Saturday, July 21, 2012

Garden of Eden - The Skinny on the Schooling

(part 3 of 5. image details here)

Dear Art, please don't think I'm cheating on you; you'll always be a cornerstone in my heart....

As I gear up for Middle Eastern Studies, I've struggled at times with "leaving" art behind. I've pretty much always been moving in that direction and I know I'll never stop being an artist, but it was beginning to gnaw at me that art doesn't... save the world. Sometimes I disagree with that statement, but I was frustrated by how much art there is in the world and my own tendency to brush by it or appreciate it for a moment and then forget about it. I want to be part of something with a larger impact, and when it comes down to it, I know that art will always be a thread in the chord of anything I choose to do.

I have been noticing that as soon as I got serious about going back to school, I suddenly found a lot of other things to occupy my time. I feel like I'm savoring my summer, even though I haven't been in school for what feels like ages (roughly a year and a half).

I realized this summer that all my peers were done with college, and some are moving on to their Master's degrees. All of a sudden, I felt left behind! I feel simultaneously like I've been in school for ages and that I've never been to "real" school. My schooling history is a little bit "kittywompus" - I'll skip the early years (you're welcome) and get right to the fall of 2008, when I started attending Allan Hancock College, a junior college here in Santa Maria. After 3 years there, I'd finished my general education and didn't have a plan for what to do next. In 2009, I had been accepted to the Savannah College of Art and Design with scholarships, but still didn't have enough money to go (and didn't want to leave Jonas). Toward the end of my time at Hancock, I was gearing up to start a 2 year apprenticeship with PCPA (Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts) in Technical Theater, but backed out of that too, knowing that I wanted to marry Jonas and not wanting to try and start a marriage right before or get married in the middle of an 80-hour week program. I'd be lying if I said it isn't frustrating at times not to be further in my schooling or career, but I wouldn't trade my husband for any of it, and that was the right choice for me, both then and now. It was also really important to me not to go into debt, which was another hang-up. I've been working part time (sometimes full-time) for 3 years now, which has gone a long way to saving up for school.

The first thing I can ever remember wanting to do "when I grew up" was be a doctor, but by the time I was actually looking into college, art had sunk its' nails into my heart. My first ever intended major was Fashion, then Graphic Design (quickly moved on after job shadowing someone), then Painting, then Journalism (discouraged by the death groans of an industry, though I do believe it is simply in the process of rebirth), then Culinary school, then Mixed Media & Installation Art / Technical Theater (also didn't like it after getting a little bit of experience), then Fibers, then Urban Planning (too technical and I got tired of explaining what it was - maybe I didn't really know myself), then Costume Design. I was talking with FIDM (the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in L.A. when I found out I was pregnant. I quickly realized (after crying a lot, haha) that I didn't want my schooling and career to interfere with raising a child (costume design is an all consuming industry built for workaholics). Then I was miserable for a few months, with no idea what I wanted to do (and very disheartened with I realized that in academia, studying "Literature" means getting a degree in English, essentially) and then put two and two together with my growing fire for human rights and my old love for my other home. Thus, we arrive at Middle Eastern Studies.

If you haven't inferred as much thus far, it's hard for me to stay passionate about the same thing for very long.  I realize more and more that I am a big-picture person, and it's really difficult for me to stay motivated through-out an entire process to see the end result, let alone slog through all the trial and error that it takes to make truly great work. I know I need to become more balanced when it comes to my style of working. Not that it's bad to be an idea generator and a grandiose dreamer, but I know that at some point, to succeed, you have to put the leg work in.

Ok, now for some details about the school I'm actually planning to attend now. I don't actually know for sure when I'll start - I've started the orientation process, but haven't completed the financial assessments and am not sure what my schedule will look like after our son is born. I may end up going at a snail's pace, but that's better than going nowhere.

Middle Eastern Studies is actually not a very common major, all things considered. And the way things are now, we need the benefits of Jonas's full time job, as well as for me to be able to continue working part time and be home a lot to take care of our son. I started looking into online school because I don't want to put our son into daycare and Jonas would be working too much to be available to watch our baby if I were taking classes at a psychical campus. In fact, we'll probably end up living in Santa Maria for longer than we had initially planned (we were talking about moving to L.A. after Christmas) since we won't be moving closer to a school just yet. Once I finish school, somewhere over the rainbow, Jonas will go back to school and finish up his degree (which is Illustration, most of the time ;)). Studying art has always seemed to me to be something you need to do in a psychical setting, as a side note. Hopefully we can find a way to pull that off when Jonas goes back, and that's yet another reason that I've finally moved away from the fine arts as a career (for now at least - I see myself as one of those people who will have multiple careers).

All that said, pretty much the only option was American Public University. As excited as I am to have the show on the road again and have a vision, this choice is kind of humbling to me (sorry, APUS). I love being in a classroom (I did most of high school on line) and I take stock in the name of a school. I've always turned up my nose at schools who advertise on Facebook, etc., and cater toward students who are in my situation (though APUS is legit and well accredited, for the record). I know that that is wrong and foolish, but there's part of me that wants to make excuses for not being at Berkeley or SCAD or Reed or Harvard. I wanted everyone to see that I could make it in schools like that and I wanted businesses to be impressed when they saw where I graduated from, and I guess this path that I'm on instead is taking me down a notch. It's funny when your life doesn't turn out like you imagined. I guess it probably never does.

Furthermore, APUS was started by the military (I'm doing the civilian branch) which is not an affiliation I ever imagined myself adhering to. I don't mean these confessions on my part to be disrespectful to the military or anyone who goes to school online or goes to a school that doesn't have a fancy name. My mom is getting her master's degree on line in a very rigorous program and I'm really proud of her and I'm very grateful for the men and women who serve our country through the military. These circumstances just wouldn't have been my first choice, I guess. I'm still trying to change directions in my heart and mind toward making raising my son my number one priority. 

One aspect of studying MES at APUS that I'm very curious about is the fact that they teach things like "Weapons of Mass Destruction Preparedness" and "Terrorism Studies." At one point, I saw those types of studies categorized with MES rather than Asian Studies, European Studies, etc. I'm a little nervous about being taught through a lens which I'm studying MES to try and eradicate, but the courses look standard, so I'm not panicking yet. It should be quite interesting, one way or another. Some other random facts; 1. Although the school is exclusively online, their offices are in Virginia and West Virginia. 2. I will almost definitely be learning Arabic. I don't know how I'm going to do that online with no one to talk to. Ok, well, that was 2 facts, haha.

Hang with me, I only have a little bit left to cover here. Mainly, people have been asking me what kind of career I'm planning to have with a major in MES. First off, at this point, I'm not really interested in living in the Middle East later in life. My focus is really more on the U.S.'s opinion of the Middle East. That said, I'm sure that an adequate understanding of Middle Eastern culture does require time spent there and I won't shy away from that. I'd particularly like to visit Morocco and Istanbul, from a tourism point of view if nothing less. But fear not (or fear highly, perhaps), I'm into trekking the back "woods" of Pakistan and Afghanistan and what not. With my husband and my baby. God loves those people and those places and so do I. And so should you. Two blog installments from now, I'm going to try and not be political or confrontational and tell you all about what I love (food, fashion, landscape, customs, etc.) about this magical and eons-old region.

As for what career options a MES major could lead to, I haven't officially looked that up, but to me it seems endless. The main categories in my mind are consulting (being a cultural guide for businesses or governments or organizations that deal with the Middle East), human rights (immigration, refugees, foreign aid, state-side politics/community education, non-profit organizations), writing (reporting, memoirs, freelance) and awesome stuff (cooking, crying, art, being in a righteous rage).

If you've made it down this far, I appreciate it. Especially since I usually skim over other people's personal ramblings. I'm writing this partly to answer questions people ask me, but perhaps even more than that, to give myself something to look back on and ground myself with why I care and why I'm doing what I'm doing and to laugh at how foolish I can be and congratulate myself on any progress I may make. It's crazy to be young, wouldn't you say?

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