The Day I Thought My Degree Would Help Me Find a Job
How getting a Master’s degree sucked the life out of me.
Oh god was I naive, haha! I applied to an Art History Master’s program. I got accepted and to ruin the punchline, I graduated, finished, donzo, see you never! But, what happened in between the first day and the graduation day is what we need to discuss.
I wanted to become a university professor SO FUCKING BAD. I thought about that job every day. EVERYDAY! I would visualize myself in front of a class of 100 kids eager to learn about art history (because yes, some people out there do truly love art history). I would picture the books I’d write and the articles published with my name on it. These obsessive thoughts led me to do some research and figure out how to achieve this goal.
Step 1: Get a Bachelors Degree (Major in Art History)
Step 2: Graduate
Step 3: Get a Master’s Degree (M.A. Art History)
Step 4: Graduate
Step 5: Get a Ph.D. in Art History
Step 6: Graduate
Step 7: Become a Professor
I stopped at step 4 and I never want to look back. Let me tell you why…
I stepped into the university. New pencils, new notebooks, new pencil case, new white-out, new everything. I got lost. Couldn’t find my class and had an anxiety attack and thought, fuck this, I’m out of here and, I went home.
“Tomorrow will be a better day,” I thought. Extremely disappointed in myself, I thought that my start to this Master’s was not a good one at all. But, I didn't give up. So the following day I left my apartment earlier and made it to class and every other class that week on time. Things were okay. They weren’t great and the excitement I thought I would feel, well, wasn’t there at all.
After a few weeks, I realized that ALL my seminars were kind of, really terrible. I hated them. I could not relate to the topics, the students surrounding me appeared very closed minded and very closed off to different opinions which discouraged me from sharing anything in class. I thought to myself “we’re in art history, aren’t people suppose to be open minded in this program?” Not the case. Not that I always disagreed with opinions but I can be the Devil’s advocate and sometimes, people don’t like that. Like this one time for example, where we needed to respond to articles posted by undergrad students on various topics of their choosing. I had decided to respond to an article on how the Black communities of southern United States wanted to take down Confederate monuments as they promoted slavery and sent a message to the general population that Americans were proud of this long and horrendous history. As mentioned a few lines above, I tend to play the Devil’s advocate. Sometimes to get a rise out of people but mostly to force people to think beyond their opinions and sometimes force them to be rational when thinking about something (leave the emotions out, which isn’t always easy for most of us).
I played the Devil’s advocate. I can’t remember exactly what I had written as a response but it was something along the lines of how I thought (not believed) that Americans should leave the statues up as a reminder of the atrocities committed by our ancestors. That by erasing all visual traces of mistreatment towards the black community, would, in a way, erase what had happened. And humans are stupid, so, we need visual reminders sometimes to remind us of how terrible we can be towards one another. The general public doesn’t remember a lot of things that happened in our past. They chose to focus their attention on their daily drama, what’s for dinner and whatever other nonsense they chose to think about. However, even though I know the statues remind us of a terrible time in history, shouldn’t we keep them to remind the white man of his ancestor's actions in order to ensure it never happens again?
The backlash was terrible. I got called a white supremacist, a racist, a privileged white woman. I couldn’t believe it. My mother is an immigrant, so is my stepfather, I’m part native, my boyfriend is black for crying out loud! Needless to say, after this event, I gave up on succeeding in this Master’s, I just wanted to finish it and run.
We then had this “feminist in art” class… Urgh…
I can’t even talk about it, that’s how frustrating it was. But, I’ll say this, you have every right to be a feminist but, please, don’t shove your beliefs in down my throat. Don’t get upset because I don’t believe in all your opinions. That’s a double standard and I don’t like those. (Live and let live.)
Anyway! I had terrible classes, to say the least. The only redeeming factor was that I was writing about my ancestors and my culture — The Acadians. This was and still is a topic close to my heart. I was extremely passionate about it and even spoke to great Acadian artists regarding their journey in creating Acadian Modern art.
However, even though I loved the topic I was studying, I hated the academic writing, the academic world in general (it was too political). Everything needed to be so precise and so meticulous with complicated wording to convey one simple idea. I didn’t understand why I needed to over-complicate my writing… I still don’t understand it. I wasn’t allowed to speak of my culture in words I wanted to use. By the end, my thesis felt like it wasn’t my work but veiled under the some institutional shall. I was proud of what I had done don’t get me wrong, but, there was a sense of uneasiness about submitting this paper.
At the beginning, I wanted to make my culture proud. I wanted to leave a rock in the Acadian world with my name on it. By the end, I just wanted to quit the project and forget I ever had this idea in mind.
Needless to say, I submitted the damn thesis (which, by the end, I clearly wanted to burn).
All of this in hopes of one day becoming a university professor. HA! Now that I’m done and I have two degrees and a lot of work experiences in various fields, it’s harder to find employment then it is to find a needle in a haystack. What are these degrees good for except accumulating debts and dust in a frame?
I’ve now learned through my own personal research that education, or “higher education” sometimes isn’t the best option. Throughout this painful process, I’ve learned that by being creative. Showing the work I actually love doing (writing, blogging... etc) is a better pay off then slaving over essays that end up being meaningless and occupying space on my Mac. I’ve learned that degrees, although they make you sound fancy, don’t mean much. Their purpose isn't as prestigious as they once were. I’ve learned that if you’re good at something, put your heart and soul into it and one day, someone out there will recognize that talent.
Don’t succumb to this academic, degree hoopla that they feed you. I’m telling you from experience, it’s better to do shorter education, get a job and focus on things you love rather than slaving away from 12 years at school HOPING to land a good job.