I Have a Theatre Degree (and I’m Okay)

Welp, I did it. I got a new job.

While I was applying to graduate school, I decided to take a swing at some job applications in higher ed admin, because what did I have to lose? Turns out I gained a job in career services at a university on Long Island. I’ll do the masters thing eventually. The job did not require me to relocate in a matter of days like grad school did, and instead of me paying it money, it is going to pay me money. Crazy!

Meanwhile, I told the dean who interviewed me about this blog. His response was, “Huh, you don’t seem awkward.” So I guess that means I have made some progress and can now come across to a stranger as a semi-functional, employable human being. At least for an hour anyway. Let’s see what a career brings.

Which sort of brings me to today’s topic.

As a creative person, I know a lot of creative people who pursued creative degrees in college. We’ve all been told the same things as we pursued these creative degrees: that we were in for a long road, that our skillset was not viable to the workforce, that we would be lucky to be eating crackers in a studio apartment we share with four other artists because there are no jobs in our field and no jobs outside of our field that we can do.

I know a lot of people who are able to pursue their creative aspirations and still feed themselves. Because the job that pays them steadily is not their job. Their art is their job; their job is a means to survive in the meantime. My deepest and utmost respect to those who do this. If it were up to me, artists would be paid as much as software engineers, for they are equally important.

I got out of college with my theatre degree in tow and the decision already made that I wasn’t going to pursue acting. I still have artistic aspirations but know full well they are things I can pursue in my free time. My art is not an extension of myself. I love storytelling and everything about it, but I don’t need it the way others need it. (I wish I did in some ways.) So, I set out to find a new path.

I had done several internships in story editing, arts administration, and marketing at this point, so I had a tool belt. I went on dozens of interviews while maintaining a job in food service. I met with a speakers bureau, a fashion agency, marketing firms, and some theatres themselves for admin roles. That last category was the only one that didn’t make some sort of comment about my degree, but those jobs are extremely competitive because everyone with a theatre degree who wants a 9-5 job would kill for them. I had relevant experience to all of those jobs and yet that one line on my resume was all anyone could say anything about. Most of them said, “Oh, so you must have waitressing experience.” (This wasn’t on my resume.) Yes. Acting and waitressing are completely interchangeable. I may as well have put that I also have a degree in waitressing, as they are the same thing.

After applying for over 500 jobs (I counted once) and having about 30 interviews, I finally received an offer…for another unpaid internship in publishing. What did that interviewer say to me? “Ah, yeah, I have a theatre degree. Was never able to get a real job. That’s why I am starting this business. You must be struggling.” So apparently I was being given the internship out of solidarity more than anything else. This internship turned into the job I just quit and I regret accepting it more than I regret getting a theatre degree.

Because here is the thing. I don’t regret getting a theatre degree. I never have, for not even one minute. And it breaks my heart whenever I hear another creative person with a creative degree saying something along the lines of, “I can’t believe I wasted all of this money on a useless degree.”

The fact that employers look at a creative degree and don’t see a beautiful myriad of applicable skills to their company is one of the biggest problems our society has. The fact that it is such a prominent mindset that it has managed to snake its way into the minds of artists and is causing them to be bitter toward their art is downright tragic.

Artists are storytellers. Artists know more than anyone about how to influence emotions. Artists understand human behavior. Artists are empathetic. Artists think outside the box. Artists perceive a reality beyond what is right in front of you. And in a capitalistic society where everyone’s got a product to push and where the innovation gap is so narrow, companies need people who are going to come up with a good story. The right rhetorical strategy is the only thing that’s going to make anybody money these days.

Not to mention that because of my theatre degree, I can sew your pants back together after you split them right before a big presentation, I can tell you the name of that client’s wife because of my quick memorization skills, I can screw a chair back together, and I’m entertaining, dammit!

But apparently all we are capable of is waitressing (not to poo-poo waitressing. I made more money doing that than I’ll probably ever make again and it was also probably the hardest job I’ll ever have in many ways).

Perhaps that is why I have been drawn toward career services. Because this was the first job interview I’ve ever been on where the only comment on my theatre degree was, “Oh, that’s really interesting. I bet you know a lot about x, y, and z.” I want to work with artistic universities to help students who maybe decide being a full-time artist isn’t for them, and who therefore need to find a new path using the incredibly valuable skills they acquired while pursuing their degree. Make no mistake. The world needs creation. The world needs artists. Without art, we would all be terrible. If every single dystopian novel ever written didn’t teach the world as much, I don’t know what will.

So I guess this is my new mission.

Well, this and that whole wage gap thing…


The Chaser

Apologies for the absence, awkward-teers. I had forgotten how hard it is to motivate yourself to do things when you don’t have much to be accountable for. Work begets work; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

That, and I do often spend the week of July 31st immersing myself in Harry Potter, and I had to spend a little extra time on that this year because I needed to realign myself into the fandom after reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. What a magical mess that was.

Anywho, I am trying to be better about things and to get myself back on track. I doubt I will fully get there until I have a set plan and a routine again. Until then, feel free to enjoy my instability as I cry my way through Pitch Perfect 2!

Today we shall discuss The Chaser—and no, I’m not talking about whatever you grab after you take a shot of really cheap tequila (“Something else, anything else, turpentine! Does anyone have any turpentine?”). I’m talking about the guy who only wants to date you because he thinks he can’t, and then once he thinks he can, he’s done.

I really freaking hate this notion of “the chase” in dating. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to play games with people’s time and emotions. But I suppose when I see a cute fella, I’m too focused on making sure I don’t lean on the burning candle to think about whether or not I’m looking “too available.”

But back in the day, when I didn’t know any better, I gave a strange guy my phone number because he asked for it. This was the first time someone I had never seen before in my life just point-blank asked me for my phone number and I didn’t know what to do. He knew people who knew me, so I couldn’t give him the wrong phone number. And he was standing very close to me, so I panicked.

He texted me a few minutes later asking if I would meet him at a bar down the street. I said no. I was tired. And I had no interest in spending time with someone who asked for my phone number before I had even said a word to them. Of course this whole thing was all my fault because I gave him my phone number and I was answering him. Because I get no pleasure out of making things simple for myself.

He texted me again the next day, telling me he was going away for the weekend and I should hang out with him before that. I declined again. He texted me a few hours later saying, “Good news. My car is in the shop.” I said, “I’m so happy for you.” He said, “I like your sass.” That should have been red flag number one right there. He liked that I was being mean and withholding. He must have had some serious mom issues.

He asked me to hang out again. I said no.

This went on and on for over two months. Everyday, I would get another douchey text saying something along the lines of, “Are we ever gonna hang out or am I gonna have to return this engagement ring?” And other sexist things. I told him I had been a fat baby and he made fun of me for it ruthlessly.

He would ask me to hang out and I would say no.

One time he said, “You’re killing me, Smalls!” And I responded with the monologue from the s’mores scene in the Sandlot. He told me he was starting to think I was a crazy person. He called me Jill when I asked him to call me Jillian. He asked me to hang out again and I said no.

And then, one day, right around Christmas, he texted me again about hanging out. I had to work that night. He knew where I worked. And it was Christmas. And the thing is, I was lonely. I hadn’t been working at this place that long, so I didn’t really have friends there, and I was just out of college and all of those friends were scattered. These horrid text exchanges that made me roll my eyes were the only social exchanges I had; this had become my most consistent relationship.

So, I told him to come by the restaurant where I worked and we could have a drink after I was done.

He texted back that he would be there, albeit with some hesitance. I think he was already losing interest. I wasn’t sassy anymore. I was no longer a puzzle for him; granted, his method for solving the puzzle was shoving the same wrong pieces together over and over again until they were so worn down, they gave up.

So, after two months, he came and we sat down and we had that drink.

And my suspicions were confirmed. He was the worst. He called the dishwashers in the back “filthy Mexicans.” He told me he was kicked out of his frat in college for forcing two girls to drink so much, they got alcohol poisoning. He called me an idiot multiple times. And then, as he took his last swig of beer, I breathed a sigh of relief and prepared myself to tell him off, heavily considering kicking him in the shins in the process.

“Listen,” he said, before I could open my mouth, and I realized I had maybe said three collective sentences since this rendez-vous began, “You’re nice and all. That’s the problem. You’re nice. I thought you were a strong girl. But I guess now that you’ve fallen for me, you’ve gotten vulnerable.”

There were no words. Just the vapor from my boiling blood coming out my ears and skin pulling away from my bones one goosebump at a time.

“If you want to make a night of it, you can come back to my place.”

I let the rest of the vapor forcefully out of my nose like an angry bull.

“In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, never, ever, ever,” I said slowly.

“Awww, I hurt your feelings,” he rubbed my shoulder awkwardly and then he was out the door.

A part of me thinks he must have known what a horrible person he was. That’s why he wouldn’t give me the chance to really reject him. He badgers people until they will go out with him and calls it charm. He gets his rocks off from building someone up as strong and then accusing them of weakness.

There are all kinds of reasons some people are chasers. Some of them need the drama, the thrill; they live by the notion of getting the things they want. The thing is that once you have it, you will not be satisfied until you have the next thing you want, and you will get bored with the prior thing. And then there are the people who hate everything because they hate themselves the most and thus will try to make you hate yourself for reasons as stupid as being a fat baby.