Sunday, November 6, 2011

88mph = Back to... AUGUST.

I wrote this back in August. No, I'm totally serious. I never posted it because I let it marinate in my brain and obviously nothing ever came of it, however: I obviously spent a long time thinking about it (or at least writing it) and what's NaBloPoMo for if it's not for emptying your drafts folder? No, it's totally not cheating. See? I'm writing RIGHT NOW. It's legit. 

(I just realized HOW MANY drafts I have in my folder. Um. Maybe I shall hereby designate Sundays as being Draft Purge day. No matter how out of context. I need to clean that shit up. Post or delete, Kelly. Post or delete. We could get really retro and I could post the post that I wrote and never posted on the day when MJ and Farrah died, but... I feel like the moment for that one has passed. So this is what you get instead.)

Anyway. Yeah. Here's this. It's irrelevant now, of course, but... whatever. It's the day of rest. Leave me alone.

If you're joining this broadcast currently in progress, a quick refresher: I'm all sorts of restless these days. I suppose that's normal. I've been at my current job for three and a half years, and out of college for four years and change. It makes sense that I'd be getting that itch right about now, kind of like a misguided case of senioritis - four years seems to be about the length of time that most things have lasted up until now. (Local Maria and I had a very lengthy discussion about this the other day, and this is a very good point. High school was four years. College was four years. After each of those, a significant life change occurs. What happens after this four years? Nothing. You keep stretching on in the same direction that you've been going, forever and ever. Real life doesn't run in four-year phases anymore.)

That, and with the ubiquitous quarter-life crisis looming everpresently over my head (not unrelated to this post), I find myself constantly checking and re-checking myself to make sure I'm where I want to be. Hell if I know. I've been flying by the seat of my pants ever since graduation. My main goal was to get a job, and now that that's been accomplished: I don't know what's next.

So my mind turned to the place where everyone's mind goes when they want to escape their reality: grad school.

Now, I would just like to disclaim that I'm not particularly anxious to escape anything. My motivations for even considering this option will be outlined below. This idea has been less than well-received by the few people I mentioned it to, and I've pretty much talked myself out of this already, but the fact that I wrote this whole damn post, I am still going to publish it, because: effort. I put it in.

(And then I had to visit campus yesterday for a softball-related meeting and that DID NOT HELP. Such pangs of ache, walking across my old campus. A rush of memories and a longing to be back there. It's not my turn, anymore. It belongs to a new generation now. But... it's mine, and I miss it. It was purely coincidental that this all came about as school was starting up again, though that didn't help alleviate the situation once it had rooted in my head. I always get this way when I see the back-to-school section, but this is the first time I'd seriously considered it, to the point of spending a few hours researching programs online and requesting information.)

Sometimes I feel like I've hit a brick wall in my career. I adore my job but it kind of feels like there's nowhere to go with it. Maybe that's on purpose - maybe they don't want me to grow out of it because it would be a bitch to try and replace me. Ha. In all seriousness, though, while I know I'm damn good at what I do, I have this huge pool of talents and interests that I don't get to use at all. My four years of back-breaking graphic design study? About as useful as a pair of rollerskates while scuba diving. I think Adobe just came out with Creative Suite 5, and I sit on my trusty old Powerbook, poking around with ancient and nigh-obsolete Creative Suite 2, abusing Photoshop for my own whims and doing simple graphics for t-shirt designs for the softball organization I'm with or the extremely sporadic miscellany that comes my way. (I did recently get to help a fellow BiSCuit, Christa, with a website header design and was so excited to be able to be designing again that I threw in a matching Twitter avatar too). My endless blubbering about wanting to be a writer goes no further than the "walls" of this blog. (I did actually submit a short story somewhere which was scary and fun at the same time, I have not heard back on it, but just the doing it was a step in the right direction). (Edit: REJECTION! Whee. At least that first one's out of the way, I guess. Ah, well.)

These are two of my skills that I'm not allowed to use at my job. My only resources for editing pictures, should I need to do so in order to pass on edits, is to use Picnik or MS Paint. (Though, sometimes Paint's just fun. In an ironic, hipstery sort of way.) I was not hired as a designer or a copywriter, so I can't dip my toes into either. Sometimes it frustrates me because I know I'm qualified to do both of these things, I have been living and breathing the art of communication ever since I was old enough to, well, communicate, but I got myself started down a non-creative career path and that's the box I've put  myself into. I'm very good at the left-brain stuff, I'm ridiculously detail-oriented and on top of everything. I'm actually very organized, though you wouldn't know it by looking at my apartment or my desk. I soak up information like a sponge and it's a fun hobby of mine to memorize information so I don't have to keep looking it up. (When I worked at Target, I had our entire selection of movies and CDs memorized, I could tell you exactly what we had, what we didn't, and what we were only temporarily out of. Books I was less good at, as I didn't spend as much time in that area as it didn't require as much attention. The only time I was wrong was when a new title slipped in without my knowing when the ladies who did the midweek revisions/resets, though after a while they just started giving them to me to do, because they were buried and I was efficient and helpful. Also, I was very territorial of my department. It was MINE and I had that thing in top shape by the time I left.)

What this all circles around to is that I'm tempted to go back to school to get a damn slip of paper that says I am qualified to engage in communications activities. I don't necessarily want to be a designer again, per se, or a full-time copywriter, either... but I would like to be able to integrate some degree of creative expertise and communicative aspects to the stuff I do. To be more than just some hack with a blog. Anyone can have a blog. That doesn't mean they're a good writer.

I'll be honest, too... school was always where I excelled the most. Knowing who I was ten years ago, I'm kind of surprised I stopped at an undergrad degree anyway. I was an ace learner. Though I guess after that many years of straight school, I was ready for a break and I was chomping at the bit to face the world and see what was out there.

I poked around at the graduate programs at my alma mater (I know they may not be the best in this area, but my odds of getting in there are pretty solid, plus I wouldn't have to move) and even went so far as to look at the GRE website. If I do it quick, I can save 50%, and only pay $80 rather than $160 for the privilege of sitting through another four-hour standardized test. Honestly the GRE makes me a bit nervous; I used to rock at standardized tests, but it's been so long since I've done one... hell, it's been over four years since I've graduated college. Five, this next May.

Basically, my entire thought process on this matter is this: if you combine my graphic design degree/knowledge with my accumulated knowledge from working in the advertising/design/print/marketing world firsthand, and add another layer of knowledge and expertise of higher-level communications... I'd be pretty damn set to be able to pick out the type of job I want to do, and be thusly be qualified in whichever direction I chose to branch out.

While on one hand, this could mean entirely re-writing my nonexistent five/ten-year plan to include changing jobs or even working in a slightly different sector of the industry... the most prominent thought in my head is that I want to be better at this job. I want to expand this job to include more of the things I want to do. Quite frankly, I'm almost positioned to where I could do that, except for the pesky fact that probably very few people think I am in any way qualified to do that. I have no idea how to even approach the task of navigating around our internal ladders because a lot of that higher-level functionality has been made pretty opaque to those of us toward the bottom of the food chain. In short: even if I could articulate exactly what I wanted to do, I'm not sure how that would even become a reality. Or if they'd even consider taking me seriously. (Which is another of those reasons I've mellowed out about being in my thirties - I feel like people probably take you more seriously when you're in your thirties. Is this true? Don't tell me if it's not. I'd rather like to hold on to that blind optimism as long as I can.)

Anyway, that's really not the point, the point is, I want to learn more stuffs and I want to better myself. And somewhere in the process, improve my standing in my career and probably make more money, although that in itself will be negated by the fact that I am now taking on more debt. BEING A GROWNUP IS SO MUCH FUN, YOU GUYS.

Let's pretend for a minute that I totally threw caution to the wind and did the crazy, irresponsible and totally self-indulgent thing, and decided that "I am going to go to grad school." Assuming I could machete my way through the GRE, find some saps to write me letters of recommendation, and get back in to ISU... there are two additional hurdles.

1. Money
2. I don't want to leave my job

At this point, I'm so far away from making a dent on my loans, I honestly could not care if I added to them. Plus I think my current loans would be able to go into forbearance mode if I'm back in school, so that's one less thing to worry about. If I were to enroll full-time and take on a TA position, I would be eligible for 50% tuition reimbursement and get a stipend. And I could always work part-time to, you know, pay my rent and shit. I will acknowledge that it would be rather stupid of me to quit a full-time job that I like, in this economy, to go chasing some non-essential extra education. For what? For my own validation and sense of self worth? To prove something? To who? Despite my theory of being well-situated (or at least well-qualified) upon acquiring this new knowledge, that doesn't mean I'd be able to get a job after, let alone one that pays more. I mean, there's always a chance that if I left my current company, went out and improved myself, they might hire me back. There's no way that my current position would still be available, though - they couldn't let that sit vacant for two years while I pissed around in academia. My position is kind of important. (And, by association: I am kind of important.) Though I'm not sure they'd be able to find someone to adequately replace me if I left, anyway. I have molded that entire position and its function around what I do best, and quite frankly, I've gone so far above and beyond what that position originally required, that my shoes would be damn near impossible to fill, at least to the same degree of efficiency and quality that I do it now. (No modesty here, folks. I rock and I am owning it.)

As frustrated as I am right now at the fact that I seem to be stuck... I don't want to jump ship. I don't know what kind of arrangement could be made as far as cutting back to a part time status and/or maybe only taking one course at a time? It would take me damn near five years to get through any of the master's programs, if not slightly longer, which the university doesn't really like but it sounds like they'll at least hear you out if you're working full-time on the side, but it sounds like it might be at least possible. Other people do it...

...I'm just not sure I could do it. I'm already kind of burnt out as it is, I don't know what adding the stress of school would do. Granted, I'm such a lazy bum some evenings, it wouldn't kill me to have something to focus on. It's not like I don't have any free time, I just don't always use it the most wisely. If I'm just sitting on my ass, I could be doing some reading or writing or homework or something.

I miss the act of focused learning, though. I let myself get distracted in undergrad by my extracurricular activities because student government was much more interesting to me at the time than any of my studios. I was having a really hard time just getting through my days, the fact that I had something like student gov to keep me anchored was a godsend. (But that's a whole other story, one you'll probably have to dig through the archives for. Depression, you are one unholy bitch.) I had at least one thing motivating me to get out of bed every day, and that eventually helped me get back on track with school, too. I did so much better in my electives than my design classes; granted, the subjective grading of design is something that takes getting used to, in my black-and-white world of science and math-based secondary schooling up to that point. I do my best when there are definite answers. (Insert philosophical musings about how I expanded not only my academic view but entire worldview to embrace the gray areas and become more flexible, blah blah blah, yay college).

That said, circling back to the money part, I've officially drifted into nontraditional student status, what with being "old" and having been out of school for a few years. I'm assuming there's some form of aid available for that. I'd still have to take on some more loans, unless they magically gave me a full-tuition scholarship. I don't even know if those are available. Even if they were, it's highly unlikely that I'd even be considered for it. So there's that, and a quick perusal of the website tells me it will cost me about $5K a semester. Even if I did it one class at a time, the tuition would still be high enough that I couldn't pay for it out of pocket.

So who knows. Probably the best thing for me to do is just lie down and wait for the urge to pass. It's silly and ridiculous and impractical, and I know this.

1 comment:

Terra said...

You say in your intro to this post that all this is irrelevant now, but I'm not sure what that means. I'd say if you want to get your learn on, get your learn on. I'm two classes away from getting my bachelor's and I've done half the work toward my degree while working a demanding full-time job that frequently puts me to work on weekends. I've been able to take mostly evening classes, 2-3 a semester, and now I'm to the point where I'm considering my options for grad school. I figure if there's a will, there's a way. Sure, I'm really super fucking busy a lot of the time, but I know that it won't be like this forever and soon it will be done and I'll finally have a degree.