judge not lest ye be judged

Another holiday, another day spent being shamed for not being in graduate school.

I deal with this kind of shit a lot more than I let on, and while it might not be the biggest thing in the world, it really, really bothers me. This time of year, high school/college graduation season, grad party season, is the worst because it’s all that’s on anybody’s mind. The air is alive with the buzz of school and people want to know why you, the 24 year old who graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree a year ago is the general manager of a restaurant, a restaurant you’ve worked at since you were 17.

The subject of school/college/my future is a sore one for me, and to be honest, I’m done with both the accusations and pointed fingers of “you need to go back and do something with your life” and with apologizing for being so upset by it. I know these things come from well meaning people who love me and want the best for me, but, quite frankly, how can any of them possibly know what’s best for me when I don’t even know what that is?

When I graduated high school, I had Big Dreams. I wrote frequently in my blog at the time of the potential I had to go to med school, spend a year living in Chicago, travel the world. I miss feeling like that, but at some point, reality has to set in. Those things just weren’t achievable for me. I suck at math and science and could never be a doctor. I have no desire to live away from my friends and family (despite their annoying tendencies) unless it’s for something really important. Traveling costs money. I don’t have unlimited money.

After dabbling with the idea of becoming an X-Ray or EEG technician, I finally landed on what I considered to be my dream job: speech/language pathology. I threw myself headfirst into pursuing the dream, finding a nearby university that offered an undergrad program and transferring there after completing my associate’s degree in education at my local community college. I met some fabulous girls at my school, all of my whom are incredibly driven, intelligent, passionate young ladies who almost all went onto graduate school to get their master’s in speech/language. I learned you couldn’t practice without getting your master’s, and I learned that getting your master’s is a full time job. Getting into one of those programs is very difficult-it’s extremely competitive and time consuming. You need to spend all your time studying, working in the clinic, getting volunteer hours in and dedicating your life to it.

Do I want to be an SLP? Yes, I do. I still feel very passionately about it and it fascinates me. But I need to be a realistic person. I don’t think it’s going to happen for me. I’d have to quit my job and devote all my time to just brushing up my credentials to APPLY to a program, let alone start one. We’re talking years of unpaid work before starting my career, and I can’t afford that. I don’t have a family that pays for school/my living expenses, and I don’t want to be saddled with 100,000 in student loans when I graduate. Plus who knows if I’d ever be accepted?

I do research almost daily on post-graduate education and think about going back. I’ve been exploring the fields of human resources, business administration, linguistics and yes, even the fields of X-Ray tech and EEG tech. I explore online programs from major universities and potential job prospects after graduation. I think about what it would be like to have to step down at my job into a lower position to do so. I think about how difficult it would be to do both-run my store and continue my education.

Here’s the thing-I know that I’m not currently doing what I should/will be for the rest of my life. I’m not stupid, I don’t want to be working in food when I’m 60. But you know what else? I bust my ass at my job. I get up at 5 am every morning and work 10-11 hour days. I make schedules, do hiring and firing, inventory, sales and food projection prep and management and run a business. My business might be selling food, but a business it still is. I come home at the end of my day dead tired then I go back and do it all again the next day. Why isn’t that something to be celebrated? Why is the fact that I have integrity and work ethic in whatever I’m doing not something to be heralded? Instead I’m shamed and put down for my lack of commercial professional success and made to feel like a shit stain upon my entire family. News flash…when I’m laying on my death bed I hope that the only things surrounding me are expensive degrees in walnut frames.

The real facts of this situation which you may all think I’m making too much of are these: I feel like shit for not being in school. I feel like shit for not being an SLP. I feel like shit for wasting my time on a degree I can’t use. I can’t see a future for myself and it’s terrifying and consumes my every thought. I feel inadequate and embarrassing all the time. And well intentioned “well, my friend’s daughter just got her first SLP job making 80,000 a year off the bat” does not help.

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