By Kenny Lane, Alumnus ’07, ‘13
During a recent visit to the Books-A-Million, I was approached by a woman asking if I was a college graduate.
It was a little awkward, but she quickly elaborated–she was a reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal looking for people who had graduated from college, but were having trouble finding work—especially in their degree field.
Unsolicited, she explained that she profiled me as a college graduate because “I looked smart” and was carrying a stack of books. Who knew carrying books in a bookstore would make you look like a college graduate?
The conversation continued, and I shared my background as a recent graduate of Stetson’s English MA program. I’m sure some of you are reading this sideways asking yourself, “Stetson has an English MA program?” Indeed, it does.
It helped me get the qualifications I needed for my current job as a poorly paid adjunct professor of English. This past fall, I taught a class for one school and two for another. If I didn’t have a family support system in the area—I grew up in DeLand—I know I would have been commuting to work from a cardboard box.
As this semester starts, I’m teaching just one course. It’s far from ideal and puts me on the border between under- and unemployed, but I’m using this strange time to reassess things. One of those things is my education and how it’s shaped me.
I’m not just a graduate from Stetson’s English MA program. Back in 2007, I finished up my first stint with a BA in American Studies. I also minored in Gender Studies and Sociology. Clearly, I have a history of being all about the money.
I loved my time at Stetson pursuing that degree. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have given the place a second shot. In between graduation and starting grad school in the fall of 2010, I fell into one of those black holes that makes being in your twenties somehow less than being an adult.
Even now, having just turned 29, I feel like I’m barely there. I do, however, have adult-sized debts. Between undergrad and grad school, I’ll probably be paying student loans off until I drop dead.
Everything I’ve said so far might reek of a cautionary tale, but it’s not. As frustrating as my decade long on-and-off relationship with Stetson University has been, I don’t regret my experiences beforehand and I’m optimistic about whatever might come next.
Being a so-called Double Hatter didn’t catapult me into a life of stability, but I don’t think that’s why I went to college in the first place.
Instead, it gave me the opportunity to find my way and intersect with others doing the same. It also made me realize that I will always be finding my way, because once I’m there, I’ll be dead and those pesky student loans won’t even matter anymore.