I found this in my Tumblr drafts today. I must have written it two-and-a-half years ago, before I left a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to take one at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. This is still something that bothers me, that I still see at play in the world (or at least, in New York), so what the hell - I’m going to post it.
So, as of today, I’ve had three jobs in the 2.5 years since I left school. In getting these jobs, I’ve also heard Penn mentioned … a lot. People in interviews will mention it in an offhand way (“obviously you have great qualifications. (pause) I see Penn here.”) or overtly (“we want someone who went to a top school, like Penn!”) What they’re all really saying is: “I care about nothing but meaningless credentials and you’ve got ‘em in spades!”
Here’s the thing: I did terribly at Penn. I mean, not always. I was a T.A. for a 400-level course, and I did some scientific research literally involving lasers, and I always held-down a cool part-time job, so there’s some great stuff on my resume that I achieved during my time there. I didn’t completely shit the bed.
But I was also in the grips of a major depression during my senior year, and let’s just say: When you can barely get out of the bed in the morning, you’re not doing your strongest work. My GPA reflects the 11 classes I took while basically suicidal. (Too much? Sorry. It’s the truth.)
I started college at Mount Holyoke, and that’s occassionally been noted too, but my God, people seem to love that Ivy League line on my resume. And it makes me feel gross/dirty/uncomfortable.
My education at both places was about the same and I’ve met morons and geniuses on every college campus I’ve ever visited. I know someone who started out at a community college, and went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst.
Where I went to college is as much a reflection of my socio-economic status and the privileges I had growing up, as it is a reflection of being a really hard-working perfectionist in high school. And from the looks of it: I’m going to reap the unearned rewards of that luck for the rest of my life.
So in short, my sense of accomplishment in landing this new job is undermined by the icky feeling that the world is a shallow, unfair place, that wrongly favors me in the conventional job market. This makes me both a righteous liberal democrat and a sad member of the planet earth.