Nine months ago, I sat in a cold apartment, watching the last rays of winter sun glare off an adjacent window. I had barely woken up, and already it was night. A binge of Netflix interrupted only by the occasional "are you still watching" memo, and a few hot showers. The past two weeks had become one lackadaisical blur. No appointments, no deadlines, and no money. These were the realities of unemployment.
Although I had managed to successfully flee the confines of my cubicle, my luxury apartment was becoming every bit as bleak. Since that early September day, the day of my resignation, my outlook had gone from shimmering green to aspen yellow. And as the last few leaves fell silently outside my window; it took one last plunge into a dull shade of brown.
From a promised internship that never came to be, to months of applications that failed to yield even a single reply, it seemed as if I couldn't catch a break. Frustrated and confused, I had all but given up. Although with just over a month left on my lease, and a shrinking line of credit, it was time to make a move.
In my limited view the options were minimal. Either reenter the dram existence of corporate America, this time with my tail between my legs, or pursue more creative options through the accreditations of the university system. Despite my differences with past educational exploits, I had always done well in the classroom, and given my then state of confusion and despair, I saw a return to this familiar setting as a way to get back on track. Thus began the search for a worthy program.
Of course, it didn’t take long for me to realize that enrollment in any sort of university program so close to its start date was going to severely limit my options. A search that began with lofty expectations of top tier film schools based off of a handful of novice YouTube productions, fell victim to reason in no time, as I settled for an online MA called "Strategic Communications and Innovation" through my alma matter.
Just weeks before the semester began, I received word of my acceptance. And as my first day of graduate school crept closer, an excitement began to build. "Finally", I thought, "I'll have access to collaboration, I’ll have funding for equipment, and I’ll have direction through assignments".
But several monotonous assignments, and only a few interesting TED talks later, I began to recognize a trend. Not only was much of the course material readily available on the web, free of charge, but the process of memorization for regurgitation felt all too familiar. By the end of my first semester, I’d already seen enough, but a favorable grant made my summer courses nearly free.
With plans to teach abroad seemingly coming to fruition in late August, I elected to continue a bit further. But in true university fashion, my next course "Production of Digital Media Content" turned out to be little more than a five-week long copy and paste exercise, even despite its glorious name.
One more course in summer two left me just three credits short of a graduate certificate, a point at which I had deemed worthy of stopping. I questioned the certificates' value, but rather than leaving the program emptyhanded, I decided to press on. Which brings me to this semester.
Module 1 of MCOM 5310 "Strategic Communications Planning & Writing" began with an introductory discussion post, and a link to more TED talks. Module 2, was more of the same. And while this predictability and lack of challenge did further my frustration, I had accepted this final course as my fate. But last week, I noticed that my financial aid still had not been dispersed. And after listening to an hour long loop of the university's fight song, a representative finally explained why.
It turns out, the financial aid award that I had already accepted, was being withheld due to my minimal enrollment. But much to my surprise, I was entirely okay with it.
As of today, I am no longer enrolled in graduate school, but my passion to explore and discover is greater than ever. Nine months ago, I sat in a cold dark room, frustrated by a lack of opportunity, and sulking in my sorrow. I’d discovered a passion for creative expression, but I still believed that I needed external motivation to pursue it. I now realize this isn’t so. True passion inspires an internal obligation far greater than that of any assignment. You can waste a lifetime waiting for the perfect job, assignment, or opportunity, or you can create your own.
As the wise James Baldwin once said "the paradox of education is precisely this; that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated". Before you let the voices of society influence your decisions, listen to your own. And if you're anything like me, you might find that your seemingly unreachable dreams are just a pen and paper away.
p.s. Don’t tell Spotify.