Column by Kaylan Thompson, Graduate student from Murray
She’s telling me about all the students who don’t know what to do and, while my head is nodding and mouth is smiling, my brain is thinking that was me. The professor I’m talking to continues to describe what I’m taking upon myself to name: student disillusionment.
1. The false sense of security college students fall prey to that hides reality and leads them into believing they are a perpetual student. 2. A blackhole of apathy.
I’m nearing the end of my second semester of graduate courses in mass communications and I’m just now exploring career options. Why? Because I was one of the students she’s talking about, one of the suckers pulled into student disillusionment. I took no time off between undergrad and graduate school, switching gears from creative writing to journalism partly because I didn’t want to bet my future success on my ability to write fiction and mostly because I felt lost. My plan was to buy myself some time. If the time you’re buying is graduate school hours, you must really need it.
I can’t tell you how many fellow classmates from undergraduate jumped into graduate school because they had no idea where they were headed outside of Murray State. And I can’t tell you how many times in those four years I didn’t think about a career.
Here’s my point. It’s OK not to know, but it’s not OK to not search until you do. There are a lot of “nots” in there, so I’ll break it down. It’s not OK to coast through school without actively researching and learning where it could take you. Many enter college knowing what they want to do, so they take the path that gets them there. Many more enter college knowing what they like or what they are good at, so they take the path that allows them to explore. This path is great. It’s the one I took, but it’s also the dangerous one. It’s the one most susceptible to Student Disillusionment.
My memories of undergrad are light and airy. I remember the evening workshops, sitting next to the window and tracking the progression of the seasons until spring. I remember living with my grandmother and our Jimmy Fallon-watching date nights. I remember meeting my best friend who then turned into my husband, but I don’t remember once thinking seriously about my plans after college.
I had been lured into student disillusionment. I felt as if I would always and only exist in this world where I binge watch “Lost,” eat peanut butter crackers with my grandmother and occasionally turn in a paper.
So, you can imagine my surprise when graduate school shocked me with its change of pace. I realized quickly that I better start running, because everyone else seemed to be strides ahead. Maybe they’re all good at faking it, but I’m believing them. For a while now I’ve been researching the prospect of teaching in college, which brings me back to the conversation I’m having with this professor.
“It’s saddening the number of seniors who approach me, crying,” she says. “They beg me to tell them what to do next, to tell them what jobs to apply for and what they can do with the degree they acquired. All I can tell them is that’s what college was for, to discover those things.”
I can feel the guttural heaviness of being completely lost, the feeling I’m sure her students were overcome by. The only thing I can think is, why did I not care sooner? I’m on the right path now, but how far ahead would I be if I was checking out all these library books on teaching sooner? How much more would I know if I actually read, not skimmed, all those textbooks I rented?
I was tricked into thinking college was a ride. It’s fun, that’s true; these have been the best years of my life, but the haze of my disillusionment is fading. I’m visualizing my goal far ahead, and I’m wishing I was much closer to it.