Last week, I met with my creative writing professor from last semester at his request to catch up with all his students. I’m shy, and I’m scared of those awkward pauses in a conversation, so I did a lot of chattering that I look back on with embarrassment. And at one point I blurted out this ultimate question that has been bouncing around in my head for a while: How do I know that what I’m doing is right?
I’ve been getting a lot of mixed messages about this whole college thing, and all the feedback I’ve gotten on my plan to survive on a Bachelor’s degree has been really negative. Most people think I’m not doing enough. People tell me, “Bachelor’s degrees are basically useless.” Apparently I need a graduate degree if I want to have a roof over my head. That’s pretty scary. I haven’t enjoyed school since like sixth grade, and I just don’t know if my body can take any more useless essays on Shakespeare. And a few people have told me that going to college at all is a waste of time and money, and I’m just buying into what society wants or something like that. (Note: Nobody worth any of my respect has ever said that to me, but it can scare a person when it’s one in the morning and that person is having her third mid-mid-life crisis of the week.)
So my professor said that building a career for yourself is like building a brick wall. If you go to college but you don’t stress yourself out too much and don’t take it too seriously, that’s building your wall one brick at a time. Anything less than that is just a pile of bricks, and that won’t get you anywhere. And anything more than that, if it’s really not what you want, is like trying to build your wall all at once, and it won’t hold together very well. Basically, you need a balance, and everyone’s balance, to a certain extent, is different.
So I guess for now I’ll just write my useless papers. Each B- will be another brick in my wall, and so will each nap I take when I’m too tired to keep going. My bricks will be the nights I cry over my three papers due next week, and they will be the books I’ve only read on Sparknotes. They will be the five days a week I go to work, and they will be the two-hundred dollars I drop when I need a new tattoo. And they will be the hundreds of times I write the word “breathe” in my notes as a reminder to myself. My wall will be my hard work balanced out with the ways I allow myself to chill out. And in the end, I think that as long as I have that balance, my wall will stand solidly in the face of the roughest storms.