So, a couple of nights ago, I was treated to yet another round of lecturing, pressuring and putdowns from my mother regarding how I don't have a plan for my future, how she thinks I'm not thinking enough about how I'm going to make a living after college, blah blah blah. In this lecture, she managed to belittle my Megamovies job, insult my love of movies ("it's fun; that's all it is"), and even suggest that I'd probably never become a very good journalist ("you're not curious enough," she says).
Does she have any idea how much she has a tendency to shatter my confidence at the most inopportune moments? Shoot, even my counselor at Rutgers, when she heard about this, said she felt angry at her for what she said to me. Stupid Asian parents; only thing they seem to know how to be is blunt as a sledgehammer. (Sound stereotypical? So be it.)
But enough about the whining. Some of you have heard it from me a million times before. I guess one good thing came out of my mother's well-intentioned but deeply misguided and unsuccessful attempt at reaching out to me: it got me thinking again about my future. Where am I headed after college? What should I do if I want to get to where I want to be, say, ten or twenty years in the future?
First of all, where do I want to be ten or twenty years in the future? Well, I guess the easy answer is: I want to be writing about movies, being a film critic somewhere. More complicated answer: film critic---and a respected one, not just one of these small-time film reviewers---but also able to make a reasonably steady living to support my writing. (Family? Well, I'm not really thinking about that at this point; I don't even have a girlfriend right now, heck.)
I could probably come up with a variety of different ways to achieve film critic-hood, I guess. Start out as a regular journalist and somehow advance to the ranks of writing about movies on a regular basis. Maybe join up with some film website---or create one, I dunno---and get some experience and exposure there. Something like that.
It's the "making a reasonably steady living" part that worries both me and my mother. Journalists, as most people probably know, don't really get paid all that much: maybe $20,000 a year for small-time journalists, maybe even less. Would I really have to think about doing part-time teaching on the side in order to finance my writing career? The prospect of having to do that makes me nervous; I've never considered myself teacher material. (But then, I'm not sure if I'm really journalism material, either; I'm not the most gregarious person around, and maybe Mom is right when she suggests that I could be more curious and knowledgeable about things other than movies.) But if that's what I have to do to pay the bills, I guess I'll have to do it. And what about health insurance, nice place to live, all that mundane stuff? Those are important things to have in this country; what if I can't afford them because I don't get nearly enough income?
See, most people would probably optimistically tell me stuff like "Oh, don't worry about it. You'll find a way; things always work out in the end." Maybe it's Mom's influence talking to me here, but that's always sounded just a little too sugary to me. Do they? I suspect they do only if the person himself has the wits to overcome such challenges---wits that sometimes I'm not sure I've come close to developing.
You know, I've told myself over these past few months that yes, I have to brace myself for challenges ahead if this is the path I want to take. I chose this path, even when my mother was ignorantly pushing the accounting thing on me (an ignorance that she has apologized for once or twice with only a modicum of sincerity, to my ears). But I sometimes wonder whether I'm just saying that, or if I'm actually genuinely ready to face the challenge of possibly starving for my art. (Am I falling into the Jonathan Larson Rent trap of glamorizing the starving artist lifestyle?)
I guess my biggest worry right now is: am I doing nearly enough right now to prepare myself for my future? Yeah, I'm writing occasional pieces for Pulse, and I'm slated to become an editor at the Inside Beat. But I'm still mostly pigeonholing myself in one field, movies. Shouldn't I be more enterprising, trying to improve, say, my interviewing skills or something? Shouldn't I be a lot more active than I am? And don't even get me started on my laxity in the whole finding-an-internship thing: the farthest I've gotten is finding some listings in an internship book. Little action otherwise. (Boy, sometimes it seems motivation is so hard for me to summon up for myself; perhaps a bad sign for my future success as a wannabe journalist?)
The question of graduate school has come back into my view.
Initially, I was thinking about trying my luck on the job market before jumping into graduate school somewhere. (I was thinking of Columbia; that's where one of my favorite film critics, Armond White, got his Film History-Theory-Criticism MFA.) But I'm starting to think: should I just try for graduate school right after I graduate from Rutgers? Hey, I'd be staying in school, and thus, in the eyes of some people (ahem, Mom, ahem), staving off the "real world" a little bit more.
But keep your options open, Kenji: what if you get some nice internship somewhere and impress your employers so much that they decide they want you to work full time for them or something? Well I guess that's something that I'd have to play by ear.
All these are half-formed ideas about my future that I've never really bothered to explain at length to my mother. Dunno if I care to, really. What does it matter? I have a feeling she'd poke some hole in my plan anyway and then suggest that I still have some more thinking to do.
I just wonder, though, if what I have in my mind is enough...