American Dream (revised)
A man at the gym approached me the other day and asked, “You’re out of school and in the workforce, huh?” “Out of school,” I replied, but wasn’t quite sure how to explain that I’m not in the workforce quite yet. I was, dare I say it, embarrassed.
It’s always awkward explaining to people that I’m a college graduate pursuing a dream that’s not even remotely related to my major. I find myself rolling my eyes sometimes when I tell people that I model. I’m not at all embarrassed by my work or my dream, but rather by the stigma associated with the industry. I often find it necessary to explain that I’m a college grad and not merely a blonde airhead who can take a decent photo.
Luckily modeling has never been my only dream. I knew early on that I wanted to one day study forensics. I was fascinated by crime. At a young age I would do my own investigations, and in high school I became that “super nerd” who took after school classes in policing and CSI just so I’d be able to visit crime labs.
People seem fascinated when they hear what I studied and what I want to do with my degree. They make it sound as if it should be simple to get a job since I studied in such a diverse field. My favorite question is, “oh, so what are you doing with your degree now that you’re out of school?”
I have a BS in Criminal Justice, focused elective classes and labs in forensic science, and I have a certificate in High-Tech Crime and Identity Theft … not bad for plan B.
It appears I should get a job related to criminology and begin my career, but what about my other dream? Do I give that up since, while I’ve had minor successes and some magazine spreads here and there, I am still not a well-known model or actress? Or maybe I could continue pursuing that dream and should an offer in the criminal justice field come my way I decide then whether or not to take it. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.
Here’s the catch: job offers in the criminal justice field don’t just “come along.” The job market right now is not at its peak, even for those with degrees. I’ve spent days completing job applications with extensive questionnaires attached.
It’s bothersome to me that the majority of the jobs I’ve applied for turn me down for a lack of experience, when I just spent the last 5 years of my life attaining the degree necessary for an entry level position for said job. It seems “experience” is gained on the job, but it’s nearly impossible to get the job without experience.
I used to spend a lot of time wondering where my modeling/acting career could be had I spent the last 5 years of my life whole-heartedly pursuing it instead of commuting to school, writing 30 plus page research papers, and studying for exams.
Never have I regretted going to college. In fact, I find myself quite fortunate to have had the opportunity to go and finish in conjunction with trying to make my other dream a reality, but it took a lot of time. Time that others spent in acting classes and mingling with various managers and producers at events I was always invited to but could rarely attend because I had a G.P.A. to maintain.
The social mobility escalator attached to the “American Dream” seems to be running backwards. I’ve worked hard, I’ve been dedicated, hell, I was even in the honor’s society and I was signed to a top Los Angeles modeling agency, but apparently this is not enough for the sheriff’s departments that crush my dreams on a weekly basis or the casting directors who don’t book me.
The only thing different about life after college is I’m not in college. Some days there is nothing I “need” to do. It’s strange. I knew I’d miss being in school because I’ve always enjoyed learning, but I never realized the sense of purpose school gave me. So many deadlines. I was always on someone else’s time.
Now I make my own schedule and deadlines, and I have to remain motivated even though I’m not working on earning good grades.
I’m still learning.
I’m learning I need to find a sense of purpose within myself, that I’m able to set deadlines and make my own times tables for when I want things accomplished. College gave me so many resources. I learned how to research, how to network, and how to express myself in a professional manner.
I’m starting to notice a difference in how my friends who went to college act versus those who did not. There’s definitely a sense of professionalism that school gives you. I never thought it was a big deal until recently because I know so many successful people who didn’t go to college.
I’ve stopped wondering where I could be in life had I not gone to college and I’ve started taking charge of my present. Yes, I’m still actively pursuing two vastly different careers, but now I’m doing it with some experience under my belt, a completed formal education, and a new outlook.
Now I am beginning to understand the importance of the path my life has taken.