My college experience
College has been the one thing that’s haunted me most of my adult life. (Which, incidentally, has been relatively short compared to the adult lives of many people reading this, but bear with me here.) I came from a fairly average lower-middle class family, with parents that tried to prepare for their children’s educations but fell short somewhere along the way. Bills happened. 9/11 happened. My dad’s illness happened. Next thing I knew, I was 19, with no job, no college fund, and a head full of stupid ideas about making comics for a living.
Somehow, my parents came up with the money to pay for my first two semesters. After that I was on my own, waiting tables and saving every penny I had to pay for school myself. I stumbled along one term at a time, taking what classes I could afford, doing commissions for graphic design work whenever it got really tight. I gave up on wanting to write comics and aimed for a degree in design and visual communication instead, thinking I could make a living out of that, if I just kept working at it. Overall I enjoyed school. I was an A/B student with a good GPA, and some people seemed to think I was actually headed places. Granted I was too wracked by self-loathing to really take any of this faith to heart, but looking back, it was a good experience.
Except for the time I was being stalked by that kid from Chem. 1 that worked at The Knife Shoppe and looked like Malachai from Children of the Corn. That was pretty awkward, actually. But that’s neither here nor there. Fast-forward a few years too many. I’ve somehow managed to pay for the first two years of my education by starving myself to death and working for horrible, abusive people.I should’ve been proud of myself, right?
Then the money dried up, and I was informed the education I had paid for basically meant nothing without a four-year degree. In the meantime I was screwed out of low-paying job after low-paying job, falling behind and living on $400 a month from Unemployment. I had to drop out of school and give up on my BFA, on getting a real job, on getting out of dodge. Back to more low-paying jobs and starving, but with no end-game or big pay-off to make it all worth it. Fueled by my class rage, I lost thirty pounds, wrote a novel, and swore I would find a way to get into comics. Then I thought it would be hilarious to turn that novel into a trilogy, because I hate sleeping and free-time. I should’ve still been proud of myself for that, too. It wasn’t in the cards though.
Picture yourself as me. Picture yourself sitting around in coffee shops and New York City apartments, talking to friends who managed to get away. Everybody else seemed to have gotten what they wanted out of life, give or take a few crappy relationships and minor falls along the way. Everybody else seemed to have a plan and a degree to back it up. However, you’re me, and you feel like a complete failure. You know you shouldn’t. People keep telling you that you’re a victim of circumstance, a string of bad luck, a raw deal. They keep telling you statistics you already know about unemployment and college drop-out rates and keep reminding you that you’re not at fault and you have nothing to be embarrassed about. And somewhere deep down, you know this is true, but you can’t hear that over the crushing roar of self-loathing. You can’t help but feel like the biggest idiot in the room, with the bullshit education that got her nowhere while everybody else on Planet Earth seems to be headed in the right direction.
Congratulations. You’re 26, and you’ve failed at life.
Like I said before, bear with me on this.
Sometime in June, after a lot of introspection and the occasional crying jag, I sent my FAFSA application off to the government and started looking at schools. Apparently I will be attempting to go back for my BFA in the spring, if somebody will have me, and, quite frankly, this is kind of the most terrifying thing I’ve ever tried to do. I have a list of schools to apply to, but I have no idea if I’ll get into any of these programs. I have no idea if getting my BFA will make my existence suck any less than it already does, or if I’ll end up right where I started out: With a bullshit education that got me nowhere, just with the added bonus of crushing student loan debt to look forward to every day until I die. Basically I have no idea, and that’s really scary. But if I don’t try, then I’ve already failed.
Maybe, if I’m really lucky, this will all work out in the end. Or I’ll just have crushing student loan debt every day until I die.
Whichever comes first, I guess.