My Degree Has Failed Me Miserably

This post was originally on my other blog (Articulate Black Guy). Given Seattle’s amazing entry on Setting the Bar Too Low, I figured I would introduce this entry on expectations that have affected me. If you’ve read it before, send it to somebody else to read. If you haven’t read it, enjoy…I feel ya pain. And no, I’m not living on the streets.

The economy is in a crunch. I’ve been in denial about it until now. I was told by older people that this day would come. As I sit and ponder my financial situation and life in general, I’m wondering what I’ve really accomplished since graduating from college. It’s nice to throw around my university’s name and occasionally get surprised looks, or more commonly jokes from people who struggle to compensate for their inferiority complex. It’s nice for people to stop by my apartment and notice my shiny diploma frame hanging evenly on the wall. As a matter a fact, it’s probably the only thing in my living room that I dust reguarly. But that piece of paper between the glass and the wood…what does it really mean?

Being that I opted not to go to graduate school, where I hear having this piece of paper is helpful in admissions, I’m finding out how little it’s worth when the economy is tough like it is now. A degree from *insert Ivy League school other than Harvard, Yale, or Princeton* does not guarantee that you will have your dream job or be raking in the dough. Some of us have been fortunate enough to beat the odds; but for the rest of us, we toil on in our daily drudgery. A degree from an Ivy in this economy is on the same piece of paper as a degree from Shucka Jive College in Sanbow, NM. Though I am employed full time, my degree doesn’t allow me to magically leap away from my current job and into the new position of my dreams. There’s a lot of competition out there nowadays. Then again, I guess there’s always been a lot of competition. I just never really noticed it until now. A recession (I call this a recession despite what economists say) definitely levels the playing field.

I look at my degree, and where I was supposed to be according to the expectations of myself and everyone else. My major indicates that I should’ve been a lawyer. Oops, gotta go to grad school for that. Or maybe, just maybe I could’ve been an arbitrator or sports agent, or something else cool…oops, gotta go to grad school for that stuff too. Either that or have the ultimate connection to pull me up the ladder. Anyway, maybe I should have went into the financial services field..then again, I wouldn’t want someone to have to clean the bloody mess off my desk after beating my head against it on the day that I finally snapped.

I could’ve went a few other ways as well, but somehow I ended up in sales and then in the field of recruiting (which is somehow related to my major). I feel like I’ve done a lot of stuff right over the years. I’ve put on the sharp suit. I’ve presented myself as articulate, polished, and highly intelligent. I’ve taken many of the steps that were “supposed” to lead me to success beyond graduating from college. Yet, I feel pretty unaccomplished and somewhat unhappy with my current predicament (Blogging is merely an outlet to stop one of my talents from going to waste). Of course things could be worse, but that doesn’t mitigate the significance of my personal circumstances. I see people making less money that are a lot happier. I see people chasing their dreams, whether it be music or running their own popular website. I see people making filthy bucks that appear to be on this earth solely to be miserable. I guess at times, I feel like I fall somewhere in between. People have said “you only live once”, and I have spent money according to that statement since graduation. It may have brought me temporary happiness at the time, but as I continue to dip into my account for expenses I’d rather not deal with, I find myself using the same words that my parents and other older folks use when trying to instill some knowledge…

“Only if I had the chance to go back and do it again.”

Whoever believes that the “live once” logic is a good excuse to blow your cash must have a trust fund or some financial cushion lurking in the shadows. I sure as hell wish I hadn’t taken that approach. Even if tomorrow is not promised, I wanna be able to live stress free when it becomes today. Lord willin’ of course.

And no, I’m not broke. But after having to dip into my savings a few times as of recent, I’ve realized I’m far from where I expected to be. And I’m even further away from where others expected me to be. As much as I’d like to pass the blame elsewhere for my circumstances, the reality is that I can only blame myself. Had I paid attention to what would make me happy from the beginning and been a bit more calculating, I probably wouldn’t be feeling the way I do now. I certainly wouldn’t be wearing a suit everyday. Perhaps I would have rode the initial blogging wave, and I’d be paid to sit in my apartment in my boxers writing about whatever feels good. Maybe I should be more optimistic despite the downward spiral of the economy and it’s effect on my life. Maybe the line between dream and reality isn’t so distinct. A dream is what you strive to achieve. And reality…well, that’s just what you accept. Strangely enough, many people base reality on the perception of others, which adds to the stress people place on themselves. Perhaps that’s why people are so miserable. Then again, misery does love company, and I figured I’d be kind enough to share mine with you. Go figure…

It always takes a tragedy or a series of unpleasant occurrences to give someone a “reality check”. I’m getting one everyday that I drive by the financially back-breaking gas station, and every month when I cut that crippling rent check that has surged an additional 100 bux per month. I sometimes feel like a college student all over again. I do kinda wish I could go back. Where would I go? You already know…right to that point before I got this seemingly worthless degree.



6 responses to “My Degree Has Failed Me Miserably

  1. While fairly well written in a semi-conversational style, I must disagree with this entry. I went to a non-HYP Ivy and have a great job. As a matter of fact, I interviewed for and started this job in the last 5 months. It is what you get out of your education that is of greater import than where you went to university.

    Fellow Ivy Grad,


  2. Thanks for the comment. Glad to hear you are having success, however I don’t think your situation is truly representative of what most people are dealing with right now. The purpose of this entry isn’t about where I went to school. It’s about a college degree in general. I referenced the “Big 3” somewhat jokingly. I know people who went to those schools who want to switch jobs right now and can’t find a way to easily do it. Regardless of where you got your education, it has become incredibly competitive. I’d suggest you look at the situations of a lot of recent graduates and the large number of people who are actively seeking opportunities. There’s a lot of people out of work right now who are well-educated. Fortunately, we’re not amongst that group.


  3. I kind of agree yet kind of disagree. Personally, I go to a big ten school and although it is non-ivy league, I’ve done well because in my field it is as prestigious as an ivy. However, the main point I want to make is you’re right, it is increasingly competitive and although the caliber of school you went to is representative of your credentials to a point, nothing is a “free ticket,” to success. I think companies more and more look for specific skills that are not ivy league or big ten school specific, just general skills that the person who went to CC can have and the person who went to Harvard certainly can lack. Good example of that is humility. Humility takes you far in life, and in business and you can’t take a Harvard class on it to learn it.

    Good post. :o)

  4. RightCoastLexSteele

    I think no matter what school you go to, college is in no way shape or form a true representation of the challenges you will face in your workplace if and when you do get hired. We are now in a global marketplace where we must now compete domestically as well as internationally, there are some intangible skills that you must possess to be sucessful that some school are just not equipping their students with. Honestly some of these skills are inate to certain individuals, hence the capacity of some people to perform better than others. The cliche of book sense vs. common sense/street sense comes to mind.

    My parents never went to school and I am the first person in my immediate family to attend and graduate from a four year institution. On the road leading up to college, all I was told that going to college would GUARANTEE a good job. And while my degree does make sure that I can secure something better than a minimum wage position, it’s definitely all it’s cracked up to be. Shoot, I could went to Job Corps for 8 months, learned a trade, went to Shucka Jive U, studied business and started my own trade based company and been better off than spending 200 g’s on a Poly Sci degree from Syrajews University. Trust, college was hands down the best…eh hem…6 years of my life, but I think with the proper guidance, alot of people who enroll in college would be better able to navigate their future having all the tools. Maybe someone should sit them down and say “Yes, you will get a better paying job, but most of the fat check will go to the college loan people til you are 30. Then once you turn 30, you get a mortgage, and that’s another 30 year commitment. Then kids and all the other wonderful expenses that life brings.” Let them know that early so at least once they do graduate and realize the world sucks, they cant say no one didnt tell them.

  5. Nice post. I think you spoke on the angst of a lot of college grads.

    I do, however, think that a lot of your life is what you make it. The college degree puts you in the top tier of candidates for various jobs, etc. But, it’s up to us to then grab the horns and ride it. I have a bachelors and a master’s degree (Hey RightCoastLexSteele… I also went to SU!!!) and, I gotta tell ya, it seems like my degrees don’t mean JACK at this level. I think it gets you in the door, but after that, you have to go for yours.

    I’m one of these dream-chasers you spoke of, so even though I barely have two pennies to rub together most of the time, I’m pretty content because I try to keep the goal in mind.

    But on the flip of what you were saying, sometimes I do feel like I need to just give it up and get a “real job.” Might be nice to have a 401K or the ability to own something perhaps. Stability would be nice for once. So, it could be a case of the grass is always greener…

    Oh well. We live and we learn. Hopefully you find a way out of your funk. Again, great post! =)

  6. Thanks for the comment. Life is indeed what you make of it. I was just thinking about this stuff again today. I get a lot of off the record comments about the entry, so I definitely know it isn’t just me. I’ll probably end up floating some writing samples around to see if I can break into the freelance writing world. Nothing is better than getting paid to do what you love doing.

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