The Black Box

If you remember my post from two weeks ago called, “And Fumblings…,” I referred to wanting to find the “Black Box” for my life that could explain why my life crashed into a flaming pile of garbage. The answer isn’t simple, and there is a lot of blame to go around, but I would like to pause for a beat and talk about some of the societal factors that led to this metaphorical nosedive.

First and foremost, as is the plight of most millennials, the cost of college inevitably took its toll in how I acted during my education. I did not look at college as the transformative process that it needs to be. I worked hard, studied hard, and got in and out as soon as possible. I did not have time for socializing. I did not have time for clubs and organizations. I did not skip any classes (intentionally that is. I accidentally slept through a couple.) I took my education (and the cost of it), very seriously. I worked two or more jobs during most of my time in college. I took the maximum amount of credits possible, because it is the same price whether you take 12 or 18 credits. And most importantly, I did not shop around at all during my college experience. I came in with the goal of graduating with an education degree, and I did it, but I never once bothered to ask myself if that career was what I truly wanted, or even if it would make me happy. Actually, I had many signs that told me it would bring me nothing but unhappiness, but I swept those thoughts under the rug, and told myself that I couldn’t afford to change my major at that point. That’s right, I told myself it was too expensive to look into other career fields. I told myself that I could not afford happiness at this time. I had picked my course and now I had to stick with it. Yet, I couldn’t help, but be jealous whenever I overheard an and art or English major talking about their classes. I told myself that those majors weren’t practical. I was being practical. When, in reality, the only practical I was being was “practically” insane. Here I was following a career path that made me miserable, just because I would be able to find a job easily.

One of the many reasons I didn’t consider the arts or humanities to be a career option, was because I was raised not to. When I was little, I had big dreams. In first grade, I wanted to be an artist. I put up a museum gallery worth of drawings at my grandma’s house. I taped up each one myself, along with a small placard adjacent with a title for the work and a price. I told my parents to come see my hard work I had done as an artist, but my mother told me, “If you’re going to be an artist, I hope you like sleeping in a cardboard box.” I asked her want she meant, and she explained to me that artists don’t make any money until after they’re dead. They are poor as can be when they are alive, and they usually die young and sickly. Even at the young age of six, I knew that wasn’t the kind life I wanted to live. I didn’t want to suffer all my life just so I could make art. Then, when I was in third grade, I decided I would be an author. I told my mother, and she told me that she hoped I liked waitressing until I was forty. I asked her what she meant, and she told me that authors don’t get to be authors full-time. They work hard in a low paying job, and write whenever they get a chance. They scrape and struggle to get by, but eventually, if they’re lucky, their book gets published, and is popular, and they are a success. However, most “authors” just stay waitresses until they can’t stand it anymore. That didn’t sound like the glamorous author life I had dreamed of, but compared to being an artist, it was manageable. I started writing my first novel, “Erica Potter.” (Yes, I suppose in hindsight it was my first fan fiction, but little Erica didn’t know what fan fiction was yet.) But, one day after school, my notebook fell out of my backpack, a boy from my class saw the title, word got around to the rest of my peers, and I was teased relentlessly. I did’t want to work so hard to be an author, if I was going to be treated so poorly.

I gave up on my dreams one by one. Eventually I fell into teaching. My neighbor asked me to help at the day camp she directed, I said yes, I was good at it, so I just kept doing it. I tried not to think too much about my happiness. It was too depressing. I worked hard at work, studied hard at school, and tried to scoop out a little joy in my free time if I could. It worked for a while, but when I went to college, things fell apart. All of a sudden I had no spare time. I had to study more to keep up with my classes, and I had to work more to pay for them. Without those chances to be expressive outside of work and school, I became a shell of a person. I went through my daily routine each day in misery, and went home each day dreading the next day to come. It took me longer than I would like to admit to realize how unsustainable this lifestyle was. For me, it had gotten to the point that I believed it to be normal. I began to think that life was pain, and sacrifice, and suffering. (I also blame this mentality on my Catholic upbringing, but we will open that can of worms at a later date.) It was actually through watching how much my beautiful boyfriend (now fiance), Jake, loves his job, that I started to realize how much I was missing. Jake loves his job. Yes, he suffered as a computer science major, but now he loves his job making video games. No, it’s not always easy. In fact, many days it’s really, really frustrating for him, but overall he loves his job. He wouldn’t rather be doing anything else. That’s what I want, and that’s what I’m looking for. I’m hoping that embracing my love of reading and writing, as an English major, will lead me down a path to finding a job that will bring me as much joy as Jake’s job brings him.

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