Saturday, November 27, 2010


Well, this was about the perfect length of time for visiting my family --- I probably needed more time to get caught up with all the little details about all of them, but it was not so much time that they got on my nerves and I snapped at them. Not too much, anyway.

Unfortunately, I am dumb. And with next to no willpower. So while I have been vacationing this week, I have not been grading anything on my huge pile of grading. Ugh. And the slacking started before I left, too, with the excuses that travelling makes me nervous and unable to concentrate. And then I got here, which I associate with hanging out and doing nothing, and it was impossible to overcome that and actually work. Since my car is back in Postdoc City, I was effectively trapped in my parents' house in Utter Suburbia and was unable to make it to a coffee shop and grade. I regret that, but more because I went from the Mecca of coffeeshops to a new state that does not believe in coffee, and I miss my Peets or the half dozen local, independently owned places where I used to work. Ah well.

My niece has yet another hair-brained education scheme, which may in fact be the workable one; I just know nothing about it. She's very immature emotionally, I may have mentioned before, and is still living at home and fumbling her way through community college and not thinking very much or in very adult ways about the future. She did finally get her driver's license and a job selling clothes at the local mall, so that's something. Her parents are still paying for everything except some pocket money, so that's something else, but I guess I was being completely supported at her age too. I did stuff like study and plan instead of flunk out of high school, however.

So anyway: she had a chorus part in a high school musical and then worked tech on two shows at her community college, and she loves to dance (she's definitely socially/tactilely oriented rather than verbal or logical), and she had the idea she was going to become a professional actress. We were all dubious, not really because she doesn't seem very good, but because even when she was "working" at it, she had no fire. I had friends who loved acting more than anything else in the world, who were in a dozen or more shows over the course of high school and were constantly on the look out for how they could land the next audition --- they were driven in a way my niece was not. It's a competitive field and she is lazy, to put it frankly, and seemed to just "like" the idea rather than eat sleep and breathe it.

Her plan was to finish the cc and transfer into an exclusive private art school and if she didn't work at being a famous singer/actress, then she would go into "doing film." I don't know in what role because she never figured out what people did on films. (And I was interested in that type of job for about 5 minutes until I worked on a student set and learned just how boring and mind-numbing it was to sit through light setup and coverage shots and whatnot; I'm sure she would find it like that as well.) My brother pretty much hyperventilated at sending a slacker daughter to a school with that kind of price tag. Especially when she couldn't tell him what people did on set.

She seems to have given up on this idea, which I do feel a little sorry about, and has moved on to "something to do with psychology." I don't think she has taken a psych class yet. But this could be a perfectly acceptable undergrad major option. She was thinking of doing something with counseling and early-childhood psychology. She set off a red flag for me, though, when she mentioned she would rather work with kids because "their problems were much less serious, I mean in a heavy way." Hmm.

This is a kid whose room is still decorated in Disney and who still plays with toys. I worry that even the "not as heavy" problems a kid would be experiencing would be too much for her level of maturity --- if she's still squicked out by sex, how would she deal with child abuse etc etc? Are there other directions she could take a psych degree without dealing so much with trauma? Is there some sort of handy-dandy book that lists out various career directions she could take a psych degree? I'm not sure I should be the one finding the book/advice for her, though, considering that a lack of initiative and motivation has been her major problem all along. But what do I know. I am not the best source for job and career advice, no?

I guess the topic interests me also because this seems to be the case for more of my students than not these days. All of the articles about the "pressures of college" (especially in the NYT) use the overscheduled overachiever as their norm. What do you tell the students who aren't particularly driven in any areas and who have no interests? No marketable interests, anyway --- being good at the xbox or putting on makeup or decorating one's room doesn't count.

Any advice on the subject would be appreciated, however. And please grade a few essays on your way out.


Feminist Avatar said...

Professional gamer, beautician or interior decorator.

All of which can pay quite well if you can work your way up the career ladder- to business owner or specialist of some sort.

In terms of picking a degree, if she doesn't have a specific goal, advise her to pick something that will open lots of doors in fields that don't care what your degree is. A good humanities degree or psych are often good bets.

But, perhaps the advice should be- take some time out and get a real job (ie full-time and not subsidised by the bank of mum and dad). It might give her a chance to realise what she wants to do with her life without racking up debt- and she can go back to college later when she know what she wants.

Ok, if your goal is to make it to middle-age rich, then delaying college seems likea waste of time- but, having no direction in college or after can also delay things if you then change specialisms or need to retrain. Plus, there are alternative career paths to the traditional college directed jobs- and it doesn't always mean low-paid.

Belle said...

1) It's probably not your decision to make, right?
2) From your description, it sounds very much like she's just rather immature. We all have those peopling our classes. I wouldn't give up though. I didn't go to college until I was 30, because 1) I'd never had any encouragement to think of self as capable and 2) I was bored silly. Work - having to make her own bills and pay rent etc. - may bring her some insights into how the world works. Let her do her thing, until she finds out on her own the value of things (life, education, maturity). Once that lesson is learned - and it may take a while if parents are paying all the bills and cleaning up after her - college may help.

Bardiac said...

Does her CC have a career center? I might gently suggest that she go there and do some of the pre-career games/card sorts, etc. (Some are also on computers.) Maybe that would give her a sense of possibilities?

I think a lot of our students don't have much experience about jobs, but most jobs aren't directly related to undergrad majors. Our career center seems pretty useful to those students in giving them some ideas about real world jobs.

I say this as someone who seriously should have visited the career center a LOT as an undergrad.

Earnest English said...

I agree with Belle that some time working would help her grow up. But in saying that, I realize what I'm thinking: that college is best for those students who have some direction. Yet many of my students suffer from the opposite problem: over-direction, too much focus on their area of interest to the point of seeing anything else as a waste of time. Very little openmindedness. Maybe this young person will discover herself in college and college activities. Maybe that's what she needs.

Dr. Koshary said...

My completely unreliable guess upon which you should not depend is that your niece has no business being in college right now. She has zero idea what the world is like, much less what she wants to be in the world, and that's why all the Disney shit and the vague "somehow be famous" plans. I see EE's point, but I incline instead toward what FA and Belle said: she should -- with some 'gentle' parental encouragement -- start living as a grown-up, with bills and a sense of responsibility for one's own survival. As long as she can putz around like a second-string Disney heroine wondering idly when her Adult Life will be plopped down in front of her, she'll never do anything, neither in college nor in the working world.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Make-up + film interest = beautician with aspirations to do make-up for movies. Or special effects make-up. Overall, I'm with FA and Koshary.

I'll grade some of your essays if you'll do some of mine.

Anonymous said...

You know, this almost reminds me of my sister, who was not so much immature as just kind of clueless and lazy. She made marginal grades in hs in spit of being really smart and then worked fast food after graduation while she hung around the cc for with the idea that maybe she'd be an interior designer. Eventually she went to a four year college with this whole vague "i'm going to do something with psychology" plan before she got married and dropped out. Years passed during which she worked her behind off at crap jobs to make ends meet. When she got good and tired of that, she went back to school to be a nurse. She's fulltime in school while working fulltime and she's making excellent grades and has a post-graduation job already lined up. Some people just need time.