Lighting the Fuse, Providing a Spark

After almost four years of being in the UK cannon, President Lee Todd is about to light the fucking fuse and send me on my way.  For those of you not following, I graduate on May 4 of this year.  For those of you without a calendar, that’s three weeks from tomorrow.  To quote Clark Griswold: “Hallelujah, holy shit…where’s the Tylenol?” The headache doesn’t come from just suddenly realizing that, in a few short days, I’ll be the first college graduate in my family (although it was enough to make me sit down and take a few deep breaths).  

The headache comes from the frenzied job search as a result of this revelation, and from the realization that, in order to both make it and make it interesting, you’ve gotta do some work on the side.  This may not be news to some of you, but for others, this little tidbit may new and true. I came to college with the mindset that was implanted in my brain–you go four years, you get your degree, you get a job.  Period.  Nobody said that, if things got hairy, I could take an extra semester or two of classes (I am getting my degree in four years, but barely).  In addition, no one prepared me for the modern working world (more on what I think this means in a minute).  I mean, I know that I have to work in order to make money, which is convenient because I use money to pay my bills, but beyond that, things were a little hazy.  

Let’s focus on work.  I work 7.5 hours a week at a campus job (which I will lose when I graduate) and another 19-24 hours a week at a night/weekend job.  Not only is that not enough to cover my bills (I was fortunate and was able to use money I had saved for this purpose) but neither of the jobs excite me that much.  So, what’s a graduate to do?

Personally, I plan on using my spare time—which I’m defining as time not spent working either of my “real jobs”—to do just what I’m doing now: work on something I do enjoy.  I enjoy writing.  I enjoy blogging.  I enjoy playing music. 

Some of you are probably thinking, “Mike, how is that going to help you with your ever-approaching bill-paying problem?”  Glad you asked, and let’s get one thing straight: it’s not a problem, or at least I don’t see it that way.  It is merely something that needs to get done and will be done, more than likely through getting a part-time day job to go along with my night/weekend job until something full-time comes along. 

It helps to understand that, unless you’re well-connected, you’re going to have to work your way up from the bottom.  Shoot for a job you want, but don’t be too proud to accept a different job that will allow you to take care of your debts—there is always work for those who are searching.  Grab a job and stick with it—you don’t want a “here-and-there” sort of resume. 

Back to the fun stuff.  The way I see it, the “modern working world” is forcing, and is going to continue to force workers to grab money from more than one source.  A good example is a friend of mine who works part-time at a local record store, goes to school full-time, and also has his own music blog—it’s actually a really neat little site, check it out at www.youaintnopicasso.com. 

This works out well for him—he’s a music lover, so working in a record store is like letting a 5-year-old work in a candy store, minus the tangled-up mess of child labor laws.  The blog, however, is also a source of income.  It’s been a slow-going process—I think he’s had the site since November of 2004—but the investment has proved to be worthwhile; he was originally doing it for fun, and now he has ads on his site and probably gets paid by the click, the way most other website/advertiser deals work.  He gets a bit of money, and he’s doing something he likes—starting to get the picture?

Once you start to think of things this way, try to see it in action.  Ryan Seacrest is a good example.  I don’t really care for American Idol that much, but that’s not the point.  Seacrest is the host of what is arguably the most watched show on television (I don’t have the numbers, but I’ll venture a guess).  Even he, however, has several other jobs—most of them as a radio DJ.  Almost every interview with him shows him saying how much he looked up to Dick Clark and Casey Kasem when he was younger, and now look where he is—new co-host and eventual successor to Clark on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, and host since around 2003 of American Top 40, the program Kasem created.  Does Ryan Seacrest need the money he gets from doing those gigs?  Of course not.  He does it because he likes it (and the money’s probably not that bad, either).

So, if you’re sitting there reading this, and you’re feeling the pressure of work, graduation, or something else, take a look at your situation and see if you could add a little more play to a work-heavy day.  It also might help to think about learning a new skill or two.  If structured the right way, you might even be able to make a bit of money at it.  At the very least, it should relieve a bit of the stress that life can put on you, and allow you to think about how you might shift your priorities and tasks around in such a way as to make your life go smoother.  That’s my goal, anyway—that, and to not fall down while walking across the stage to receive my diploma.  

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