I made a mistake in college. I became an engineer. Wait, who the fuck am I kidding? I dropped out of engineering to major in English. Yes, I kissed goodbye a life of likely stable work, high pay, and endless coding to analyze 18th Century poetry and bullshit my way through a $100,000 education.
During college, this seemed like an adequate decision. I couldn’t do math, I hated computers, and fuck C++. Simple. After one semester, I turned into the student I ridiculed: the reader, the writer, and the one with the easy schedule. I became one of the thousands of Liberal Arts students in the country, convincing myself of Joyce’s and Nietzsche’s importance.
I went from being an engineer to “Oh, so you’re gonna teach?”
“No, there’s a lot you can do with an English degree. Everybody needs someone who can write and communicate effectively. I can analyze texts. The options are, like, literally endless.”
“So you’re not doing Teach for America?”
“I’m considering it.”
After graduating, I quickly realized that nobody in the workforce gives a shit if you graduated with honors in creative writing. Who cares that you’ve memorized every tree in the Taiga? When will my knowledge of Hemingway help with a hedge fund? Unless it appears on Jeopardy, nobody cares.
To my broke-ass soon-to-be Liberal Arts graduates, you better have some fucking connections or you may end up as one of us, a perpetual intern.
We have skills. We can analyze text better than most. We can form a sentence unlike our engineering counterparts. We’re professional bullshitters. The problem? All hundreds-of-thousands of us hold these skills. We claw at the latest Indeed posting that says “communicate.” Find a perfect job portal? We’ve already infiltrated and abandoned. Hell, we’ve already applied to the position at your mother’s office before you knew it existed.
Some of us are fresh out of college: twenty-one-years-old, filled with ambition, and happy to “have something.” Others are twenty-five, twenty-six-year-old curmudgeons, settling for any “professional experience” we find. Overeducated and under-used, we hop from internship to internship.
“Social media, that’s me.”
“Oh, I’m in film.”
“Music industry here!”
To make ends meet, we barista, host, serve, deliver, nanny, cook, stock, walk, and take your order. Gotta do what you gotta do to sip a Genny Light.
Remember when we moved to the “big city” dreaming up opportunities, wealth, an apartment not greeted with gunshots? We reminisce about living back home in Detroit or St. Louis where rent’s $150 per month, a pint’s $2 cheaper, and a head of fucking lettuce is half-the-price.
But still, we dream of “making it”—whatever the fuck that means.
My eight-year-old self would be pissed at my current situation. I’m not an underwater EMT for fish. I don’t play hangman professionally. Cinnamon Toast Crunch sometimes gives me a tummy ache, so I never dedicated a cupboard to the stuff. Worst of all, the biggest offense, I’m not currently the Red Power Ranger. Instead, I’m an intern, and my proudest moment since relocating to NYC has been perfecting the karaoke rendition of Toto’s “Africa.” By day, I write puns. By night, I write even more puns.
Like most perpetual interns, we know there’s an end. There has to be, right? I haven’t met a forty-year-old intern. We figure it out—and use cliché sayings when we’re figuring it out.
So we wait.
It’s just three months, and they’ll hire me full-time.
It’s been three months for six months…for one year…for three years. Maybe it’s time to teach English.
Photo Credit: prospect.rsc.org