By Phillip Martin
July 21, 2015
I knew starting out after college might be rough. I just wasn’t expecting the past five months to be so discouraging.
This sums it all up my feelings: It feels like every one of my peers’ lives after college are great and mine, well, sucks.
Comparing my life now with others around me seems to be the biggest cause for my unhappiness.
Wiser adults around me have advised my peers and I to avoid comparing ourselves to others on Facebook. This wisdom makes sense. A lot of Facebook profiles seem to gloss over, or hide, the negatives of life while mostly capturing “happy moments” in photos and status updates. With all the pictures of friends, wedding ceremonies, and status updates of accomplishments, it’s so hard not to compare myself to others. One year ago, I even set my news feed settings to hide my FB friends’ activities. Even with this preventative measure, I still can’t help myself from time to time. I still check up on my friends and enemies. Rather than take joy in their accomplishments, I’m left feeling jealous or dissatisfied with my own life.
Peer comparison isn’t the only thing dragging my spirits way down. In the past five months, I spent a lot of money on car repairs. The throttle control sensor was the most recent damaged part addressed. For a few weeks, the car drove fine after taking it in to the shop. Then, the fail-safe for the throttle control came back on just as my dad and I rolled into the Chicago-metro area for a jazz concert on July 17. Luckily, we got as far back as Jamestown, Ohio, and limped back home that Saturday. The next day, we traded in the piece-of-crap car for a later model car. The newer car seems nice. The only problems are that I am now paying for my own auto insurance plus higher car payments month-to-month. The costly repairs on the older car alone set me back on saving to move out of my parents’ home soon. Now the expenses for the newer car has prompt my current search for a second job. I realize a lot of people have car trouble and make car payments, but I feel like my peers are either earning more monthly income or paying less on college loans than me to offset those issues.
A Wasted Four Years?
Speaking of college loans, I’m wondering today if going to a four-year college was worth the costly debt I’m paying on. I graduated and earned a journalism degree with a high GPA, but I’m not doing anything with my degree. I feel like I chose the wrong major. I only chose journalism because writing has been a hobby of mine since first grade. Despite this rationale, I waffled quite a bit with my major. Halfway through my first semester, I thought about switching to psychology; my own issues with people and my personal flaws piqued my interest in studying human behavior. After deciding I didn’t want to spend my life laboriously as a researcher in psych, I stuck with journalism. I guess that was a mistake.
If given an opportunity to redo college at BG, I would have changed my major — maybe not to psych but at least to something that matched my interests and giftings than journalism. The cumbersome tasks of news writing steered me away from print journalism, so I chose public relations as my journalism track. I honestly did not know a thing about PR (which I later realized was a fatal mistake in my decision-making). I just, I guess, rode it out, opting to learn as I went. By the time I began searching for internships in PR, I realized that PR was not for me. Every good internship I sought at an agency or reputable organization rejected me. The painstaking duties of a journalist and the discouraging internship process weren’t the only spiritual indicators that I had chosen the wrong major. At a summer retreat right before my senior year, a girl asked me whether I liked my major or not. Aside from my admiration for her physical aesthetics and her interest in my life, I cannot describe the soberness I felt from her personal question about me: “Do you like your major?” The worst thing about answering her question was also trying to describe what exactly PR is. It was at that culminating moment I completely lost interest and taste for journalism.
By the time I began my senior year, I just wanted to pass my classes and graduate so I could move on with my life. At the end of my senior year, I became interested in social work. I wanted to become a counselor, just like the one I have been talking to occasionally over the past three years. I applied to graduate school. Although I got accepted to begin in the fall, the cost of graduate housing, my car issues, and my outstanding student loans forced me to drop out of grad school for social work. Of course, there are others like me who either chose the wrong major or can’t even do a thing a with the degree they earned. Just in my case, it seems like all the peers I knew at BG are carrying on with their lives in rewarding dream careers. I’m left working at a job (and possibly a second job to come) that doesn’t even require a college degree, and I feel like a failure. I also feel like I have made a good example of why many Conservatives do not support Affirmative Action for minorities or government loans for college students. I keep thinking that one of my former roommates is saying this from time to time:
“See. You were a waste of money. This is why government college loans are bad for America. This is why you cannot give scholarships to students just because they are Black or Native American. You wasted the government’s money, and you took away a place from another person who could have done something with their time in college.“
In A Pale Lonely Sea
Social challenges related to race have also discouraged me. I cannot tell if you know this, but I’m Black, or African American (if you haven’t seen my picture on my blog yet). I have lived all but three months of my life in rural southern Ohio, a place that is about 95 to 97 percent white. I went to high school where bullies would constantly annoy me with jokes and direct statements laced with micro-aggressions (which is a form of modern covert racism). Sometimes people would look at me like they have never seen a black person before, like the guy sitting in his truck as I walked out of our local IGA. Then sometimes I felt certain people talked to me in way like they thought I was slow. (Maybe I am a bit slow?) You may have not thought about this too, but girls in high school were a problem for me to.
Girls would not date me because I obviously looked different or their fathers would not allow them to fraternize with me. Apparently, whites think it’s wrong for interracial relationships to happen. In reality, people may feel my race or another minority might hinder them from acquiring as much prestige, social acceptance, status, income, earning power and property compared to them being coupled with another white man. My counselor says this intolerance for interracial relationships is a child of familial tradition; people in rural areas tend to date/marry to people who are alike because it seems less weird, more common, and “right.” You should have been around me when my counselor revealed this way of our corrupt world to me three years ago: On the way back from his office, I felt defect, and I wished I were dead. It already feels hard to be comfortable with myself looking different than most people around me, but it feels even worse whenever romantic rejection is racially charged. I mean, I can’t help that I am attracted to women outside of my own race.
I’ve also found that a form of institutionalized, yet also covert, racism does exist in the Church. From my bad experience in a local church I visited a year ago, a lot of White churches and Black churches do worship differently. Sadly, sometimes one of the churches might invalidate the other’s salvation in Jesus Christ just because of differing world views. This is why I have felt uncomfortable attending mostly white churches recently; at the same time, I feel uneasy with the thought of ever attending a mostly black church because I know I won’t fit in.
Finally, I’ve always felt so uncomfortable living in my own skin. I’ve always thought I was white living in a black body. Basically, I have always wanted to be white so I could be happy. I’ve always wanted to have the ability to actually grow my hair long enough to fall over my eyes. I’ve always wanted to have a vibrant smile set in smooth pale skin conspicuously contrasting my dark hair, as a mark of beauty. I’ve always wanted to talk to anyone or go anywhere I want without feeling like an alien, outsider, or wraith. I’ve wanted to not fear or mistrust the police. I’ve always wanted to fit in.
Not A Sight for Sore Eyes
All things considered from what I have already disclosed, my eyes are also giving me some pain. My left eye in particular has flared up with pain over the past month in spells, due to chronic dryness. Both of my eyes feel like a desert across my face when I wake up at night now. I am not what is causing the occasional soreness in my left eye or the overall dryness in both. I have never allergic to anything. I should know this because my parents and I live with two cats of 14 human years, and my home is surrounded by a hotbed of natural outdoor allergens. I would be surprised if my work conditions is the culprit. I’ve been working at the same place for over a year now without eye problems until now.
The dry eyes come as a discouraging distraction from my story writing on my laptop. In late June, I had finished writing a solid prologue to open up my novel’s main plot. Plus, I had started writing on the first chapter so I could tie up loose ends with the middle chapters I had began writing by hand a year ago. It is my hope that medicated eye drops would alleviate the symptoms I have been dealing with so I can get back to writing soon.
Finally, the past has ruined my present and hope for a peaceful future (for the time being, at least). I keep thinking about the guy who bullied me like crazy in high school and his friends who disliked me. After seeing a recent FB photo of those guys together, I keep hoping I’m not the reason I brought them together. Likewise, I keep hoping I’m not the reason the guy I was jealous of in college has been dating a girl I was obsessed with. I also can still not get over the pain of she and her friends rejecting me and treating me like the “bad guy” while the guys in the group are like Superman and Batman. I also still get mad over a girl who disrespected and patronized me just because she didn’t like an innocent card of appreciation to her a year ago. Damn, I cannot believe I restrained myself from saying a lot of bad things to some of these people.
With everything stacked up against me, at this point in my life I wonder where the hell is God in my life? The Bible says He takes care of those He loves, He lifts up those who are oppressed, and He is steadfast in love. The God of the Bible seems fine, but where is He outside the text? Over the past few months, I’ve stopped reading my Bible, praying, and journaling, contrary to what my counselor has persistently encouraged me to do. The truth is I have been mad as hell at God. I’m thinking to myself constantly, “God, I didn’t ask you to make me this way… I’ve asked you to make things better and for justice in my life, but I don’t see anything changing… How could you allow this crap to happen?“