Just You and Your Degree

…Out there in the world.

Happy April Fools Day:

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A Reflection

The degree is an MA–a particular no person’s land from many perspectives. Academic life is rather unforgiving of voluntary detours diverging from its mapping. Didn’t go onthe_fool_tarot_card_-_Google_Search.jpgto your PhD? And how exactly do you think you are going to get back on this path when you have already angered the committee gods? Off you go to your temporary corporate job where you sink lower into your chair every day as your data entry team leader shouts out the previous day’s productivity numbers and yours are dragging. “Grades” are confidential where I come from, people. To pull at a dangerously unraveling thread…why were your grades so much better than your “real world” productivity numbers? Somehow you hang in there for a year until you are called into a meeting one morning where you and several co-workers are informed that your employment is terminated, effective immediately.
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What are you doing again?

Back to retail, the job you had before you went to college. No need to elaborate. You decide it’s a good idea to move to a store that offers you a full-time position–until you realize that the newly-opened store cannot possibly be supporting you and the part-time person your boss seems to prefer, your hours are somehow not what they used to be and you’re hesitant asking to make them up–or you feel guilty for not having enough to do–and your boss, who you’ve had consistent communication problems with, does not understand that quitting and being laid off are not the same thing (is it your imagination or did the real problems start about the time you began to attempt to discuss your grad school research with her?). There’s an attempted discussion about ‘mutual agreement’ that the store doesn’t need a full-time employee, and you’re willing to discuss a cut in hours, which you are willing to accommodate, but the definite answer you receive about there not being an option for you to stay on either full or part time leaves you fairly certain you’ve been laid off again and wondering why you’re trying to be so polite about it.  You don’t receive a response to an attempt at clarification (emailed), but it seems you’ve reached a sufficient understanding, and you go your separate way. This pretty much sums up the retail experience you’ve had, beginning to end, but we’re not quite there 17_Best_images_about_The_Fool__Tarot_Card__on_Pinterest___Decks__New_beginnings_and_Zen.jpgyet.

Next job interview: hired immediately.

First day: manager informs you that you are not what the customers want.

Sure…of course I understand. The sooner we know that the better.

the_fool_tarot_card_-_Google_Search.jpgNext job application response by phone to discuss a possible interview (slight paraphrase): “Are you sure you’re really interested in sales? It seems your background is…academic.” [Sounds as if she’s shuddering at the phrase].

*bristle, good-bye*

That’s right, though. I do have a degree somewhere, don’t I? Can I use it somehow? I realize I can’t compete with PhDs for teaching positions…I don’t even receive a call back…but I guess I’ll submit another application…wait, what? You would like me to interview? Yes, next week! See you then!

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After a few days of fantasizing about teaching at a small arts college–

*Reads article in the newspaper about a new development affecting said college in such a way that current faculty is now wondering how long they will keep their jobs–potential new hires are thought about only as long as it takes to write an email canceling scheduled interviews.*

Next day: not surprised to receive interview cancellation email. the_fool_tarot_card_-_Google_Search.jpg

I won’t be going back to retail [sorry, do I sound as if I’m shuddering?] nor corporate data entry. I’ve thought a great deal about degrees in the past few years, and it seems to me that many of the people I know of who have achieved success with a master’s degree–and for some reason or other not gone on to a PhD–have found a place for themselves either through self-employment or somewhere separate from mainstream academic connections (or their involvement with academia for numerous years trumps the degree itself).

For several years, I’ve worked (and worked to establish myself) in freelancing writing, research, and editing; in the past few months, I have found myself in the slightly awkward and ironic position of working with PhDs on dissertations and journal articles. In spite of the minor discomfort, it’s something I really like doing. Rest assured this is only a mildly cynical view of degrees, which I respect. Mine has gotten me places. Because the work I do requires me to demonstrate a familiarity withthe_fool_tarot_card_-_Google_Search.jpg academic processes, I use the M.A. initials my degree grants on the bio for my business website. In case someone wonders why I do not use them here, it’s because I’m also required (and choose) to work with those in non-academic circles and audiences, and this is my way of finding balance. I don’t use my full name because I want the ability to separate projects (I have a third, invitation-only website/blog devoted to dream research, which I combine with literature passages, literary theory, and tarot card readings).

This will probably be the only post here about degrees, but I will continue the ongoing conversation I’ve started about education. Previous posts have described the approach I have taken to expand my scholarship outside academia. The next posts will delineate the non-academic training that has taken me to the next level of self-employment.

Happy April Fools’ Weekend–to all the fools.

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©Melanie Sophia 2017