Decisions, decisions

My dad was a blue collar union man. My mom worked part-time (once we were all in school full-time), at first cleaning houses, and then at an office. She never had a “career”. None of my relatives had “careers”; although they (mostly) did work, it was blue collar and entry-level white collar. By the time I graduated high school, none had gone to college, except one cousin who was studying to be a teacher. My parents were also loners, as was I. They didn’t really have any close friends, and neither did I. As a result, I didn’t have anyone to emulate, and therefore knew next to nothing about college and the working world. It was implied (by everyone, including school councilors) that a bachelor’s degree would guarantee me a good job, leading to a career.

I went to college with the intention of majoring in photography, but my parents didn’t want me to declare a major until my Sophomore year. By the time I got ready to select my Sophomore classes, I discovered that I would, at that point, need 4 full years to complete that degree. My advisor encouraged me to try art history, because it involved the arts and also involved a lot of research and writing. She said it would be the equivalent of majoring in English, and I’d have no problem finding a job. I had a very vague idea of what kind of job I might end up in, but I knew it would be a good one. That’s what college is for, right?

ah degree wonka

I graduated magna cum laude with a BA in art history, and a minor in anthropology. There were no jobs where I grew up (it’s very rural), so after working retail for several years, I relocated to a small city which was a financial boom-town at the time. I got a job at a health insurance customer care call center, which later closed. I moved on to a paper-pushing position at a durable medical equipment company, where I was again laid off. I worked briefly in HR for the census. Then I went back to school, this time with a career plan in view.

I went to a well-known for-profit school and got a diploma in medical billing and coding. I obtained my CPC-A credentials. I have worked a few temp jobs since then, but am unable to find a job which doesn’t require at least two years experience for entry-level.

If I could go back again, I’d major in something like accounting. I like numbers, and it pretty much guarantees a career-path which will always be in demand. I should not have majored in any liberal art. A BA is so useless I might as well have skipped getting it altogether.


I never learned how to swim.

I just read something that really resonated with me, a comment on my favorite blog,

“I think sometimes quitting or acknowledging something isn’t working out is considered a weakness. It’s drilled into our heads as kids that if we do a good job, try hard and are nice then we’ll be rewarded, but sometimes it doesn’t go that way, there’s nothing you can do to fix it and the more you try to fix it the worse it gets. To me it’s a strength to be able to assess a situation and have the sense to realize it won’t get better. It may not get worse but it could take all kinds of extra effort on my part just to keep treading water while . . . others . . . are swimming laps past me.”

I’ll need to spend some time thinking about this.