Lately, I’ve been getting junk email requesting participation in the first annual New School alumni email list.
I even got a postcard — printed on cheap yellow cardstock more befitting a flier for lunch specials at my local Chinese place— imploring me to participate. Sometimes I receive phone calls too. The person on the other end of the line wants to talk about my supposed career, but usually I ask them what they had for lunch, what they thought about last night’s episode of “American Horror Story,” or if they’re happy with the conditioner they use, and they hang up on me before we actually discuss my post-graduate life.
But then again, the chipper young girl on the other end of the phone, who I’m presuming took the job because being sold into sex slavery seemed too glamorous, probably wouldn’t even put what I told her into the official report.
“Can we do something about all the suicide imagery?” her superior would say. “Maybe we could do without the abundance of existential dread.”
Because really, at this point, if someone told me they were thinking of enrolling at The New School, I would ask them if they’d ever thought of some kind of tradesman’s school or technical college. I’d ask if they’d ever thought about being a plumber, carpenter, computer repair person or lab rat for testing vaccines against exotic new viruses. Going to a liberal arts school, where you get to indulge creative endeavors and are urged to “unpack” great works of literature, gets you exactly one thing: a fuck-load of debt. Oh, excuse me, two things: 50 pages of an unfinished novel and a fuck-load of debt.
I graduated in May, 2010, and in the rough year-and-a-half since, my primary feeling has been dread. Everything I do or spend or experience is now measured against whether or not I’m going to make my student loan payments each month (there are three of them), with the overwhelming feeling that, equipped with my New School-acquired skills, I am never ever going to daisy-chain a career together.
Choosing to be a writer probably meant that I was never going to be a millionaire, unless I created a series of novels about a snappy female detective who is also a vampire (who is also a werewolf), but you also never expect your post-collegiate life to be such a drag. I write for a prominent movie website, a local newspaper and the international version of a cable channel that used to be known for playing music videos — all while working a dreary, full-time retail job that pays for my health insurance. In the words of Rick Ross: “Everyday I’m hustlin’.”
Maybe that’s another thing that The New School has given me: a dogged unwillingness to settle down; a refusal to get a real adult job that will pay my bills and allow me to one day purchase a home or a sizable boat. I could probably work at a hedge fund or balloon factory if I really wanted. But gone would be the sense of danger of whether or not I’m going to be able to pay for my dinner at Chipotle on any given night.
Big schools like Yale or Harvard will help you get jobs, but when you go to a school that’s named after the father of the bad guy from “Avatar,” all you get is a shrug and an enlarged sense of liberal guilt. When I tell people where I went to school, I’m usually met with a puzzled expression akin to coming across a really tricky crossword puzzle clue. Then I’ll say “Have you ever seen ‘Project Runway?’” which makes things a little clearer.
If I had to give any advice to current New Schoolers, it’s the following: don’t wait for school to be over to start doing what you want to do. I’ve been out of college for a year, but I’ve been working as a professional writer for more than half a decade. And that’s actual paid-by-the-word work, not unpaid internships. Which is another piece of advice: If you’re good enough at something, don’t do it for free. (This includes making coffee or filing papers.) Someone will pay you out there. It’s important for your sense of self worth and for career advancement. Especially now, in these dour economic times, companies are flagrantly taking advantage of the over-educated and under-employed. But you can do better. In New School phraseology, unpack your destiny. And when someone from your alma mater calls about an alumni survey, tell them you got a great new job training wolves for the U.S. military, then wait for the warm sound of the dial tone to gloriously envelop you.
Drew Taylor was honorably discharged from Eugene Lang College in the summer of 2010. After a fruitful walkabout, where he discovered his spirit animal was a marmoset with a cocaine problem, he decided to tough it as a freelance journalist. He currently writes for Indiewire’s “The Playlist” blog and conducts embarrassing celebrity interviews for MTV International.(Next time you’re in Peru, check him out.) He can be stalked at www.twitter.com/DrewTailored.