An all-women panel, the Chicago comedy big wigs -- Second City main stage, instructors, performers, stage directors representing the four major comedy theaters in a comedy-heavy town -- told their seminar-ees, "Only you can give away your power." "You are never the victim; it is on you." "You do not have to make yourself suffer." "All you have to do is have as much fun as possible."
A trip on the "L" red line later, north, me leaning against the clear plastic partition, feet spread wide and braced against the tire-treaded metal trying not to lurch into the other passengers or onto the flimsy train doors, Julie Kimball-Bryant and I got to her Bryn Mawr apartment and to Mikey and Mitch.
Dinner conversation after some free wine tasting at a local... (What would you call that? It sold liquor, but it was not a liquor store per se. They sell liquor in gas stations and grocery stores here. A corner store? Yes. Buy yourself some beer, wine, whiskey and snapples.) corner store was about the relation of college to subsequent employment. Three of the four of us were and are unemployed.
Here's the thing: Whitworth, an excellent liberal art college with highly-qualified personable professors, an education that we four would not take back or undo for some other education, is ever-rising in cost and is generally producing graduates that do not have specified skills required for jobs. My education of mind and heart is not currently making me any money.
The cost of undergraduate education is rising while the value of its degrees (relative to the competitive edge it gives over other job applicants) is falling. The economy is slumped compared to when our parents made their start in life-after-ed. And the baby boomers are going into retirement, expecting returns on their social security and specials at Denny's. My dad to me (all the time): you know who's going to have to pay for all this government spending? Points finger at me.
And it was most definitely my fault that I majored in the obscure combination of English and Physics. I was lead by the belief in education for its own sake, enlightenment, the betterment of personhood. I was against the philistine notion of studying something to make me wealthy or comfortable later; I insisted on taking the courses that I found the most interesting. My parents always told me that I could do whatever I put my mind to.
And I can see where those comedy women's advice would be useful. Believing that nothing really bad or out of one's control can happen would make you a more daring person. Its practicality maybe justifies it, but I still wonder whether the statement is true. (Does anybody care about the fucking truth anymore?) If there is no excuse for feeling like a victim and no lemons that simply won't do as lemonade.
A reason they sent young men to reclaim the beaches at Normandy in World War II was the fact that the men, because they were young, did not believe they could die. So the beach was captured -- points for the belief in personal immortality -- but the young men did die and it was awful, and shouldn't it matter if a belief, regardless of the results it gets, is based in reality or not?
Mostly I feel stuck between the admonishments of educators, parents, and professionals in the meat of their lives, careers, successes and my empty email inbox and voice mail after dozens of sent resumes and job applications. It's not what I expected, and I feel lost in it.