i have spent the last seven years of my life leisurely getting through college. “seven years?” one might ask. yes, seven years. i basically goofed off for the first five years, and only in the last two years have i really put my nose to the grindstone. i assured myself that i was doing the right thing–going to school full-time, five and six classes per semester, and living off of school loans seemed like the most productive option. to hell with extracurricular activities and personal interests, i decided i needed to finish school quickly and with good grades. well, now that school is done, i have entered into this obscure realm of “employable.” says who? i don’t know. ironically, now that i have been deemed officially employable, i am petrified at the thought of entering “the real world.”
come to think of it though, this was a long time coming. i’m not sure that i’ve ever really been interested in entering “the real world.” why else would i have majored in history and minored in english? somehow i convinced myself that “the real world” could resemble a classroom setting where academics discussed angela davis’ thesis in are prisons obsolete?, kwame ture’s diction in black power, and jhumpa lahiri’s use of food in the narratives of interpreter of maladies.
history and english… really? what was i thinking? it turns out that i am not the only one feeling the seemingly uselessness of the liberal arts. it turns out that as of late, study of the liberal arts has been on the decline. this means that liberal arts students themselves have felt their own ineptitude and those that avoided liberal arts are corroborating it. this is not to say that there aren’t any liberal arts students that cherish their humanities-ridden education. in fact, there are plenty of old-timers who have benefited professionally from their education in las. the emphasis there lies in the old-timers. there was once a time, i have heard, when a degree in anthropology and english literature provided a niche in the job market. i hate to break it to you, but that time is behind us now, and you better hope that your degree has some marketability if you plan on making any money.
i guess that, if anything, society has done well by producing fewer of us liberal arts nerds. it’s the idealistic morons like me who were crazy enough to think that history and english might be marketable… that there might be a place in the job market for those like me who choose to look to the past to see the future… that an education in liberal arts might contribute to making us better people.
now, faced with multiple networking websites and job applications, i find myself in a pickle. it turns out that there are few employers enticed by the dazzling headlines of “head hostess” and “part-time ESL tutor.” that there is ridiculous irony in the fact that entry-level positions require 2-5 years of experience. that it is damn near impossible to sell oneself in a “summary” a lá linkedin. and that there is a window growing narrower and narrower for journalists.
to see what a liberal arts education can produce, check this out (this link is no longer available; please contact me for a story i wrote for a Chicago Public Radio fellowship application), and here’s what’s going on in my real world.
**Originally posted June 23, 2010.