Friday, September 1, 2017

My Higher Education, part 1

Pursuing Higher Education
Today is a sort of personal holiday for me.  This is the 10-year anniversary of my taking the GRE in hopes of one day going to graduate school.
I graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in Spring of 2007 with a degree in Political Science, having been inspired to go into politics as a profession by the TV show “The West Wing”.  In hindsight, I should have gone into writing and television production, as it turns out what I really enjoy is well made TV shows.
Regardless of such personal insight having been gained I did not know what I wanted to do with my life.  I had a general plan of course, work as a social studies teacher while pursuing a Master’s degree from the University of South Florida, look for a job as a paper pusher in the state or county government and get a well-rounded work experience before trying to run for office myself somewhere down the line.  But there was of course a hiccup with all of that.
2007 was already starting to feel the rumblings of what would become the Great Recession.  I lived in Florida where the popping Housing Bubble and drop in tourism dollars was going to be felt more deeply still.  I had planned to get a starting position teaching or working in a government office, while at that same moment the state was working to cut positions and I was now competing with people who had been laid off with 10+ years of experience.
As is fitting for the quintessential millennial, I ended up living with my parents and working at a bookstore/coffee shop.

Pursuit of Education
The GRE was my way of continuing to move forward, my father has been and is big on education.  He succeeded at drilling an affection for the concept into me while I was growing up.  I signed up to take GRE without really knowing what it was.
I thought the test was more of a Myers-Briggs type personality test combined with general understanding of topics, I did not know it was essentially “SAT: Part 2”.  I had signed up to take it the Saturday of the same week and didn’t even know I could study for it.  The night before I got into an argument with my parents about how flippant I was being because I wanted to drive down to my undergrad school and play video games with friends who were still on campus.  I stayed home and was up late angrily playing video games by myself.
That morning I was up and off with far too little sleep and got to a testing center a 40-minute drive from my home and settled down to answer questions I had not prepared for.  Honestly, if anything can be said to be a “skill” for me, it must be standardized tests.  I banged out all the multiple choice question, and for the essay I wrote a fluffy couple of paragraphs on the value of public art with jokes and uncited references so topical I am sure whoever graded it had no idea what I was on about.
The single oddest thing was when it came to the end and asked me if I wanted to see the results, they give you a back out option.  They let you give in to your insecurities if you want.  I have no idea if they offer a refund if you decide not to look but it did cause me to pause.  I heard in my head my parents talking about how I wasn’t taking it seriously.  I worried that I had rushed to get this done and in so doing I was going to have bombed something I could have prepared for.  I worried that I will have shut the door of graduate school before ever really getting it open.
Then I woke up and realized it had been piss easy and hit “Show Scores”.
I had gotten a 1320 total score (same as my SAT’s), 730 Math and 590 Reading (This one is strange because I had not taken a Math class in 3+ years at this point and my math performance here was up from my 690 on the SAT and my reading was down).  Want to know how unprepared I was for the test?  I didn’t know that was a good score until later when I talked to my parents about it.
You might think that I would be right in my way to grad school that same year, but there was an issue with that.  The lesser issue was a lack of life experience, but the real barrier to my progress was money.

Work First
            My parents are lovely people with wanting to help support me in my educational endeavors but they did not want me to get caught up in student loan debt the way so many people do and as such supported the idea of getting and keeping a job for a time to help pay for all of this.  I decided to be a cop.
            I was miserable as a cop.  I did not enjoy the academy, I did not enjoy the job hunt, I did not enjoy the sleep deprived misery march that was my short career.  I understand that it is a difficult profession but it seems like the things I had the most trouble with (the sleep schedule and learning the radio) are perhaps not the things that should have broken me.
            It also did not help that the job market was still crowded and competitive on a level that made it clear to me (and everyone who was looking for work) that there was no slack time, adjustment period, or gentle slope on the learning curve.  My inability to adjust snowballed on me quickly and they had enough of an applicant pool that they could cut me loose.
            Ironically, these days there is such a demand for officers in Florida if I were trying to be a cop I probably wouldn’t get fired unless I did something deliberately criminal.  But, also ironic, if I had stayed on and still were a police officer these days, with years of experience under my belt, I probably would have jumped ship to seek higher education and a different job with the economic upturn as many officers have done.

            Being a cop was difficult.  Is difficult for all of those people who do it.  It is a draining, boring, dangerous, stressful job and I have a lot of respect for those who can do it.  I never want to be a police officer again, patrol was miserable.

Continued in Tomorrow's entry.

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