Last weekend I unexpectedly visited my undergrad alma mater, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) with two of my favorite people on the planet, who I happened to attend said school with.
While I’ve been back there before, and was even on an alumni panel for my major one year, I hadn’t gone back since another chapter of my life closed. Immediately following TCNJ, I began grad school at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC. In my program at SVA, you could either finish it in 2 years full time or over 4 years part time. I did a mix of both, but the point was, once those 4 years were up, you’d have to start the program all over again.
While I was happy for the new graduates out of TCNJ this May, I was a bit bittersweet towards the SVA ones. This would have been the year I graduated from SVA, if I hadn’t dropped out.
But I dropped out. I am a grad school dropout. Fully employed person though, sooooo ya gotta pick your battles. But it still sucks.
My first year at SVA went fine, and I attended full time, but by the second year, I was questioning the program and my priorities for a number of reasons. And then I got an offer at my current studio that I could not refuse. While there were initially talks to attend SVA and work full time, SVA was very reluctant to allow it. It was a constant back and forth. My company was behind me, professors were behind me, but a compromise couldn’t be met.
So here I am.
None of this is what I expected. If you’d told me on my graduation day from TCNJ what would be happening five Mays later, it would have been too good to be true. Admittedly, that too-good-to-be-true feeling has mellowed out, not for anything bad–it’s just that everything eventually becomes your new norm. Though, I know I’d have been sad to hear that I lost SVA in the process–I still am. I really was so close to finishing, and I really did enjoy my experience there. I still some times even think about going back to grad school. Maybe not SVA anymore though, just because, again, my priorities have shifted a bit. Internet fave Ahsante just posted a video (to another amazing channel, New Age Creators) that has a lot of the sentiments I felt at that time:
The only difference was that I did try to stick it out. I tried to do both, despite the burn-out and mental anguish. And they wouldn’t let me. At the end of the day, it is what it is. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have had the support I’ve had academically. TCNJ gave me amazing friends, supportive professors, freedom (some times to a fault) to experiment and explore many areas, and experiences I will cherish. SVA gave me friends who I learned just as much from as the professors, and amazing professors. It challenged me, it drove me to the edge, and it forced me to take a step back. Of course, just going to school beyond high school in and of itself was an amazing privilege–one that I’m acutely aware that neither of my parents had, and thus worked hard for me to have.
I’m someone who will always love academia–the structure, the deadlines, the organization. I struggled a lot after it all ended, when I was really, actually done with school (lol for now?) and still take classes and try to learn as much as I can. That’s the important thing. You don’t stop learning after school. You don’t let failures stop you. Because I do consider it a failure. I failed to finish school, to get my degree. That’s not a bad thing though. Americans need to stop equating failure with negatives. Obviously, things worked out for me. I won’t NOT say that, that I’d be saying totally different things if they hadn’t worked out for me. I wasn’t expecting them to pan out this way, that’s for sure. But it’s definitely because, like I mentioned, I looked for opportunities to learn beyond the classroom. I know I’m being super vague, and this isn’t really any type of advice post or story with a lesson. Some day I’ll get more specific, maybe as an advice video or something more specific for AnimationComplex.com since I attended digital art/animation programs. I guess the one thing I have to say is to keep moving forward. Cliche as fuck but it’s the truth. Take a class here and there, sign up for free classes online (and actually do them), hell, you can learn so much even from YouTube. Join local groups relevant to what you do. Getting your foot in the door is a challenge. School admittedly does often make that easier, but no matter what it’s all on you to create chances for opportunities.
Congrats, Class of 2017.