Whatever you do, don’t panic, hold onto the edge of your seat, clench your teeth, close your eyes, and tell yourself out loud, “Everything is going to be all right.”
Of course, we all know everything isn’t going to be all right. In fact, it’ll most likely be boring, occasionally painful, and most often unsatisfying. However, it’s the art of self-deception that keeps our mind from drowning in insanity. Upon from graduating college, where I studied film and television screenwriting, I realized that returning to my home with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in a relatively rural, small town, I was going to find it a little difficult.
The term “screenwriting” to most people in the area meant that I actually, physically went to an art supply store, bought a screen, possibly a window screen… and wrote on it. Having to explain the actual meaning of screenwriting wasn’t much easier: um, come up with an idea… type it on Microsoft Word… tab key a lot of it… some space bars… lots of capital letters… action… oh and all of it has to be Courier New font… and wallah! You have a new movie!”
So… most of the time I stick to their idea of what I went to school for – just because it’s easier. Enough about me– this is about everyone who for some reason in their life was blinded by the possibilities of a truly, passionate artistic endeavor… only to find that the “real world” wasn’t really that interested.
Here’s some things to think about for those of us, who despite reality’s seeming disinterest, continue to pursue a life with a great, though laughable BFA degree:
1. As I said before, don’t freak out. At least, not too much. But you probably will anyway.
2. Find a use for you BFA diploma. Put in on a wall. Decorate it with pasta shells and glitter. Maybe even fold it into an origami animal. Who knows, maybe your first great work of art will be your diploma… literally.
3. You have to get a real job. Remember when your parents nagged you about the fact that you’ll never get a real job with a degree in painting or acting? Well, it’s kind of true… that is, if you chose to mention any trace of your ambition to a possible future employer. So don’t say anything but: “Yes, I’d love to spend eight hours a day restocking aisle five.” Because the thing is: they don’t care.
4. Try to fit in your artistic talent as much as you can into your daily schedule. So when you get a chance between drive-thru orders, scribble pictures on a napkin. Maybe someone will take a second glance after they use it to wipe up a coffee spill. Or if you have acting chops, put some Shakespearian zest into your performance when kneeling to put a size seven and a half sandal on an elderly woman’s left foot.
5. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS YOU OR YOUR ART. Get over it.
6. It’s time for you to think about bills and taxes and health insurance. That pile of white paper and envelopes building up on the kitchen table now has your name on it… and lots of big numbers. Take a seat. Push the chair in. Get a calculator. And start signing away your soul.
7. Put a post-it note on your bathroom mirror that says, “Hey it was only four years.” That way you can be reminded that even if it was a waste of time: hey it was only four years. I mean, that’s like kindergarten to third grade. A breeze.
8. Did I mention not to panic?
So most of this probably sounds like a downer, right? Well. That’s because it is. Our society has always supported personal and individual growth – I mean, anyone can be a superstar if they put their minds to it. But you have to survive the pains of reality first, before the amazing lifestyle, especially if you have particularly empty pockets.
Having a BFA is amazing, but it also really sucks. But that doesn’t mean you push it away in a drawer and forget about it – it just means you have to work harder… and increasingly become a cynical person. Struggle builds character, doesn’t it? Well… I think it does… I guess, what I’m trying to say is that for everyone like me – good luck. You’re really really going to need it.