things aren't going my way.
My advice to students making their way through their college years: Don't choose a profession because everyone says how good you'll be at it. Money isn't everything; it helps, but you can still be a miserable multi-millionaire. Try everything! There will never be another time in your life when car insurance, health insurance, credit cards, good credit, and freedom from commitments will be this close at hand. Don't jump the gun and declare a major because you think you have to do it now. Do your research and get as much life experience as possible. Be happy. The last sounds so simple, but if you can find out what makes you happy now, you'll have a much better chance at choosing a career for life.
Ah, the what if's. I've heard it said that only 2% of the population are dreamers, people who are willing to go after what they want despite the cost. I don't know how one would calculate that figure, but I'm glad to be a part of that group. As of right now I didn't settle. Someday I'll be able to look back on my life and say that I went on tour, I was on the radio, I auditioned for Broadway, was an extra in a few big films, and made the leap to New York. I have no idea what the future holds. I don't know if someday fame will find me, or if I will simply be the mother of 4 and a contented homemaker, but whatever the outcome it is the journey that counts.
Story written by Tatiana St. Phard