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A Year in Review

May 5, 2011

Nearly one year ago, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from a premiere state institution in southeastern Virginia. I was entering the real world with a degree that was best suited for entering graduate school during one of the largest recessions the country has seen since the late 70s. During this time I couldn’t help but also begin to read the economic and cultural analysis of what became of those people who had graduated from college into that recession thirty to forty years later. The results were grim.

People who graduate into recessions often have trouble finding work, leaving blank spots on their resumes or chunks that show working in skill-less labor and service positions. When they do eventually make it into their chosen career paths they often suffer from lower salaries, a startling lack of promotions, and are known to be generally less successful than colleagues who enter the workforce either a few years before or a few years after them. This all was coupled by one of Obama’s top economic advisers using my class’s commencement speech to remind us all of the fact that this was the worst economic down swing since the Great Depression. All throughout the crowd on my commencement day you could see the bored and shocked expressions of students slowly realizing they’d have trouble finding temp work and the hopes of getting that apartment with their friends in DC or Richmond was quickly turning into the reality that they’d be living in their parent’s basements while working at their old high school job if they were lucky. The stands of the basketball arena where parents and siblings sat were filled with the sad faces of families facing mortgage issues, people who might have lost their jobs or lay awake at night fearing that they may lose them at any moment.

I however sat there thinking that things would be alright for me. I was a smooth talker, I was energetic, possessed of a good work ethic, and had a strong track record of success. Best of all, I was bittersweetly blessed from a malpractice lawsuit when I was a child. At my birth, the doctor made mistakes which struck me with a variety of injuries that thanks to the dedication of my family and modern medicine I was able to surpass and be possessed of a fully functioning body. This malpractice suit left me with the most important thing a person graduating into a recession needs desperately: a nest egg. I knew that at the very least I would be able to float by for some time without a job. But I was unconcerned with floating because I could only think: Damn It, I’m Employable!

Despite dreams of pursuing a career as a writer and moving to New York City or Los Angeles, I was convinced to ‘play it safe’ and move to Alexandria, Virginia outside of the District with my drinking buddy and his girlfriend. In DC I knew that I also had friends who had graduated before me with jobs in the government, education, and a government contractor. Certainly, I realized, a job there wouldn’t be something difficult to find. Three months of job applications, and countless federal job tests later and I had not received a single phone call.

In the mean time my roommate luckily had been able to find work as a research assistant at a powerful law firm and his now-fiance was returning to our college to finish her final semester. I was left somewhat broken however, perhaps when the career center adviser had told me that students from our college rarely graduate with jobs and have trouble finding them I should have accepted this bleak fact rather than believing that I would somehow set the curve.

I spent many of my days starting to wonder what I was doing in the vast suburban wasteland of Northern Virginia. A place that only continuously reminded me of my adolescent suburban angst. The only thing that had kept me leaving the house was my attempt to venture into stand-up comedy. At the time though I could only sit around and debate why I spent three years of my life studying how to analyze culture, and assemble data, if I was only using my knowledge to tell dick jokes.

In mid-August however, a horrible drunken confrontation with an old flame and a number of other factors resulted in me waking up one morning and realizing that I had to begin to fix myself. I could not sit around blaming my alma mater for my lack of success, and I couldn’t spend the rest of my days trying to obtain a job in fields I had no interest in. I began to apply myself deeply to comedy, and my writing.

Quickly though I began to feel myself being dragged down by the natural state of where I lived. I began to fall into a rhythm of avoiding my roommate simply out of a desire to have as limited of conversations with anyone as possible. I stayed cloistered in my room watching television shows on the internet under the self-delusion that one day I would write a spec script for them. People began to worry if I was doing alright. The best thing that happened to me over the next four months was that I was hosting one of the few open mics in the DC area.

It was the morning after I returned from my first Homecoming as an alumni that I realized I needed to leave or else I would one day do something terrible. Every person I met was a constant reminder of problems I see with modern America: white collar jobs that produce nothing, political squabbles that get us nowhere, bleeding hearts that are too blind to see the harm they do, and everyone possessing an air of futility. The futility that comes from knowing you are dissatisfied with your life but that there is nothing you can do, because this system is the result of decades if not centuries of advancement to provide you with a wonderful and easy life. I wondered sometimes if it was my own beliefs painting these interactions, if I had somehow lost my objectivity as an observer. No matter what though, I realized that the apartment I lived in was not my home and it never was and never would be. By December of 2010, I was gone.

By the New Year I was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was suddenly surrounded by people all striving to meet their own personal goals. I was able to reunite with old friends, and I was now able to seriously pursue my comedy every night. The city around me no longer confounded my attempts to live a night owl lifestyle but instead quietly embraced it. Five months have passed, and while I have yet to achieve super-stardom as a comedian, I feel like I’m slowly stumbling around to a proper path toward it. I’ve finally finished editing my novella that I began in the Amazon rain forest, and have finally decided to publish it through the kindle and nook rather than seek paper publication. I dream that hopefully it’s internet release will result in the ability to one day obtain an agent and actually hold it in my hands. Still though, while I see more job opportunities in the fields that I would like to enter, I have started to realize that my attempt to spend a year building my portfolio has instead been a year spent clawing myself out of the hole I put myself in.

Which is what brings us to today. This blog goes live as my attempt to prove that I can write on a regular basis. To show to myself that I can write witty copy, and intriguing op-eds. Along with this project, I begin to slowly return to prose, as well as hopefully begin the podcast I started speaking of nearly a year ago. My friends, and thus presumably first readers, know that this year has been one of ups and downs, a mixture of mistakes and small triumphs. People who’ve known me for even longer than them might know that this isn’t my first foray into blogging. I promise that it’s been several years of maturation since then and now.

  1. Shay permalink

    You go Marcus.

  2. Laura permalink

    Maybe this will give me the motivation I need to get my porfolio/blog running.

  3. Russo permalink

    I’m glad that New York is treating you well. Kick some ass.

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