I graduate college three weeks from today. Honestly, student loans are not even close to on my mind. I’m two grand in debt. I’m lucky.
I double majored in Anthropology and Literature, and I would do it again. In Literature I practiced writing, critical thought, articulating criticism, applying historical and cultural factors to the production of meaning; I engaged with theory focusing on the reader of the text, rather than the author, and applied that in a senior thesis on Young Adult literature. In Anthro I got the opportunity to form a completely new world view based on cultural relativism and the ethics of studying people. I learned to face internalized racism, classism and sexism. I learned that people are a lot more than individuals.
And those are just my majors: I also engaged with translation work, diaspora studies, ornithology, philosophy, and pedagogy; I was a peer advisor and a TA; I’ve worked as a museum educator, a summer camp director, an office assistant and a retail sales clerk; I’m part of my campus feminist collective, my campus Occupy affinity group, NYSR (New York Students Rising), and I register voters in the city twice a month.
I did a lot these past four years.
It makes me so angry when my picture is in a news article for a demonstration with NYSR or Occupy, and these middle-aged privileged white guys in Westchester County comment on the story, calling us navel-gazers, telling us to go study, talking about how useless our majors are.
But here comes the critical thinking: how are you measuring useful? Am I going to have a job in August when I move to the city? Likely not. Maybe my immeasurable luck at having a resume with Real Jobs on it will help me pull through. But honestly, my chances wouldn’t be much better if I’d majored in engineering or international relations or business, so what’s the point in beating myself up for choosing to pursue majors that taught me how to think? Maybe it’s the imminent poverty talking, and call me an idealist (please!), but I think my education was a success if I’m more scared of being underemployed than unemployed. I did a lot these past four years. If I don’t get to use it I’ll be heartbroken. I hate being wasteful.
I am adaptable, well-spoken, and critical. I will never make hundreds of thousands at a multi-million dollar firm because I’m critical of what those firms do to our economy and cultural fabric. I spent four years coming to the conclusion that this country is fucked and I have the skills and passion and drive to help fix it. And I learned those skills in Anthropology and Literature classes at SUNY Purchase College. I learned that drive with the fantastic student activists I’ve met through NYSR and Occupy. I learned that passion in an environment where I was encouraged to do what I feel I need to do to give back to this broken and beautiful society.
I saw a news article that said, “the class of 2012 is in for a rude awakening: 1 in 2 will be unemployed or underemployed.” Don’t be so cocky: we know exactly what we’re getting into, and we know it’s not our fault. But we’re going to fix it for you. Don’t worry.
What’s your story? Are you one of the college graduates that have hung up the mortar board to enter the real world? Are you years out of college but still wondering how you’ll make your loan payments? Or is college off the table, never been an option? How are you chasing your version of the American Dream? Tell us and we’ll publish it here.