Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Liberal Arts and Its Discontents
If one looks closely, one can easily spot the evasive liberal arts graduate. We are as numerous as the stars we once reached towards, held atop giants' shoulders shouting, "We can be anything."
Whether it be the dead eyes that accompany wide smiling servers at restaurants, the baggy eyes doing their best to beam bright at the hope that their pay may jump from 7.50 to 8.00 per hour, or the slumped shoulders of baristas who decided they were talented enough to make masterpieces with sinewy hands only to find themselves making flowers or clouds about to pour.
The plight of the liberal arts graduate is not one roared through rafters in union halls, nor is it one held at enough societal esteem to lividly argue to those in power. It is a strange cocktail of the passion that seeps into bones, burning a pre-med major to instead stampede towards the pursuit of sculpture, paired with the sobering regret that douses when tuition loan bills slither into mailboxes, awaiting their long prophesied penance.
We chose this.
We chose to study Sociology, Painting and Poetry. We took classes on Scandinavian History and Women and Gender Studies.
The long held creed that many Americans have lived for and died believing they were protecting was that we could be absolutely anything we wanted. That the spire we sought needed only be burned for. That the wings in which we needed to ascend from the shit stain that was our adolescence into a sustainable life was not only possible, but entirely in our hands.
We were raised by a generation of people who believed in us. They were people who valued college simply because any college degree had an inherent value to them. While that is still true, a college degree is now something you can pay thousands for and quite literally print it from your home computer. A mass producing assembly line education flotsam is what we find ourselves wading through, attempting to make sense of why we even chose to dive in.
Go to university, make something of yourself. Financial problems? No worries, as long as one has a 2.3 GPA and a 15 ACT score, monoliths of education will welcome you with warm arms holding tufts of financial aid. Aid that we would, of course, be forced to repay with droves of interest. 70,000 dollars in loans later, we are collectively scraping by at dead end jobs that we are supposed to, in some way, be loyal to, whilst they perpetually hold pink slip guns to our chest, sniveling to pull the trigger. We are told that we are "putting our time in", that we will eventually make it. The people that told you that are the few who have been fortunate enough to, it is not a story told by those liberal arts graduates who settled into office jobs, or anything they could get.
It has taken tens of thousands of dollars in perpetually accumulating bondage for many of us to realize how dismal our chances are at sustainable success. Do not mistake me, the sheer courage it took for any of us to pursue the improbable contains an immense amount of value, and we are not yet beaten. The makers of our destiny, we were always, but we were lied to. The belief we chose to have in ourselves was not just a nice in-flight movie, our final destination does not have to be low income jobs for companies that treat us like lowly animals until we have the courage to walk away to another place of employment that sees us similarly expendable, we can do better.
We are collective of artists. We are those brave enough to rage against the tidal wave of corporatism and do what the fuck we wanted, and we are financially oppressed, working long hours to make just enough to not feel hungry. We must come together, lest we find ourselves in our middle ages meandering through a mediocre existence like others who have given up. We are alive this very moment, and we need to obsess over the fire we feel of our frustration. We need to paint a better picture, because the one that is currently painted just won't cut it. We have chosen to tackle paintings by Monet or study poetry that has burned tears in the most stoic among us, to spend our time trying to scrimp and save enough to both make rent and masterpieces.
We did choose, but its not like we had much else to choose from.
Just a thought.