When Life Gives You Lemons, Write a Book or a Song, or Film a Movie or Something!
But it sure is a lot to me!
We're only 6 away from breaking 100 likes on the C.M. Humphries facebook Author Page!
You're already getting the free story in 2014, but I've challenged my self as a sort of early New Year's Resolution.
My natural disposition is to jump ahead of the present and continue towards the future. I have this terrific rock band I've been working with, some brand-new novels and short stories on the well, future blog hops, interview, etc. Things are good. But that's only now.
For awhile I had to take a little hiatus and get myself back together. For the first, I experience a shortage in the good ol' noggin', or an anxiety attack. A close friend of mine suggested it might be worth writing about, so here we are. If you've had a similiar experience yourself, make sure to check it out. If not, maybe it's worth exploring for the sake of understanding.
Lately there's been a major buzz about print publications, copyright infringement, our education rate, and what role literature will have in the future. Luckily, it seems many people are acting out to insure a better tomorrow. The times have changed, so have publishers, news sources, print and digital technologies, as well as our educational systems. All of these things combined show three signs of hope for the future.
I've touched on this subject before: The need for fiction in everyday life. In other posts I've discussed how it can help your sex-life, open your eyes to new subjects, benefit video games & pornography, and the benefits reading has towards sleep & how you can read in your sleep.
The general trend between almost all of those topics is that reading, particularly fiction, can help make you a better person. That is, if you desire such a thing. As usual, I was reading and stumbled upon a great article focusing on a study that might have proven that indulging in a good fiction story can make you a better learner, a better thinker, and consequently, a better person.
Like most people, though, I was a bit skeptical. I can see the easy argument that all writers would want you to keep reading, right? We make money that way (sometimes). However, I wouldn't write with the intent on a making a profit, unless it was in the intrinsic sense. So . . .
Does fiction really help you learn?
Maybe you've never considered "learning" as a possible addiction, but here I am to suggest the contrary. "Addiction is a brain disease," Alan I. Leshner, PhD. said back in 1997. He was considering the chemistry of the brain as it related to addiction, but I believe there are many more ways to look at such a statement, one of them being the way you process information. For example, there are some of us who coast in life, just bouncing off the ropes a bit, because there's an inherent sense of knowledge.
Some people like to refer to such individuals as "old spirits" because they either know everything, literally, or because they have a basic understanding of what to do in life. "New spirits" are often seen as inferior or somewhat ignorant individuals. These people tend to question everything and always flash a curious eye. In my opinion, the stigma around new spirits (and/or "souls" as I think of it now) is completely erroneous and arbitrary at best. People who want to know more, might have a real advantage in life, but on the other hand, they might have a limiting addiction.
Any curmudgeon out there will tell you the problem with the kids these days is a sense of entitlement. I think that's what every generation says. "You mean, some bus comes to your house and picks you up for school? In my day I had to walk 20 miles, along a snow mountaintop, to reach the 10-mile-away point . . . ."
The second thing they might tell you, is that more and more youngsters aren't doing their homework. That is, social media ruined our true connection with people & the spoken/written word. If no one's reading and writing, they're losing out big time. However, that's just not the case.
I've roamed around the web a few times, and now there seems to be a combination of recreational social media use and, of course, the homework. And guess what? Youngsters are online and writing more than ever.
Kelsey Timmerman, author of Where Am I Wearing?, Where Am I Eating?, former mentor, and the only writer I know who can catch a glimpse of someone's undies and recognize their origins, tagged me in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.
Check out Kelsey's answers on his work in progress.
Now take a breath and prepare yourself for my journey.
Anyone considering college or who finished their college career recently, might be concerned about costs. There's no curtain in the way, though. Tuition and loan debt are not the best responsibilities to assume during or just after your college years.
From time to time, I've joked about a college degree and implied I'm so smart I traded $70,000 for a piece of paper that said I'm smart. However, the reality of higher education costs is a real concern lately, leaving many to wonder is college worth it?
There's a lot of talk these about digital copying ("piracy") in the literature world.
While torrents and other methods of illegally downloading copyrighted material seem like the concern of yesteryear, the truth is, it's relatively news for the publishing world.
Moreover, the music industry changed due to illegal sharing, and the film industry is adapting as well. It's as though when people started downloading media, they spaced out the part about books, and to compensate they're stealing whole libraries.
But honestly, it doesn't bother me too much. Here's why:
Transgressive fiction is nothing new. In fact, although I coin myself a transgressive writer, it's kinda like saying punk rock after the 1980s. To be a true trangressive writer, many would argue you must've been a published pen between the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, many writers of the new and sorta new can be found quite easily today, such as Amy Hempel and Chuck Palahniuk. Oh yeah, James Joyce - you know Ulysses - is a pretty common gem. While we're name dropping: Bret Easton Ellis, Anthony Burgess, Elizabeth Young.
Trangressive fiction started with prose that was often banned or chastised for being too obscene, too vulgar, or just too close to home. These stories brought the social struggles of their times into an honest - admittedly sometimes dark - portrayal. Some people go to the extreme, while others might just rip on consumerism.
The thing about transgressive fiction is that's it's about what's right. Here are 3 points to consider if you ever find yourself bored in a Barnes & Noble and want to count the trangressive writers throughout the entire store.
Today I was spoiled with an opportunity to interview author Andrew Cyrus Hudson, the mastermind behind Somewhere in the Shadows: The Anthology. See, he's the guy who designed the book and had it made.
He's worked with multiple aspects of publishing, and his passion resides in producing a book from the ground up. He's also the guy who asked me to be in the short story collection.
You know that "Charlatan" thing I've been, admittedly, self-promoting like crazy as of late? That's the short story I contributed.
For now, here are the publishing-related questions and his uncensored response to them all.
C.M. Humphries (C):
C: How did you decide which authors would be in the anthology?
C: What were the overhead expenses for producing such an anthology?
C: What are your future plans for Somewhere in the Shadows or for other story collections?
C: Where can everyone find you online?
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Ask Andrew Cyrus Hudson Anything About Somewhere in the Shadows or independent & self-publishing in the comments - and earn points towards a hand-bound edition of No-Injury Policy!
The story "Sleep" from the short story collection No-Injury Policy was deeply influenced by college debt. Although the story is meant to be a bit absurd and make as much logically sense as a nightmare, "Sleep" aims to reveal what happens to a world that is burdened by social pressures, one of which being the expectancy to excel after college.
The thing with college is, most people further their education for a better tomorrow. However, once you've finished bettering yourself, you step back into a world that might have forgotten about you until you've made a huge leap in your life, such as procuring a prestigious career. But how do you keep improving your life when all of your decisions are based on money - that average student debt of $23,000? WOULD YOUR LIFE BE BETTER WITHOUT THE SHACKLE OF STUDENT LOANS?
By nature, literature has always remained somewhat conservative. I don't mean this in any political way, and I don't mean the content is too PG (I think that wave is almost over). When I say literature is a bit too conservative, I mean the concept of a book or publication. Literature has always been slow to react, as we saw with the Big 6's hesitance towards eBooks. And even though we're somewhere in the transition from print to digital, I don't think the eBook will ever save literature, so to speak. I've come up with 3 ideas for literature to save itself, or otherwise it might contribute to it's own death.
It's getting closer to bedtime and you're looking at your loved one, thinking about the ways you would love to express your love. The day was a long one, and now you want to share the excitement of a relationship and reduce stress in one fell swoop. You start with the sweet nothings and pillow talk shortly before your loved one turns to you and says they're too tired, too stressed, or they have a headache. Now, making love would be the cure-all in this instance, but it takes two to tango. Getting two people to agree about anything is difficult. So there you are, wanting to embrace your lover and wishing the stressors keeping you awake at night would go away. What do you do?
From day one, we learn plagiarism is a big no-no. Likewise, we tend to dislike anyone who "borrows" our hard work, whether in the case of a story or a witticism.
But can someone borrow just a little and get away with it?
For instance, music producers tend to pay an "homage" to other artists by sampling their tracks. We've seen in the past how record labels can sue each other for sharing too much of the same work. Does the same rule apply to literature?
When expectations are high, money is tight, love is tainted and stress is ubiquitous, the citizens of Chase County will do anything to make sure they survive. From the deconstruction of a town to frivolous intercourse with strangers, No-Injury Policy explores the dark depths of human nature when social pressures peak.
No sooner than the meek taste retribution, however, they encounter the demons that have aided authority figures to the top - demons that refuse to lose control no matter what it takes.
No-Injury Policy is the 1st short story collection by C.M. Humphries, showcasing seven of the eeriest tales from every town in Chase County: Raven's Crook, Lovington, Lakeside, and Long Brooke.
Following along as I provide a snippet of each story in the collection. If there's a picture to the left of the premise, that means I blogged on a topic from the story. Be sure to check them all out.
Let's face it, we're part of an interesting historical period. Or several. There almost seems to be an ideological Civil War taking place within the United States, one that might determine what is right, what is acceptable, and what is illegal. No matter what your stance is on an issue, you probably realize it's important to stand up for what you believe. However, let me suggest that you spend a little more thinking than acting.
If you're reading this blog right now because you have nothing better to do, then this entry might be for you. Don't despair, though, I aim to show you how being an outcast or even a loser is one of the greatest things that can ever happen to you. Bill Gates, Stephen King, Lady Gaga . . . All these people had rough starts. They sat alone during high school lunch periods. They were the last picked for sports. Now they're the most prominent names in their fields. Why? Because losers are more creative and make the world not only go 'round, but they also change it. Don't believe me? Believe science.
Admit it. At least once or twice in your life, you've probably put down a book before you finished it. Now I'm not psychic by any means, but my guess is it was a book for school. For a vast majority of you - well, myself included - it was during high school. Don't we all love 19th Century Literature? Of course we do. Do we like a ton of it thrown at us at once with strict completion and examination deadlines? We probably like it a lot less then. So what do you do when you're on a time crunch with a literature assignment? You look online for summaries. What's there to fear? Here's what:
Literary Giants Can Be Trolls Too
At the risk of sounding old, let me say that when I was a kid, we weren't reading contemporary literature in high school. As a matter of fact you born-after-1994 kids, you should thank your previous generations for forcing high schools to offer up a reading list with a modern feel. Or post-modern, if you wanna be a dick about it.
Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, Crank - These would've never been read in high school during my time. (All right, I'll stop being condescending now.) When I was in high school, we were ravenous for a book printed during the 1990s or 2000s. With that said, sometimes Hemmingway, Hawthorn, Shelley, and the whole gang were a bit tedious to read and test over and over on. Mark Twain wasn't as funny the third time around, and he actually seemed more racist than anything. Sure there were Spark Notes and the like to help students ace through their studies.
Now, of course, we've got Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. You can just search the forums or search your question directly. In most cases, a forum will have the summary of a book and less than intelligent analyses. What you might never expect is a pissed-off writer insulted by a students quest not to read his book.
Although the post has since been deleted, the student originally asked Yahoo! Answers,
"I haven't been able to finish this book. Can someone give me a complete review, including everything important? I REALLY need this! AND it's not because I'm slacking."
The book is The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To. And the author is DC Pierson (who honestly looks fresh out of graduate school), who replied,
Hi! My name's DC Pierson, I wrote the book "The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To." First off, I'm really excited that my book is being suggested for summer reading. On the other hand, I'm bummed out that you don't want to try and finish it, and not even because you think it's bad, but just because it seems like work instead of like fun.
I'm not going to sit here and act like I didn't sometimes not read assigned books for class in high school. Even though it's referenced once in my book, the book you're avoiding reading, I've never actually read "The Scarlet Letter." So I'm sympathetic to your plight. But I think you'll find there's a ton more sex, swearing, and drugs in my book than anything else you have been or will be assigned in high school, and I don't mean in the way your teacher will tell you "You know, Shakespeare has more sex and violence than an R-rated movie!" I mean it's all there, in terms you will readily understand without having to Google them. Plus not once to I refer to anything as a "bare bodkin" or anything like that.
I guess all I'm saying is, of all the books not to read, to beg the Internet to read for you because your library is being remodeled, mine seems like an odd choice. (I recently had to read it aloud for an audiobook edition, and we recorded it in about 10 hours, and I was not reading fast at all. Maybe read it aloud to yourself an hour a night between now and when class starts? Or get together with other kids who have to read it for school and read it to each other? Maybe one of these other kids will be so impressed with your oratory skills you guys will end up making out. That would be pretty cool, right?)
Here, I'll give you an extra hint you'll get to put in your paper if you end up writing it: It was all real. A lot of people have asked me if it was supposed to be real or not, and my feeling is, it was. You won't know what I'm talking about unless you read 'til the end, though. And you might disagree with me on this "it was all real" thing once you get there. Just because I wrote it doesn't make my opinion more valid than yours. Wouldn't it be cool to tell your teacher, "The author says he thinks (it) was real but he's an idiot and I disagree with him and here's why!"
I finished my book. I bet you can, too.
Where They Went Wrong: Student vs. Pierson
Pierson (left) obviously finds time to read between shots.
First off, I think there's a valid shot taken against the student. You should never ask anyone - or the Internet - to do your reading for you. This is a terrible idea, and instead of making your teacher think you didn't read the material, you'll make them think you might need to be held back.
Second, the student does score one on the author. His question was less full of grammatical errors than the author's answer.
Third, the author proposes a strange scenario in which a student might score a little foreplay. The author scores a point for creativity, and the student just scores.
Fourth, the author scores great publicity for answering the question.
Five, both the student and author lose a point for acting on impulse. While going with your gut can often be serendipitous, both participants in this forum lose a point for sounding like high schoolers.
Six, the student scores a point for creative excuses. However, you should never say you're running behind on a book because the school's library is closed when the book is mainstream fiction which can be found ANYWHERE! Let's go with a 1/2 point on this one.
Student - 1 1/2 points
Author - 2
In all seriousness, though, I think an author answering a question like this is beneficial. While at first it seems like trolling or bullying, the author is actual careful with his words and facetious at times. In the long run, however, Pierson provides the student with some comical relief, real-life solutions, a personal challenge, and a slight scolding that might influence him to read books in the future.
If you were in Pierson's shoes, what would you have done?
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Some people ask me why I don't write nonfiction, since I have so much to say about college, post-college blues, and so forth. The answer is relatively simple, and I think Kurt Anderson, author of True Believers, says it best:
The Pleasure of Writing Fiction
Whenever I write fiction, I often feel excited and intrigued. There's a certain sense of euphoria I undergo when I'm imagining as opposed to reliving in nonfiction.
For me, writing fiction is more like recreational sex, whereas nonfiction is like being a pornstar. With fiction, I am creating something new and really reaching into my imagination, whereas in nonfiction it's more like trying to look good on camera as I repeat the acts I've already done. Like Anderson, the only real joy I find from constructing a piece like an essay is having written. That is, when the story is ready to ship off, I am happy to be done with it. Sometimes with fiction, I don't want the story to end.
I've created new characters and events that I could explore for the rest of my life. When I finish a short story or novel, sometimes there's so much editing and leg work to be done that I am happy when the material is available but never want to look at it again. During the process, however, I couldn't enjoy anything more.
Nonfiction is almost the opposite experience for me. The entire process makes me want to quit early on. I don't know what it is. It's kind of like playing the guitar versus playing the piano for me. I love to write or learn new songs, because there's some sort of intimacy behind it. Piano on the other hand . . . Let me just say I admire anyone who has perfected it. The same goes for nonfiction authors.
Will I ever write a nonfiction piece? The truth is, I've written several, but I've never tried to have them published. I've been toying around with the post-college blues concept for awhile. I think I might be too lazy to do all the research. Or it might be that I'm not sure which angle to tell it from. Or maybe I don't want to relieve my past. Besides, in nonfiction you have to work a lot of freelance gigs before most publishers will even consider your proposal. There's another point: I prefer to have written the novel and polished it before proposing the idea for publication.
In short, I see myself eventually diving into the nonfiction world. For now, I'm working on getting His Daughter out there and writing a zombie novel tentatively titled The Illness.
What Brings You More Joy, Fiction or Nonfiction?
Making Money & Art
One of the first creative writing tricks I learned in college was to write about work when you're facing writer's block. After searching through some of the short story collections I bought for class, I realized the workforce was a primary center to many literary works. Although this notion never came to my attention prior to college, I soon figured out why.
If you're a creative type, the job market isn't your friend. Maybe there was a time when writers and painters alike were contracted regularly and made some serious dough (or enough to live on), but those days are pretty much over. Sorry.
There's nothing more nauseating than searching for jobs while your heart demands you do something meaningful. In college, you learn about so many different theories that you become something of a humanitarian, but trust me, such ideologies will not help you during that first major job hunt.
If you rely on your beliefs to fulfill your needs, you won't make any money. While money isn't everything, it's a well-established social construct. Watching your savings dwindle away while you're searching for a job that fits your personality is like watching your life slowly come to a halt or an end.
So here's the key:
It's not entirely naive to think you should work in your field of study or to do what you love for a living. It's just really difficult.
While you're looking for that dream job, one which doesn't feel like a job at all, you should probably pick up one of the jobs that you feel are beneath you. If you're a creative type, this is especially good advice.
First off, you need to pay the bills. If you left college without debt, then you're a lot better off, and I hate you.
OK, I don't really hate you, but I am sure as hell envious. Nevertheless, pick up a shitty job so you have some money in the bank. This will allow you to jump jobs, states, and/or take risks in your future. Face it, you can't live the NY or LA dream if you're broke. Happiness may be priceless, but your dream standard of living might.
Also, consider your crap job an opportunity. Sure you'll be depressed at times and may consider taking up a side job as an alcoholic, but it'll get you to the point you've always dream about.
Think about all good novels, movies, etc.
Almost every form of media depict stories of strange characters doing regular things. For instance, if door-to-door is the only thing available to you, consider it. You'll gain experience with pitching (which is great for selling a story) a product, and you'll have a story you never thought about writing.
You'll also encounter many new characters in life. It's all good creative material. You even become a character. Say you hate your job but do it anyway - there's a story altogether.
These shitty jobs will give you so much to write about, good or bad, and you'll have some fun being a character in a nonfictional situation. One thing that's gotten me through the post-college blues is imagining my day job as a well-crafted story, and I am the protagonist.
Remember, subjective job hunting can always be done. Hell, you can still search for that golden opportunity while you have another job. For the sake of staying alive and less stressed, though, take any decent opportunity thrown at you. If you have to, pretend you're a character and you're job is a storyline.
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No One Wants to Live in Limbo
If you're like the average college graduate, you didn't have a smooth run after graduation - even if you moved back in with Mom and Dad. Don't be ashamed of living with your parents. This TIME article states around 85% of college graduates move back in with their parents.
As for that short smooth period, I'm talking about the beginning of the transitioning period - You know, leaving the Utopian dream of academia and entering the battlefield of the real world. The same TIME article (although admittedly a bit outdated) states that in most areas, up to 54% of college graduates remain unemployed.
These are the sort of facts you start to find when you're sick of staring at Career Builder and other job search engines. Despite the fact over half of college students are in your very same position, there's nothing reassuring about the numbers. It plain sucks. And if you're like most college students, you can't really complain about it. You'll be told you chose an "easy" major or you are too subjective in your job hunt.
And when you make the claim that a lot of college graduates are in your position, most people won't care. They'll shove contradicting statistics in your face. This Pittsburgh Tribune article states 1.5 million students earned bachelor degrees and applied for jobs before leaving college in 2012. Of those 1.5 million, 26% found jobs, which is up from last year's 24%. This article admits most students do not keep their full-time jobs after college due to various reasons, but it insists that job employment for graduates is on the rise. This is great news!
But how does this sort of information help you when you're down and out? I mean, out of 1.5 million students, less than a 1/4 million students found jobs upon graduation. What happened with the other 74%? It's great to see job placement increasing, but according to the positive sources of information, the unemployment rate for graduates is generally higher than their more cynical counterparts. So hooray, graduates are finding more jobs . . . except for the unlucky 54 - 74%.
In the Pittsburgh article, there are claims many remain unemployed or found jobs later on. It also states, however, that there are very few entry level jobs. I think the latter hits home more than anything else in the news. The jobs within your field of study probably require a ridiculous amount of experience along with the degree. So where do you begin?
Could you imagine if someone dropped dead every time they blamed your choice in major for your shortcomings? In this Budget 360 article, the ratio of debt versus pay-off is discussed, which is a similar topic to my last blog. What's interesting is that this article also hints at certain major being a complete waste of loans.
While I was still attending college, I heard the same thing a lot. Being a film major and creative writing minor was the "easy way out". Let me tell you, I've taken some grad-level critical analysis courses that will make you feel like less than human. Don't even rip on someone's major. Such commentary is akin saying you married for money, because love is a naïve notion.
When someone says your major left you with a weak portfolio, you need to turn around and ask why an accredited university would establish fields of study that were not challenging or competitive enough to turn you into an elite professional.
Most people cannot answer the question because it revolves around the idea of a pass-rate - That is, how many students can actually handle the courses and leave with their degree.
Sure, if you pay a ton to attend college and it's too hard to succeed, that really sucks. But that's exactly what universities need to offer. Use freshmen courses for students to adjust to academia and then make sure they are the absolute best at what they do by the time they leave and have a strong course of action. This should be Phase II of "No Student Left Behind".
At no point should a university say a student didn't push themselves hard enough and then award the same student with a degree. All this argues is that universities are solely operating as businesses in which they pass as many students as possible through their system in an effort to increase profits.
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Does College Pay Off?
How to Stop Jobs From Passing You By
No-Injury Policy Excerpt
Peter Thiel Will Pay You to Drop Out of College
Getting Over College
Coming Up Soon in The Forbidden Blog:
Subjective Job Hunting
So the university was paid off, you owe a ridiculous amount of money to loan entities, and you may or may not have a job. Numerous reports claim there aren't enough entry level jobs. Some articles, like this one, claim people don't fully comprehend the meaning of entry level.
If entry level requires experience as well as a degree, then shouldn't we change the title to "Advance Entry Level"? When do we have a foot in door is not nearly as essential as finding the door in the first place.
It's All Your Fault
If a salesperson approached you at your with a concept of making $1 million dollars than you ever were with loose liberal ideas of becoming an educated, self-made individual, you would give them a curious gaze, if not completely dismiss them as a scam artist.
And if someone asked you for 4 years of your life, years ripped away from your home to be shoved in hamster cages and forced to lose your confidence as thousands ideas are forced upon you or else, you would probably tell them what to do with themselves.
Likewise, you would be deterred by the notion of "getting a better life" for $23,000+ in the hole, you might even call the police.
Yet the higher educational system does all of the aforementioned without ever losing the beliefs of millions of Americans and without ever being sued for false claims and off-scale advertising.
Prior to 2007, going to college and getting a degree meant big things. Student debt wasn't so high and jobs were available. But if you were like me in 2007, barely 18 and progressive-minded, then you watched as your bank account flat-lined and the negativea built up during one of the greatest recessions since WWII.
Did I say since? Take this into consideration: Unemployment of 16-29 year-olds is at its highest since WWII and trends indicate it might supersede it.
What's really interesting is, that, when British young adults faced steep tuition increases with a lack of degree-based job placement, they attacked the government. Yet as Americans, we are captivated by the stigma college carries on its shoulders, one that says obtaining a degree is to completing high school 50 years ago.
Let's face it, students are in the worst predicaments of their lives. They've spent near $50,000 to pay for college, worked their asses off to make the grade and earn their degree, and now they can't afford the gas it would take to drive to a good interview.
The U.S. furrowed a brown when student debt (often without significant job placement) skyrocketed to $100 billion, but as we approach $1 trillion today, raising a brow is about all we can do.
"Obama Care" provides some reassurance to graduates, however, by imposing a 10% interest rate cap on some loads, but what most of us graduates need are forgiveness.
But should we even call it forgiveness? Right now, there are some reading this and thinking all these numbers are a clever way to evade our own personal failures.
We did what we were supposed to. We fought in high school for our GPAs, faced rejection and acceptance from college administrators, many of whom we never meet, worked hard for 4 years, and smiled wide on graduation day. People who do well with their education are not the types to fail. They are not the ones without initiative.
When someone says, when the ivory degree on your wall is collecting dust, it's your fault, you tell them to fuck off. If you are shot in the chest and need years to recover, is that your fault?
No, it's not. And it's not a farfetched analogy. It feels about the same.
Some argue maybe we should have thought twice about college. True, that would have been nice.
But how much economic foresight can an 18 year-old have? If someone can barely buy a pack of cigarettes, how the hell are they able to take out $20,000-100,000+ in loans?
Back at 18, many are offered promises of a better tomorrow and not a business plan, and leave at 22 with neither. If a business makes promises and leaves you in debt, you might raise a middle finger outside of the court room.
With college? We just take it and blame ourselves. By the way, is it any coincidence that the U.S. makes one of the worst the Top-10 lists. This is the only sign of personal failure, but it is caused by social frustration. I won't contribute to the list because I have $1 trillion middle fingers.
"College is just a scam fer spoiled kids who ain't workin',"
the jerk says to me inside of Wal-Mart.
I'm inside of the hair salon, which I normally wouldn't go to, when some chubby man in a oil-stained flannel shirt steps in and starts running his mouth. I'm not sure what served as the catalyst for the conversation, but he's bragging about his son to the beautician next to me.
And like a fool, I tune in as he says, "See, I didn't let my kid get a free ride to no fancy college. He was a good student and all that, but I didn't believe in college. College is just a scam fer spoiled kids who ain't workin'."
Keep quiet Chris, I tell myself over and over. But if you know me, you also know about my mouth and the way it zooms like a marathon runner. I'm talking Sean Lovelace speed.
To the local, I reply, "That's certainly not true."
He cocks his head at me and smiles with his nicotine squares. "I bet yer parents paid for yer school, didn't they?"
I nod. "Sure they helped, but it was mostly your tax money."
"See, ain't that some shit. This kid's been a pretty boy all his life, and he has college handed to him by our hard work."
"It's called loans," I tell him.
"So what?" he asks. "Now yer in debt with a degree? Tell me, what did school get you?"
I know what he's aiming at. I've been out of school about five months and still work at my day-job from high school. But how fast is a degree supposed to kick in? Is there an expectation of college kids immediately landing $100,000/year jobs upon graduation? I answer, "A lot of intrinsic value."
He chuckles and nudges the beautician next to him. "N'tren-see-ick value, oh shit. What in the sam hell does that even mean, boy?"
Boy. "It means I have a fair knowledge in almost everything. It means, I discovered myself." At this point, I'm ready to take him to the parking lot. Sure he's got the weight advantage, but I have a wrench in my trunk. College graduates know all the ways to win a fight.
"Yeah," he mutters, "you had a bunch of drunken parties which you think taught you something."
"I actually didn't drink that much in college," I say.
"That much. I know how it is in college. You guys all drink and party and fuck around day and night. You skip classes cuz of hangovers. Smoke a little weed, did you? Is that where you learned yer N'tren-sick self?"
"No, sir. I did not. I worked my ass off in college."
He continues to give his opinion, although the laughter from the beauticians is one of nervousness. There's no way to win this conversation. College graduates know what it's like to be in this situation; to have unnecessary ridicule for their time in hamster cages.
What he doesn't understand is what truly goes into school. Those who wake up every morning, hungover and ready for the next party, they don't make it too long. You can unwind in college, but you can't live Animal House. You can find students who have, but most likely, they dropped out or failed out.
See, college is about discipline. It's about knowing when to be serious and when to relax. It's knowing your limits. What this guy doesn't understand, is the amount of work it takes sometimes just to pass Math 125 with a C-. He doesn't know the satisfaction of honors or the Dean's List.
He, and those like him, don't know what it's like to panic all night before the big exam in the morning, or how to write a 20-page term paper. He's never written a piece of fiction only to have a professor spit on it. He doesn't know what it's like to produce your very best work five days a week.
See, it's about finding love and losing it. It's about gaining everything you want in life, and losing it all just before finals. It's about trying to live a new life, while struggling to maintain the old.
It's about being broke and still trying to keep enrolled. It's about community.
College takes simple kids and turns them into understanding adults, one's who can think beyond the price of fuel, and consider the worldwide effects of a bad economy. It's about worldviews. It's about thinking glocally. It's about understanding the cultural differences between you and your peers who come from countries with nothing you can relate to your own.
This guy has never called his parents at 1am in tears, worrying about a love one's health and his grades all at once. He's never sweated over the big presentation, or the big date with someone smarter and more beautiful than himself. He doesn't know piss about networking. Goddamn him for looking for a hand to help him up, while we all search for a way to help ourselves.
What I can never explain to this man, is what goes into earning a college degree. How do I convey notions of every single thought I've had or event I've suffered through. Has he ever been yelled at or criticized by dozens of people he admired all at once? Has he ever followed two opinions at once? Has he ever read a news article beyond it's headline, and then researched the sources behind the news? Does he know the difference between Fox and CNN?
I bet he doesn't know the first thing about economics, law, or ethics. Doesn't know what a shitty camera a PD 150 is. Does he know what dues ex machina means?
See: The Easy Way Out.
If only this guy knew what it was like to bleed out the ink on his diploma after four years of the hardest fucking work in his life, only to find out there are few jobs within his field outside of college. We, the college graduates of one of the worst economic turns in history, stay silent and let him speak, because we learned that wise-man don't speak when they just want to be heard, but speak when they have something to say.
He might raise his middle finger every day, say, at cops as they drive by or people driving the speed limit on the highway. But he doesn't know the value of a good "fuck you." He doesn't know how to use it sparingly like we do. We wait until there's so much to say that we can express ourselves in no other way. So, perhaps, if he reads this, he will know the power instilled in my middle finger when I give him the Californian Howdy as he stumbles half-drunk to his $7/hr 9-5 job, bragging about how his kid makes $15/hr from years of hard work. We tell him to fuck off, because he thinks the worth of a human being is the same as the worth of a product he can buy in Wal-Mart. We salute him until he learns how to spell the word "intrinsic" and say it without using any more than three syllables.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.