Today at lunch a couple of my co-workers and I discussed the pros and cons of post-undergraduate life. And my initial thought/statement was this: “I don’t really miss school.” Especially since I’m still at school every day (just playing a different role now).
But as I sat there and pondered my own words, I realized that deep down, I’m still quite undecided when it comes to the whole issue of being finished with school. The life of a graduate has a number of significant pros: no homework, more sleep, more time to pursue a social life…hell, I even have more time to, well, waste! Guilt-free procrastination! (Hmm…although, I suppose it isn’t really procrastination, since I’m not exactly putting off any particular tasks or assignments. Whatevs. You get my point.) I love that I can come home from work, eat, relax, watch some TV or a movie, and go to bed without even an inkling of remorse or that nagging question in the back of my mind: “Okay, what did I put off that will come back and bite me in the ass later?”
Blissful sigh. It’s a wonderful life, really.
But, of course, it’s not all pastries and frothy caramel lattes. Being out of school has its cons: my student loans are now in repayment, work (although I still LOVE my job!) can sometimes feel a little too tedious and monotonous – and freakishly busy! Sheesh!, and I sometimes feel lonely and disconnected. Being a student flat out handed me a social network that was always there, even when I didn’t want it. Now I have to work twice as hard to maintain friendships and connections. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! Honestly, I didn’t expecting anything less. But still, for an introverted, semi-anti-social butterfly like myself, it’s not particularly easy! But you know what? I’m fine with these ‘cons’, because I knew they were coming. You can’t live out your college experience forever and truthfully, were the choice mine, I’m not sure I’d even want to.
There is one ‘con’, however, that has created a significant amount of mental stress for me – stress that I keep trying to ignore. But, as usual, one can only ignore these things for so long. My conversation with my co-workers today brought said factor to the forefront of my mind again, and as I went home and thought about it this evening, I found myself a tad bit depressed.
Here’s what I realized (or perhaps “re-realized”) today:
More than anything, school always fueled my ability to create. I learn and create best when I’m surrounded by other people who love to learn and create, and my network of friends, classmates, and profs at NU (especially in the English and/or Music departments) provided me just that.
I think about my Conducting class with Bill Owen, or my creative writing classes with Lenae Nofziger, or my Romance & Fantasy Literature class with Julia Young…the enriching discussions, creative projects, and countless hands-on opportunities to communally discover and express ourselves…I just don’t have that anymore! And my life – my writing, my lack of interest in other creative pursuits that once greatly interested me – clearly reflects that.
Yes, it might be weak and pathetic of me to say that I can’t create without school, but that’s not what I’m getting at. I fully acknowledge and accept that I, the artist, am responsible for my creative pursuits and results. But I realize now how large a role school played in these pursuits and results, and now that school isn’t in the mix, I feel, like I said, a bit depressed.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to two key concepts:
One, I am a learner — and very much a communal learner. I need a community of thoughtful, think-outside-the-box-type individuals to fuel my own interests and passions. Otherwise, I have an awfully hard time coming up with ideas on my own. Second, I need to find new ways to keep a balanced amount of creativity in my life. As much as I like this new stage of life – having a job, having other responsibilities that allow me to build my independence, it’s undeniable that, in this 9 to 5 world of adult responsibility and professionalism, creativity can slip right through your fingers without giving you even the faintest warning. That is certainly my story. And I am seriously ready for a plot change.