The Long Dance Good-night

the better to bore you with, my dear

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In which I outline the circumstances behind and the dramatic significance of my return to school.
deep thoughts
I'm set up in the lobby of Darden's Abbott Auditorium, passing two hours while second year MBA students drift in to pick up the first week's worth of their courses' non-textbook materials. And of course there's no wifi reception down here and I don't have an ethernet cable, so I'm stuck hammering this out in WordPad, with whatever music Alicia left on this here laptop before I inherited it (all this classic Country and Western might make it a bit too surreal down here, much as I myself would thoroughly enjoy that). Thinking about stopping in at Greenberry's after this for a cuppa, then it's back home to start teaching myself all the Bella Morte new-album tracks I'm supposed to have nailed down by now. Gotta get a head start before the semester starts rolling.

I fear that the dramatic effect intended by tossing off a mention of school in my last post might have been lost on those of you who haven't known me as long. Entirely understandable, since such a thing might not normally be the big screaming deal I'm making it out to be for myself. But the love/hate/miss/resent/regret relationship I have with higher education bears further exposition:

August 2001. I dived in right after high school, allowing the natural tides of conventionality and expectations to push me to Christopher Newport University, which I chose for its relative obscurity and because I knew a few "smart" people that hadn't been able to get in. Nine months later I had thousands in debt and a GPA of 0.98 to show for it.

A lot of things contributed to this colossal failure: stress, distractions, being "on my own" for the first time of course, not to mention a school that couldn't possibly have been a worse fit for me. But two factors stand out far more than anything else. Primarily, I was completely lost as to what I was actually doing there; I had no "major" to speak of, and Gen Ed courses can only hold your attention for so long, especially when AP credit has opted you out of any introductory English courses that you might actually find interesting. Looking back, my suspicions at the time are more than confirmed: college is an adult-oriented enterprise, and I wasn't any kind of goddamn adult yet. And then of course I'd also landed a copy of FruityLoops (yes, ha-ha) and was beginning to discover, much to my surprise, something I was actually *good* at, that showed some rather more immediate returns.

August 2002. No matter, I thought. I'll scale it down a bit. Move back in at home and try Tidewater Community College instead. This lasted less than a semester before I had stopped going to class altogether, started "a band", got a job working the overnight shift at Target, and moved out on my own.

Years of gradual evolution followed, which I'll refrain from boring you with. More important is where it's all left me: a reasonably mature, reasonably well-adjusted adult in my late twenties. Six bands and four tours under my belt; enough to say that regardless of what happens to come next, I've definitely "done" that. Navigating life with a mind that still surprises me with the mature discipline it's somehow managed to develop. And gainfully employed, by an establishment willing to pay up to seven credits' worth of tuition every semester.

But I've been working here for years now with the educational benefits left untapped, the real kicker was discovering something in particular offered by the local community college: a Career Studies Certificate in Graphic Design. Equivalent to about half of an Associate's, and easily parlayed into one should I decide to do that. But most importantly: something I'm already good at but would very much like to learn to do better, with a curriculum consisting entirely of courses directly pertaining to the subject at hand (okay, yeah, and Public Speaking too). All together, with a full-time job: two years.

I don't remember much of what compelled me to idly search through PVCC courses of study that day. Perhaps I was already starting to feel everything just come together at last. The scales had finally, perhaps inevitably, tipped in the favor of formal education, versus any "success" as a musician that I hadn't either already experienced or couldn't just as easily experience concurrent to doing this. What I do remember is stumbling upon this program and knowing immediately that I would be doing it. Throw in what amounts to a free ride and I'd be a fool not to.

Well, more of a fool than attempting to enter that field in this economy already makes me. Good thing I'm not compelled by any probability of success, but rather a desire to learn, then, isn't it?

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Your position sounds remarkably similar to mine, from beginning to end.

For the moment, I'm studying business as an ancillary field to music; and since I can't go overseas until next year, I figure while I have the financial aid available to me I may as well spend my time studying something that may and probably will be profitable to me as an artist. For one, it will help me become more effective at managing my independent music career, and inform my later goals to open an arts school.

That being said, business majors are a dime a dozen, and I know you're more than aware of the parameters of your chosen field. While I don't know you well, I know you well enough to know that you're a person of varied skill and interest, and this is just one more that you're adding to your plate. I enjoy learning partly for its own sake but mostly to learn things that can support, rather than replace, my chosen career. I'm not sure if that's something we share, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is.

In any case, I wish you the best of luck with your course.

I left you a Livejournal-esque comment over on Facebook, since I saw that one first. :) You can move it here, though, since I expanded on a question there, if you like.

I didn't start college until I was 25

My advice as you matriculate is to go for whatever you are most passionate about, even if the application needs to be modified. Graphic Design is a wide enough umbrella that it covers just about everything, which is useful.

My brother Sam and I criticised my brother Mitchell for pursuing an AA in Graphic Design at TCC (as graphic design actually has very little do due with illustration and animation.) I think our criticism has more to do with us attending private art schools as we thumbed our noses at our brother who was doing it 'his way.'

We were wrong.

Mitchell stuck it out, got a 3.9 GPA, a degree which got him a job to support a wife and two kids, and landed him a scholarship to BYU, where he is finishing his Bachelor's in Illustration.

When in doubt, you could always wait a few more years for me to become president of my school and I simply award you an honorary degree.

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