Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Have You Been Schooled Lately?

I love shkool.
Our society says education is really important. You can’t get a good job if you aren't schooled. But then they school you by making you pay a million dollars to go to school. Then, when you can’t foot the bill because you don’t have a good job because you don’t have the schooling, they might let you take out a student loan, depending on whether your parents were nice enough to make under a certain amount of money but not nice enough to make enough money to pay for it. Then there are the really unlucky souls whose parents make more than enough to pay for school but they want to punish their child for all the pain and suffering they've caused. But what happens after you take out a student loan and you’re done all your schooling? Well, you’ve got thousands to pay off and not nearly as many job prospects as they pretend. I bet they didn't tell you they were playing pretend, did they? Maybe they don't know that when you're playing pretend you have to say, "Pretend you're the dad and I'm the mom and Jimmy's the baby," and then Jimmy will say, "Why do I have to be the baby?" And you'll say, "Just because, Jimmy, just because." The good news is that with any luck you might be able to get that good paying job that you couldn’t before. The bad news is that for the first decade of your life any money you think you are making doesn’t actually belong to you. You are not working for your livelihood, you are working for the schooling you had to take in order to get that job.

Fortunately, I love school. I’ve decided I love it so much I will never leave, like that guy who lived on campus for 25 years, only I will actually be taking classes and not living on campus. For many who live in Victoria, it is beyond ridiculously expensive to live here. It is 87% more ridiculous to live in Victoria than anywhere else in the solar system, except Pluto (you wouldn’t believe the real estate prices on Pluto) (if you don't trust my facts click here.) And unfortunately homelessness does not bode well for education as it is hard to do your homework without a table and writing on the pavement leaves way too many bumps on your paper. Thankfully I get to live at home but still have to pay a reasonable amount of rent. I’ve been in school now for five years, which isn’t actually very long and I’ve only got another semester after this to finish (right now I’m taking the same class over again… not because I failed, but because it's part of the program. I hope you believe me). But I can’t imagine taking four classes anymore. Back then I wasn’t working full time but some people do work full time and still they take four or more classes! But they’re insane, so they probably won’t get a job after they graduate. Then again a lot of insane people are really genius's, so if they don’t end up in Eric Martin they're good to go. Then again, again, you could probably still have a job and live at Eric Martin, like one of those “work at home” type jobs. Maybe all those ads about making $1000 a day from working at home are really people living in institutions. It makes sense.

What I like about the writing program is that it's very much like a four year practicum. I have met some people who don’t quite understand why you would go to school for something like writing, but I wonder if they would say that about art as well. As if writing just comes naturally but sculpting doesn’t? No, anything can come naturally, but that doesn’t mean it comes well. Just like a psychology student might go to school to become a good psychologist. They could still do the job without it - you know, listen to people and diagnose them - they’d just be terrible at it and end up sending everyone to an insane asylum where they'd make $1000 a day... Maybe we should all go check ourselves in...

I love when people ask me what I’m taking in school, especially if they then ask me what I plan on doing after I graduate, something I constantly make the mistake of thinking is obvious, when obviously it’s not. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“What are you taking?” nice person asks.
“Writing,” I say. 
“So what do you want to do after you’re done?”
“Be a writer.”
“So like a journalist?”
“No, that’s journalism.”
“So like English?”
“No, that’s English.”
And if they’re really talkative and haven’t been greatly offended by my elusiveness, they ask, “What do you want to write?”
“Books,” I say. “Lots and lots of books.”
“But what are you going to write about?”
And that’s where the conversation usually ends. In real life I’m actually a lot nicer and ask them what they are doing and if it is something truly horrible and boring I pretend to be interested because that is just the nice person I am, but obviously never actually remember what they said next time I see them and inevitably have this conversation over again until one of us starts feeling déjà vu. Déjà vu is weird because it never actually happens when you really have done something before, it just tricks you into thinking you have. What if you had déjà vu about taking some heart medication and then you don’t take it because you think you already have? What then? That’s where your schooling comes in handy, because you will have been taught important lessons like, “Never trust déjà vu. It will always let you down.” But no, school didn't teach you that, I did, I taught you that. School never actually teaches you things you need to know to survive, unless you are in nursing or some other life saving educational class. School is not street smart. So, children, drop out of school while you're still young so you have a chance at life.

But in all seriousness, I should be thankful that I have the opportunity to even go to school. Though my parents can’t pay for it, I am one of the lucky people in the world who can take out a student loan, no matter that it might take me forever to pay it off. I will survive and I will get to do something I love, even if all my furniture gets taken away by collectors at least I will have family to support me. All my limbs and parts are intact, they might not work very well, but they’re intact. My brain works alright. I have a job, it’s not a great job but it’s more than bearable, and though I live in a small townhouse with my parents, I am currently not homeless and my freezer is overflowing with TV dinners. That is a lot more than most people in the world can say. In fact, I am blessed, and I've got a God who more than puts up with me. Time to stop complaining.

...that's never going to happen.

I'm trying to work on my similes and metaphors and I found these. Apparently they are from The Washington Post Style Invitational from a few years ago, but I couldn't find them on their website. Regardless, these are my favorites. I think they could really help spice up my writing.
  • "He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree."
  • "Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph."
  • "John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met." (My personal favorite).
  • "Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do."
  • "He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something."


  1. Pluto's overrated anyway. And unicorns only exist in central Uruguay. And there are no direct flights there, so they're pretty much out of reach for most people.
    After reading this, I do wonder if I'm one of those people at whom you just nod and then have this deja vu thing during our next encounter (when, in fact, it's not deja vu because the conversation actually happened, but you just didn't remember it). Well, if you're disinterested, you're convincingly interested.

    There's a great article by Heather Mallick of the Globe and Mail on the topic of degrees and writing. It's from about a year back, but it might inspire (or deflate, or both).
    Keep writing! It's fun to read!


  2. Haha, thanks Steve. Agreed: Pluto IS overrated. Obviously I will have to catch a boat to central Uruguay and get me a unicorn. But I can neither affirm nor deny whether you are one of those people, otherwise everyone will start quizzing me to see if I remember what they do in school or work and I will inevitably start hurting people's feelings and I know you wouldn't want that to happen because you are a fairly nice guy.