Birth of a Pedagogue
You’re graduating in December? What are you planning to do after that?
I hate this question.
It’s up there with “Where are you going to college?” and “What are you planning on majoring in?” The problem is that adults want a succinct answer to all three questions, and I only have the first two down.
Well, Uncle Ted, I only applied to school such-and-such and I got in, so I’m obviously going there.
Oh, Aunt Edna, you know my passion has been biomedical engineering, so clearly I will be following that path in college and for the rest of my life.
I have no succinct answer for the third question, and it won’t be easy to find one. It took me months to figure out where I was going to college, and I only recently discovered I don’t want to have a job associated with my chosen major. I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with the rest of the year, let alone the rest of my life.
Actually, that’s a lie. I do have some idea, but it’s so hard to explain.
I’ve been obsessed with theater and performing arts my whole life. There wasn’t a summer I didn’t attend theater camp. I went to a performing arts high school where a whirlwind three days in Stratford Canada — we saw six shows in those three days — was our biggest field trip of the year.
By senior year, though, I started watching way too much television. I started feeling a little tired of auditioning for parts I never got and I took to heart a comment my playwriting teacher made about my play reading more like a sitcom pilot. I decided, almost on a whim, to abandon theater, to major in television and film.
I interned in that field, and I took classes like “The Business of Hollywood” and “The Creative Life in Television.” While I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it either. Overall, I couldn’t see myself as an adult working in the entertainment industry.
Then, of course, I had a flashback to my last summer job: as the Drama specialist at a Jewish summer camp.
I watched kids gain confidence on stage and become more confident in themselves, the way I did when I was 10 and 12. I saw a play over which I had complete control, and I felt amazingly fulfilled when kids at our cast party told me that because their first experience on-stage was so awesome, they would audition for their school play.
How can you compare that to getting a note from assistants nondescriptly thanking you for “All your hard-work?” Was picking up that replacement Blackberry for the mid-level executive you secretly hated so hard, or even fulfilling?
Ask anyone else which is more exciting: a job at a Los Angeles production company in charge of the number one show on television; a job directing a bunch of Jewish kids in a ridiculously campy version of High School Musical, a job which includes playing improvisation games involving the word sausage with immature 10-year-old boys.
Most people would pick Los Angeles. I don’t think I could.
In Los Angeles, coworkers scream and stress about getting Mr. Overpaid Celebrity his coffee, and accidentally dropping that call from the mid-level agent representing the no-talent teen star. At camp, I taught kids about something that changed my life.
This is hard to explain succinctly; life is hard to explain succinctly. No one wants to hear the whole story when they ask me what I want to do after graduation, but this is the truth, and I’m sure it’s the truth for most recent graduates. You think you know what you want and then one day you wake up and realize you were completely wrong.
If you had told me a year ago I’d be looking into internships at private schools in Boston and graduate programs in theater education rather than finding an office job in Los Angeles or New York, I would have questioned your sanity. Who knows if I’ll still be excited in a year? Right now, I’m excited about what I think I want to do.
Just don’t ask me about it at the next dinner party.