Rebecca Cohen | @rebeccaocohen
I am 26 years old. In the trajectory of my life, imagined at age seven, I thought I would be a married grown-up by now, ideally starring in a Broadway show. Suffice it to say, things don’t tend to work out the way you imagine at age seven.
I majored in Theatre and English at a mid-sized college in upstate New York. Five months and several auditions after graduation, the reality of the real world hit me hard: financial instability, fiercely competitive auditions and parents keeping hardcore tabs on me. After months of misery, I decided to shift gears and work on the business side of Broadway. Two internships later, I landed a job at a Broadway advertising agency, where I learned to work in social media management, and I moved into my first apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Finally! Drinks after work, lunches in midtown, Saturday nights out with newfound friends – it was the dream. But there was one major problem: I was unhappy and couldn’t put my finger on why. At age 23, I felt sad and stuck. I switched jobs to another agency, where I was promoted and handled social media clients in the television arena. Three months into that job, I again felt unhappy. I turned to my mother, who assured me that at age 25, I wasn’t too old to do anything I wanted. So I began applying to English Education programs, – the perfect fit for an actress and bibliophile who absolutely loved school. I was so excited – and so nervous.
Responses from people I told about the switch ranged from incredibly supportive to incredibly surprised and judgmental. The enthused responses came mostly from people who knew me in high school and college. The latter were mostly from people who’d met me in the city. The difference made me brazenly aware of how much I had lost myself.
I have been an M.A. student in Adolescent English Education at Hunter College for six months now. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- In marketing, I liked that people were impressed with what I did significantly more than the job itself. That wasn’t enough of a reason me to keep a job.
- The late-night emails from bosses that gave me such anxiety were, in retrospect, enormously unfounded. I was never cut out for the 24-hour office experience.
- Strong writing skills can get you most anywhere.
- There is no “there yet.” Decisions are never set in stone.
- Wherever you go, there you are. I am loving my school experience. But the issues I have with myself – food, relationships and certain friendships – went to school right along with me.
- My brain had been dormant since college in many ways. I have learned more through academia in six months than I had in years. I feel smarter, fuller.
Graduate school is not like undergrad: it’s real life combined with school, without the glorious delusions of being tucked away on a suburban campus. For me, it’s marrying the life I created in the city with my new academic one.
I’m working on it. And I’m working on accepting that the childhood vision I created of myself at 26 was created before I knew who I would be.
I’m learning to let it go.