Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Death of a Season

A wake for my white collar dreams

This November, as the year begins to pass on, I'd like to write a few words in honor of my philosophies that died this year. If you'd rather read something more entertaining, I wrote a few nice stories here.

And now, an eulogy:

After 18 months of searching, I've come to the conclusion that it's unlikely I'll ever get a job as an Archivist. I liked the idea of being an archivist. I enjoyed the jobs I had in the field, and always got good remarks from my supervisors. But it's been a year and a half now, and I need to accept that this career probably isn't going to happen for me, no matter how much I want it too. It doesn't matter that I trained at Harvard, or that I love the work, or that I applied myself in my studies. I can't force anyone to hire me, because that's not the way the world works. I'll probably continue, off and on, to apply for positions that interest me in archives. But I've come to terms with the fact that this dream is dead.

My logic for years went along these lines: if I work hard, and sacrifice everything for a higher education, why, I can have a nice white collar career. When I get out of grad school, I'll have a guy waiting for me and we'll be able to get a house and surely, all those things I've ever wanted - bills paid on time, a freezer full of extra groceries always full, hard wood floors, a washer and dryer, cars that always start in the driveway, clothes that fit whenever I want them and kids - yeah, just getting an education was going to make all that happen.

Of course, I've had my degree for a year now, and I'm as broke as I've ever been. I gave up any conventional ideas of romance and family years ago, and so I don't really miss that part of the dream at all - but I thought, if you got an education, your life (or at least the bill paying part of your life) was supposed to get better. It hasn't. I'll never regret all the years I spent chasing my dream, or the fantastic adventures it lead me into. This dream was worth every ounce of sacrifice, if not every penny.

As I mourn this dream, I think about all the Dickens novels I read as a little girl. Somehow all those orphaned boys managed to make the transition from blue collar to white collar, and in retrospect I see that it was because they were taken in by wealthy patrons. For some stupid American reason, I thought sacrifice and hard work pushed people ahead. Well, I guess there's a reason people still read Dickens, and no one I know has ever picked up a volume of Horatio Alger.

This dream is dead, and I'm symbolically burying it in the backyard of my parent's house in Nashville under the elevated garden I'm putting up this week. I hope dead dreams make good fertilizer for bulbs - maybe the Irises this spring will be more spectacular than any others.

My new dreams are a lot more practical than my old one. I dream of a small house in Atlanta, made in the old craftsman style, a bungalow. I dream of just one full refrigerator, a car that runs well enough that I can repair it without much pain, and healthy, happy children that know I'll pay the bills on time when I can. This is the new dream. My dreams are always only the best I can hope for.

When this year is over in five weeks, I'll start pursuing the new dream as hard as I can. I'll get on as a manager at Target or somewhere, and go back to retail, and be happy about it because it's what will get me where I want to go in life. I'll put my old college ID's in a photo album, and never mention them again. I'll accept what I can't change, because one something is dead, it's gone, and there's no asking for it back. My library days are over, and I understand that. My academic career is over, and I understand that too. It's time to hold the funeral now, and then back to living my life. No regrets, no use crying over what I can't have.

When I started this journal, when it came time for me to leave Boston, I realised that the only constant in life is change, and I keep thinking about how true that is. The only constant is change. All that matters is whose hands you hold as the world spins around you, ever shifting, taking you places you'd never thought would be so beautiful to see and know.

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