Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ramblings on my state of mind mid semester

For seven years I tossed the idea of graduate school back and forth in my head while I worked jobs in the museum world. People think that museum work is glamorous and have visions of you working next to masterpieces and talking theory all day long. However, the reality of my jobs were that I was used and mistreated for seven years because I was young and capable. My salary was so low that I could barely afford rent in combination with food. Thus the prospect of furthering my education to take me to a different place- a different field- a field that I was meant to work within was incredibly tempting. I prepared myself by taking continuing education classes and applied and ultimately was accepted into a program in New York. I felt so much excitement going into work and declaring my resignation to say that I was going to graduate school. Admittedly it was a bit weird because I had mentored so many people through the process of graduate school for museum studies that to leave the safety of my current office felt uneasy.

Although I had simultaneously applied for funding to the graduate program while I was applying for acceptance, I was offered a small fraction of the cost of education. This meant that in order to attend this school- the school that I had been watching from afar and admiring for seven years- I needed to take out 3 loans (2 government and 1 bank) and move into my parents house. I had not lived with my parents for close to a decade and moving back was exceptionally difficult. One of the big difficulties with moving back home was the fact that my parents had not expected me to return so they moved into a smaller house. I now live in the basement area of the house (which is over an hour and a half from school) with no door, no privacy and no heat. In order to get to my 9am class in time, I have to wake up and catch the 7am bus to the shuttle train to transfer to the train and then transfer once more. However, because I have such a long commute I have time to reflect on my work at school and I often wonder to myself- is this all worth it?

My classes this semester were adequate. Yes, they expanded my world and allowed me to think about new things. I was not in love with my teachers. I was not pushed to do work that I thought was particulary exceptional in any way and I struggled with the idea that I was doing "graduate level work" when my undergraduate counterparts sat right beside me in my classes. I see a few people singled out in the class and they get their names called and the choice opportunities for things to do within the department and I find myself feeling jealous. I think to myself, it's okay, you are not coming to the program with the skills that they have- but admittedly it is hard to ignore. I feel like I am just someone with some illustration skills who is easy to overlook. I like the sense of community that I feel amongst my peers and I think that social aspect of school is certainly worth it. However, I find it really difficult to become friends with people in the program when I spend over 3 hours of each day commuting, 8 hours of the week working, and then a large period of time studying. I hope that next semester will be different. I think that the first semester is difficult because you don't have a grounding in what's happening in the program. Moving forward I will have more confidence in my class choices and more enthusiasm for various activities that happen within the program.

I feel that the program is disorganized. It's not obvious how I can get specific mentoring or even what opportunities are available to me within the department. I find myself trying to learn what is happening and only by chance do I ever really hear about some amazing event that ties in with my interests. Additionally, I find that the ongoings between the Administration and students are very impersonal. I find it bizarre that I get emails notifying me to look at a website to learn about an invoice. I find it even more bizarre to get an email from the president of the school stating that because of the financial crisis funding for school may not be available next year. May not be available? How can something so ambiguous be sent out? I had worked for seven years and now am going through so much just to attend this program and now am going to have to attempt to take out a forth loan. Even just the prospect of this idea is daunting. So that is my upset with the Administration of the school. I just feel that I should be given the respect to receive these basic services.

This is a period of ambivalence for me. I know that I sound extremely negative and down. I feel that it's a struggle. I know that this is not a trade school and that I am going to leave Parsons with something more than the possibility of a future income, but I find it hard to accept inspiration when all day I think about how things are going to fall apart. Everywhere I look I see a label and to me that is equated with a price tag for something I need to purchase. This can drive you crazy. But it's not just money, it's getting the assurance that I will be okay, that I am doing creative work that is meaningful and that I am not just a number.