The Iron Curtain of Graduation

Today, Amanda Hahn shares her post grad story. She’s available for comment at  @Amanda Hahn. I’m impressed how she makes her story so hilarious and compelling at the same time!

I am 21 years old and have a fresh degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University. I worked hard, graduated with high honors, was president of a student organization, and completed a research scholars program where I designed and implemented psychology experiments resulting in a published thesis.

So where does that put me in life?

Currently unemployed, living with my parents in a Houston suburb, and my 11:05 PM consists of my mom outside of my bedroom ironing my curtains. I’m not joking. This is happening right now.

Baby-faced pictures of myself from high school follow me with their eyes around my room.

“Get a job!”

“What are you doing back here?”

“Move someplace more exciting, our Sonics aren’t even open late!” they shout at me.

“Baby-faced High School Me, please stop yelling!” I say back. I didn’t plan on being back here after graduating! My plan was to get into a doctorate program, earn my PhD, and then be a professor of Psychology. Easy peasy, right? I never thought I’d be jobless at this point, but I can’t say this didn’t come without fair warning.

The summer before my first year of college, I Julie-Andrews-meadow-ran my way into OfficeMax in search of new school supplies.

How wonderful! These ARE my favorite things!

Which pens could I write most smoothly with? What would a bright pink folder say to professors about me? Which color highlighters will help me get an A in Intro Class 101? When I finally made my selections (Uni-ball Signo’s, that I’ve got pep, and the classic yellow and orange combo pack, respectively), and I approached the cashier. He asked,

“Oh, getting ready for school?”

“Yes! I’m going to Texas A&M!!!” (The exclamation points are no exaggeration).

“Oh, cool, I graduated from A&M.”

“Nice, what was your degree in?”

“Engineering.”

Texas A&M University is known for having an excellent engineering program, not a great liberal arts one, and I was enrolling as a Psychology major. If this cashier didn’t find a career-job, what were my chances? But I ignored warning #1.

Warning #2 came soon after and hit closer to home. A friend told me about how she struck up a conversation with a gardener. After some chatting she learned he graduating from A&M…with a degree in Psychology. I should emphasize: I don’t think there’s anything wrong or scary at all about being a cashier or gardener. What scared me was I was about to spend $14,000 a year for an education that was supposed to help me eventually become a Psychology Professor, and these people getting degrees from a good university then getting jobs you can get without that degree were bringing down my College-Will-Totally-Get-You-Your-Dream-Job-Yay-For-College buzz.

Despite this, I entered my freshman year with the goal of being awesome at college. Grad school admission committees would see how awesome I was at college and want me in their grad schools where I could continue being awesome. Then, awesome faculty positions at universities would be created just for me because I was so awesome at grad school and at being awesome in general.

This did not go according to plan. For me, grad schools were a series of unsuccessful relationships I never had with real boys in college: I got a date with one school, but it later gave me the “It’s not you, it’s me.” Another wanted me to pay its $48,000 dinner tab. One straight-up never called me back. The rest said they just didn’t want a relationship right now. The hunt for a Psychology-lab related job went similarly. I made a lot of calls and emails that went unanswered, was told “thanks, but no thanks” many times, and several professors in faraway cities offered me experience but not money which would be essential if I weren’t living at home. So that brings me to where I am now.

But I’m confident that someday I’ll find true love with a grad school. And honestly, although I imagined that at this time I would be making preparations to head to the school of my dreams, my situation isn’t nearly as bad as it could be. It’s actually pretty good. Things don’t go according to plan, but that doesn’t equate to bad luck, failure, or a bleak future. I’m a research assistant at a great university, and even though it’s an unpaid position, I’m having a great time, learning a lot, and am incredibly grateful for the people and mental stimulation surrounding me there. Ideally, I would be living in a fabulous downtown apartment and be enrolled as a grad student at the university where I am an assistant, but for now, I’ll be content knowing I have the smoothest curtains the west side of Houston has ever seen.

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2 responses to “The Iron Curtain of Graduation

  • Nikki

    Love this post! I’m in the same predicament as you – and guess what, so are all my friends. It’s hard to accept the fact that being back at home with my parents was not my plan, but it is in fact my reality. I’m trying to take each day as it comes and not lose my sanity by enjoying the little things in life, such as smooth curtains and a warm puppy snuggled at my feet.

    Best of luck with the assistant position, grad school apps and life in general. Keep writing! It’s good for the soul.

  • Jay Segal

    Very interesting information!Perfect just what I was looking for!

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