I got my degree in the mail yesterday. The actual piece of paper. It was in a giant cardboard envelope. I made a crack about the size of the degree being equivalent to how much it costs. I didn't open the envelope though. Not right away. It sat in its giant cardboard envelope on the chair in my work room, surrounded by necklace pendants and buttons for a steampunk costume I still need to finish. I left it there. In the dark. All day.
The day before, we had gotten a notice in the mailbox that there was a package for us at the apartment office. So yesterday, I went to pick it up while he was out. It was the giant cardboard envelope from GradU. I knew what it was. I didn't need to open it to be sure and I completely forgot about it until Boyfriend came home. He asked about the package. Then he was kind of surprised I hadn't opened it yet.
Let me offer some explanation why that envelope sat in the dark. I am not proud of my degree. I don't go around asking people to call me "Doctor." I actually avoid putting that suffix into my applications (it is on my resume). I am happy I finished. I don't regret doing it. However, it was just a thing I did, not who I am.
Yes, I know not everyone can do it (though I think more can than actually do) and that it is an accomplishment. But that's all it is. It's a thing I did. I know for people who stay in the Ivory Tower, this degree and the ensuing profession becomes a nearly all-consuming identity for them. And if that's what they want, kudos to them.
It's not me. It wasn't when I was in grad school. I remember other things I did before going to grad school. I remembered I wasn't always in grad school. That I was more than my education. It's helped on this transition out of academia.
The aggravating thing is, I think that's all people see in my resume. They see my degree and assume that I am only my degree, and whatever stereotype they have attached to that identity. I know the psychology behind this - that it's kind of a short-hand our brains do so that we can function at the pace of society. That doesn't make it any less annoying. For that matter, I know the degree intimidates people. If my degree intimidates you, I don't want to work for you. People should never fear a piece of paper or three letters.
So where does that leave me in the job hunting process? I've narrowed down the types of positions I'm applying for. I can't get traction on admin jobs around here. There's too many people with the specific experience they want around here. I'm focusing on data analyst jobs. These are usually considered management positions where you help the company figure out how it's doing and how to be more efficient. I seem to be having slightly better luck with these, or at least more interesting rejection letters.
Also, it is November and National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. So, I'm focusing on getting a novel written in my down time. The premise of this particular story (yeah, I've got a few percolating) is that the crazy people take over the government and convince people that they can prove there is a grand plan to the universe and that they can tell when you've served your part in that plan. It's a dystopic novel where religious views are used as a political weapon to get rid of the unwanted and political enemies. Once you're declared "Irrelevant" by the government, you get chucked into a Reserve where you're cut off from all government support and the ones you love. The main character gets thrown in since she cannot find a job and is unmarried. She loses everything and all her accomplishments mean nothing in the Reserve and she has to decide what to do next. [For some background: the Reserve has been operating for a few years at this point. People who came before her have created new economies, new cities, and new towns. New societies have sprung up there. Old friends and enemies are here. She is not alone. Oh, and the government is considering euthanizing these people to free up resources for "Relevant" people.]
Out of curiosity, what would you do if you lost it all and were thrown into the Reserve? What would you pay for whatever dreams you have left? Would you find something new to fight for?