In 2011 I wrote about the educational path I had chosen and whether that choice actually meant I had painted myself into a corner.
Performance artist Keith Haring painting himself into a corner – almost like me!
Now I’m fully graduated, I hold an IT degree which usually makes people vastly overestimate how skilled I actually am at programming and fixing all kinds of computer problems, because well… I did study computer games, but not exactly how to make them. Because it comes across as an extremely narrow thing which doesn’t scream usefulness the same way studying fx. medicine does, people translate my education into “some IT”.
The Keith Haring performance piece was basically the feeling I had as I was progressing through my education. I had previously experienced unemployment with “only” a bachelor degree in communications and psychology, and finding a job at that time was very difficult. I perceived myself as a jack of all trades, master of none. I was never the perfect candidate for any job, and it bothered me.
The consequence of this experience became that I wanted to be more specialized, I wanted to read a job advert and think “I’m perfect for this! How could they NOT want to hire me?”. So I chose games studies.
The fear of not being able to find the right shelf was still bothering me, and the closer I was to graduation the more I started looking at my time at the university as a few really brilliant years, which probably wouldn’t amount to anything special later on. Because of the recent economic crisis, newspapers were (and still are) flooding with stories of lay offs and at times it robbed me of my motivation to work on my thesis. It felt like it was meaningless anyways, I would have no chance at building a career in a society that was in economic turmoil, so what was the point?
Look! He made it!
Thankfully, I feel a lot more qualified than last time I was in this situation and I’m not as low as I expected I would be. Now I nag at myself for not enjoying the thesis-writing process more, instead of worrying about the future. If only I knew then, what I know now.
With that in mind, I’ve had to remind myself of what Søren Kierkegaard once said:
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”
(For the Danish speakers, the original quote is a lot more elegant: “Livet forstås baglæns, men må leves forlæns“)
Not long ago I attended a job search meeting, with a lot of other recent graduates and a few who had been in the work market for years, but had just lost their jobs. At some point we were instructed to introduce ourselves to the others around the table. Besides me, there was an art historian, a sociologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a biologist and one who did something with health care.
The subsequent conversation revolved almost entirely around me and what my education was about. They were all so positive and I got so many references and tips. It was such a strange experience, I had longed to be like them, studying something tangible like psychology or sociology, with a simple title that people understand and yet here I was being treated like the special butterfly.
Nobody inquired the sociologist nor the anthropologist. I guess people assume they know what that is about. My strategy of going for something more narrow in terms of education, but perhaps also unusual, worked in the sense that people got curious. I’m hoping this will help me in my future endeavours.
Afterwards the two older women at the table (the biologist and psychologist) pep talked me for half an hour and showed so much interest in my current situation (I’m telling you, I have a strange appeal to women in their 50′s, they always like me a lot).
So I ended up leaving that meeting feeling like the most successful unemployed person in the world – A walking oxymoron!