My momma said school was my job…
I’ve been in school now for over 15 years, damn near two whole decades, and what do I have to show for it? Two diplomas – high school and bachelor’s – and no job. So how do I remedy this? Another degree, of course.
If this sounds as fruitless to you as it did to me as I typed it, here me out. I’d like to think I’ve thought this one through.
First let me tell you what this decision is not. The common misconception I see when I read about people going to grad school – and I’ve seen people in my actual life operate under this assumption as well – is that grad school automatically means more money or more validation in a particular field.
No. Just no.
At the end of the day, no one cares what kind of degree you have or how many of them. That might’ve been the case fifty years ago but people are out here writing their own ticket off the strength of the brands they build with the resources they have, regardless of if they have a degree. It’s what you do with them that counts. So what am I doing?
The biggest factor in going to going to grad school was time.
I simply need more of it. Mainly, I need time to ween myself out of my momma’s pockets. With housing, a meal plan, and work study, the bare necessities are taken care of and I have time to pursue things outside of the classroom.
I’m also a textbook *INTJ and navigate the world around me like a game of chess. Every move I have made so far has been deliberate and calculated. I think things through before acting and rarely let things like emotion cloud my judgement. I’m a strategist and strategy takes time to develop.
Of course, I know that in life it’s virtually impossible to plan out every little detail and it is a crap shoot on whether or not things will actually go as planned, but as someone much older and experienced than myself once said, “Failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Better to at least have a plan, than no plan at all – especially considering that I’m leaving home for New York City and if a being a proactive planner will increase the likelihood that I won’t end up back at my momma’s house, you better believe I’ve got my eye on everything that could go wrong and I have safeguards in place to make sure, or at least increase the likelihood, that shit doesn’t even come close to the fan.
I’d like to think I’ve given myself a temporary safety net. It’s temporary because the program lasts two years, but if I play it right, that’s all I’ll need. I’ve always been independent and responsible – basic things you need to make it as an adult – so what I’m trying to do now is make some serious money moves. Yes, I’m incurring quite a bit of debt to see this vision out but this debt is not debt, see? It’s an investment in my future. Furthermore an investment made in the hopes that the work I put in in these next two years will put me in a position to be able to pay these student loan bills when they start coming in.
When enrolling in grad school ask not what grad school can do for you but what you can get out of grad school. What resources can enrolling in a program give you that you don’t already have?
There’s no money in Mississippi or much opportunity as far as I can see. So the only thing I can think to do is leave so that I can make some real power plays. In New York City, everybody’s hustling. Everybody’s grinding. The spirit of ambition is in the air. In my mind, it’s a place where big things could pop off if I remain focused and play my cards right.
Focus is the key. A degree is not an end in itself but a means to one. If you don’t know what that end is, it may not be a wise decision to be racking up debt in the hopes that a degree will magically transport you to whatever promised land you’ve made up in your head. You need to know how and where you’re steering your ship.
Grad school is different from undergrad in that the course load will be significantly lighter. In undergrad, you take a minimum of twelve hours. In my particular program I’m taking nine and that’s considered full time. And they’re night courses so my day is mine to seize. Internships, Work Study, a part time job – if you utilize your time correctly, there’s a world of possibilities. There’s people to meet, hands to shake, brains to pick. And if you have a specific craft, you have space and opportunity to hone in on it and pursue it.
By going to grad school, I’m putting myself in a community of people with the same goals as I do. Writers who are also thirsty to read the work of other writers and workshop the things they’ve written with other people who are passionate about telling stories.
If you want to be in a certain circle, you have to put yourself in that circle. Don’t wait for an invite because you probably won’t get one. The people who eat at the table AND STAY THERE have earned their keep and put in the work, so I’m prepared to do just that.
We’ve all heard it before: You only have one life. But that starts getting real the older I get. I’d rather work my ass off trying to get to the mountain top in my 20s while I have the energy, skip going to a musty ass club and buying overpriced drinks, and retreat to my beach house in Anguilla when I’m 35 sipping expensive wine and writing my next masterpiece because I have afforded myself that luxury. You can’t own a beach house in Anguilla if you don’t put yourself in a position to one day own a beach house in Anguilla.
35 might be a little optimistic but you get my point.
*INTJ: 1 of 16 Briggs/Meyer personality types, https://www.16personalities.com/intj-personality