When I was in college the first time around, I had fun. I learned stuff, and I got a degree, but mostly I learned about life, and relationships, and adulting. Even though I never used that degree, I wouldn’t give up one minute of my college career, because I learned so much about ME.
But the second time around, I had a plan. School was much easier than an actual job – so I would treat it as an actual job. I quit my job, and took out school loans to support myself. I went in at 8:00 or 9:00 am, and I stayed on campus until 5:00. If I wasn’t in class, I went to the library to do homework, or to a practice room. And it worked – my GPA the entire time was 3.5 or higher.
I made friends, which surprised me, since most of the other students were 18-22 years old. Some of them are really great people, and I hope they are doing well. I remember one mentioning she was born in 1989, and I laughed and said “I graduated in 1989 – from college.” They looked at me like a was a million years old. But they were good kids, and had far more dedication to the field of music than I ever had at that age.
I am a very average musician. Not if you are averaging everybody – I’m quite good, then. But if you are looking at people who actually consider themselves musicians, who are actually pursuing music as a career – I’m at best average. And yet all these kids, whose musical talents were truly amazing, kept encouraging me, helping me and making me feel welcome.
During the summer, I worked. One year I worked at a GS camp, as a counselor and Arts and Crafts teacher. I love Girl Scouts, but honestly, that one was one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had. I only stuck with it because I was involved with Girl Scouts as a troop leader, and I didn’t want to piss off the council. I also discovered that, though I was only 45 minutes away from home, I was homesick. I was supposed to be comforting the homesick little campers, when all I really wanted to do was cry along with them.
The next summer I went back to WJ Office, since they needed some retail help after an employee quit. That was easy and mindless. The last summer, another GS leader asked if I could work for her husband at their business, because she and their daughters had been invited to Germany, and she wanted to tour the rest of Europe while she was there. So I filled in for her at Norwood’s Commercial Appliances. The boss was easy going, the job was easy and mindless – the perfect summer job. They liked me, because apparently everyone else they had ever tried to hire for this job was an idiot.
I did my student teaching in the fall semester, which meant that I wasn’t going to be able to find a job until the next fall. Norwood’s asked if I’d like to come back and work full time, with the understanding that looking for my teaching job would take priority. Lynn (the wife) had discovered that she really liked not working for her husband, and they were getting along better because of it. So I went back there to work.
In the end, I ended up with another degree I don’t use. I had to take 2 semesters of conducting, and then of course my student teaching. I developed repetitive strain problems in my shoulders because of the motion of conducting. By the time I finished, I could lift my arms no higher than my shoulders, and that was painful.
Coupled with the pain came the realization that there were very few schools in NC that offered a strings program. I could move to Charlotte/Gastonia, to the coast, or stay in Watauga and wait until someone quit or retired. I didn’t want to move. I knew that none of the teachers in Watauga would be retiring soon. My shoulders hurt.
I did not pursue a job elsewhere. A few years later, there was an opening in Watauga county, and I chose not to apply. By that time, my shoulders were semi improved, and I had settled into my new job at Norwood’s. I knew teaching would pay more, and be more fulfilling, but I had realized there was a freedom in working a job that was not demanding. Maybe the job itself wasn’t fulfilling, but the freedom to leave at 5:00pm and not think about it anymore was good. Listening to my sister (who teaches math) made me realize that teaching is an all encompassing thing. It was kinda ironic, since I left WJ to find something more fulfilling, and went ridiculously in debt, only to discover that a mindless job is exactly what I wanted.