Over a year ago I finished school. I finished off two years which left me with a master's degree in visual arts. Upon completing school I looked for basically any job I could get my hands on. This process was fairly painless and led me to a full-time job in art supply store. So what is someone with a master's degree doing working a shitty wage slave, retail job, you ask? I admit, to asking myself that exact question every day before heading to work.

From the very beginning I knew I was selling myself short, working at a job a trained monkey could do. Yet it was a quick solution and offered a regular pay check if nothing else. Soon the tedium of full-time work set in and things around me got pretty disgusting. After coming home from work I didn't feel like doing much of anything and basically sat around for a bit before going to bed. After dealing with the same thing every day I just wanted to retreat during any free time I had. Day after day of customers treating me like dirt wore thin real fast.

After a bit of time I picked up a part-time teaching job and scaled back my hours at the art supply store. For some reason I told myself this would be better, that working part-time would give me more time to do the things I really wanted to. I also believed working part-time would make the job seem less horrible and the damage done to my world-view would quickly repair itself. This, however, did not happen. I still come home after my shift feeling like the world is an awful place and humans are basically scum. I don't want to think this way, but when people bark orders at you as though you are sub-human, and demand you to spoon-feed them all day, it's hard to think otherwise. The massive consumption alone is depressing enough, let alone dealing with mean people. I often wonder how much of this stuff is thrown out the next day or left on the shelf for years only to wind up in the landfill. All I have to do is look at the pile of art supplies I have accumulated over so many years to get that answer.

It's funny when you get a job in a place that seems semi-cool thinking that the clientele might be more progressive and interesting, but turn out to be just as asshole as any other service industry job. If nothing, this job has taught me to pay more attention to my spending habits and how I treat other people working in similar positions. After a while of this kind of job people seem to develop some kind of callous of the soul which allows them to keep doing the same thing for great stretches of time. While a job may be shitty and boring, it's also familiar and pretty dependable. The allure of a bi-weekly pay check and certainty of such pay check is often enough to keep one in their place. Add the dulled sense of ambition that comes with the job and you figure out a way to feel more or less comfortable with your lot in life.

The comfort you tell yourself you feel and the undesirability of looking for something new makes quitting a crap job rather daunting, but at a certain point you have to ask who is more stupid, your boss for treating you like dirt or you for taking it. I decided to take the path of uncertainty and give my notice. You hold on until you hit bottom figuring your job will get better because it can't really get worse, but then it does. It gets much worse, and the crappy job suddenly becomes a career in the blink of an eye. Seeing the manager's lifelessness after serving 20 years doing the same thing I have for only a year is incentive enough to give notice. So where is all this going anyway? Well, I'd like to say here, in print that this will be the last of such jobs I will have. The unfortunate thing is these jobs are pretty easy to get and do the trick in a pinch.

From the first day at the job I knew that something was wrong. That actually accepting this job clearly demonstrated a real lack of self-esteem. But this job is also symptomatic of a much larger problem facing hoards of art school graduates all over the place. A lot of people who are serious about making art wind up at art school thinking it will help them further their careers. I believe this is true on some levels, but the real story is pretty complicated. In utilitarian terms, getting a degree in visual arts is pretty useless. The arts attract a lot of dreamers; people who want to look at things differently, talk about things differently, and continually learn from one another. This is all good and I could argue at length about the value of art, but a big problem is that all of these higher pursuits don't mesh that well with commerce.

If what you are really looking for is practical advice on how to survive in this world as an artist, I would suggest you don't bother going to university. This is the thing, and it's a huge oversight on the part of academia, university won't teach you how to takes slides, how to apply for shows or grants, how to write up a proposal or set up your own studio. This inevitably leads to so many people stumbling their way through complicated processes, and everyone making the same mistakes, and everyone trying to keep their information as secret as possible to cut down on the competition. I assume this is no small mistake or omission on behalf of the educators or universities. If you don't give people the tools they really need to survive they eventually settle for something else which makes the market more open for those willing to stick it out, or those who are already established. In an attempt at maintaining academic purity or something you wind up with a lot of smart folks working in crappy retail jobs so they can pay rent.

I've decided that I've had enough of being treated like garbage, wasting my time at a place where I really wouldn't care if someone walked out the front door with an armload of goods. I'm tired of everyone's demands and attempts (and successes) at dividing the people I work with. I'm tired of feeling like I have nothing more to offer, of feeling like any day I could show up at work with a bomb strapped to my chest, of watching my ambition and dreams walk right out the door past me. Change is scary, but it is also vital and what makes life interesting.

Talk to me.