Monday, January 28, 2008

I never admitted it was a mistake before

Today is the first time I've ever admitted to myself that going to MSUM might have been a mistake.

In my senior year of high school, I applied to various colleges with no real desired destination. I got accepted to a few that I really liked, including the physics program at RIT, the Rochester Institute of Technology in Ithaca, NY, whom the U.S. News and World Report ranks as having the 8th best master's program in the nation.

At the time, I chose to go to MSUM instead, telling people it was because RIT cost about $35k a year for tuition and housing. The truth, however, was that I didn't want to leave the girl I was seeing at the time.

We broke up the following year when she moved away to college.


I always told myself that going to MSUM was still the right thing to do. It was cheap enough that I didn't have any student loans to pay off when I graduated, it was small enough that I got a lot of personal help from the professors and they actually cared about me as a student, and I had friends here to help me adjust to the college life. Now, I don't think those things justify what I did.

I'm applying for jobs now, and while I have a bachelor's degree in physics, saying that it's from Minnesota State University doesn't quite hold the prestige that RIT does. I've looked at applying to the FBI as a Special Agent, and one thing is requires is a degree from an accredited university. I believe MSUM counts because there have been MSUM students who have gone into the FBI, but there's still a slight sting in knowing that RIT would have more prestige and give me an edge in the job market.

My life hasn't been bad since I made this decision. I'd actually go so far as to say it's been quite good. College was fun; I made some good friends, kept in contact with some great friends, gotten help with homework when I needed it and as I said, walked away with a degree and no student loans to pay off.

Still, now I'm looking at moving away, and I'm starting to realize that maybe I stuck around, not necessarily just for the girl I was with, but because I was scared to leave. I'm not scared to leave now - I'm borderline giddy about the idea - but now it's starting to occur to me that the choice I made almost 5 years ago, while at the time I thought very sweet and courageous of me, I'm now seeing as an act of cowardice and a mistake. I didn't do what I did just for her - she was telling me to go to RIT - I did it for me and I used her to justify it.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe I condemned my career because of this. MSUM is hardly a well known name - it doesn't even register on most "college rankings" sites. I was always told that a bachelor's in physics practically guarantees you a job. Well, the "practically" in that sentence comes with a big asterisk that means it's only if you're from a well-known university. I'm not. The job hunt isn't that easy.

Still, I may have found something. It's not much right now - just a response from a company executive about the job asking a few questions - but I think it has a chance to become something. It's for a position as an optical engineer for a company, which I'd absolutely revel. It would put me into a career where I get to use what I've learned in school, it would look great on a resume for future jobs, and it could help me get into graduate school as work experience in the field.

Maybe I didn't condemn my career or my life by staying here, but part of me knows that I could be doing a lot better than I am. Still, moping about it won't change anything. I may have made things harder than I needed to, but I'm used to doing that to myself. A self-sabotaging narcissist is a rather odd combination, and it definitely doesn't make life easy, but at least it makes it interesting.

1 comment:

Krusty said...

Well, whatever you do, can't be as bad as that other job you had, the technician one for McDonalds or whatever.

I'm one of those people with scarily good memory, really.