All the time I was participating in the MLS program, I was keeping one eye on the economy. Long before everything built on illusions of grandeur and consumer insatiability collapsed, I saw it coming. I was pessimistic about the future, but it was comforting to this pessimist to have a brilliant series of humanities courses to focus on at the time. I knew that would end one day as well. As it turned out, multiple avalanches occurred at once, seemingly, a conspiracy designed to block my new path. May brought an end to my ticket to intellectual feasting in the MLS program, and the summer of 2010 brought rising unemployment, the gulf oil travesty, and the rumbling of the worldwide house of economic cards. Now I am all dressed up in a brilliantly crafted master’s degree, and I have nowhere to go. Well, not exactly. Do you want to know what it feels like to be graduating from Rollins with an MLS in tough economic times? At first, it’s a little awkward.
My mind was in high gear. It learned to work efficiently between everyday interruptions, and it did not stop assimilating ideas and rewriting my thesis after they played “Pomp and Circumstance.” That is probably true in healthy economic times as well. The shock of graduation at the end of any research frenzy feels like a thump on the head. The sudden cessation throws you way off balance. Due to the elusive laws of physics (elusive to me), I can’t stand still with that machine cooling down on my head. Does that make unemployment any more palatable?
In rock-solid economic times, people tend to look at you sideways when you tell them you are working on a master’s degree in liberal studies. It sounds impractical, perhaps even self-indulgent. I have a childhood friend who became a rocket scientist. He trivializes the liberal studies courses he was forced to take before he could focus on what he really wanted to learn. Interestingly, he is running scared after the defense plant that employs him recently laid off 400 workers, and I’m full of anticipation. I have choices. I may not have a job, but I have choices.
As I negotiate the avalanche of complications, I discover unexpected career choices, and frankly, the process of looking for a job helps keep the gears of my MLS machine in working order. Job hunting involves endless research, writing, rewriting, nailing down the fine points of my argument with myself and others concerning where I belong in the work force. It requires that I face my work history, and it demands that I learn from it. Yes, the economic crisis makes finding the right job challenging. I may be weary at some times and frustrated at others, but I know I’m prepared, and I’m confident that I will eventually find or create my next niche in a timely manner.
Carving out niches is nothing new for me. What is new is Dr. Lancaster calling after graduation and inquiring about my job-seeking progress, making practical suggestions, and offering tangible assistance. To sweeten the journey, I’m working on an independent research project, because—I can. I have the skills and the passion to continue investigating a topic I consider valuable. Having completed the program, I am left with a feeling of accomplishment and preparedness. I am working—not at a job—but with pure potential. I have the skills, creativity, and persistence to climb out of the powder. Don’t wait for perfect circumstances to pursue the education you always wanted. Go for it.