First, I wanted to get an AS in accounting, because it seemed safe and stable and like something that wouldn’t eat so many braincycles I wouldn’t be able to do creative work on the side. (I’m terrible at math, so I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea.) The further I went, the more obvious it was that everyone in accounting was only getting their AS as a first step to getting a masters or doctorate, because an associates degree doesn’t qualify you to do shit except keep going. The people with the accounting jobs I thought I’d be able to get didn’t have their degrees in accounting, they just sort of stumbled into accounting jobs. Wtf.
In between terms, I changed my major from accounting to computer science, because all the computer science classes sounded really interesting and I’m interested in high-level science fiction concepts like “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning,” and there were courses on how to make apps, which is currently a reliably in-demand skill set. My (not well thought-out) plan was that if I could learn enough to make apps on the side, I could do that while I finished the degree. Right? Right. Except all the courses are just programming boot camps, even the one that said it was an intro course that didn’t require programming knowledge, the one that was listed as an overview of the subject in general, so I thought that would be a good place to start—and then it was just Python boot camp. Wtf again. This tanked my GPA (which was already on the borderline), so I took a term off to try to learn the subject on my own.
Over the next 2 months, I learned my brain isn’t wired for coding, so it would be kind of stupid to keep bashing my head against that particular brick wall, but I wanted to do it anyway. I was signed up to take the next class, a class that (again) sounded more introductory, that my program advisor said was more introductory, but did have some coding, and I’d been studying while I was off and I thought I could handle it. On the first day the course opened, I checked it out and it was just another Python boot camp. The curriculum was almost exactly the same. I freaked out and started frantically looking through all the online course offerings—exactly everything because I was desperate to find something I could do—and of course I landed on an art degree.*
I’m cynical enough to believe that one of the most important functions of an art degree is that it forces you to 1) produce work, and 2) have that work critiqued. Another value is the networking with other students and professors who may have connections in the industry and/or become valuable connections over time. Like any other skill, you have to invest the time, and one of the best ways to invest time is to pay for some time to be blocked off for that specific purpose. That’s kind of all a college degree is to me at this point, just a series of blocks of time I’m paying to have carved out for a specific purpose. Could I do that myself? Yeah, probably. And also, no, not successfully.
Tl;dr: On March 5, I’ll start classes for a BA in Game Art and Development. The first class I’ll be taking is World Mythology, followed by Intro to Creative Writing, then I’ll get into actual art classes. This feels like one of the least stupid decisions I’ve made since I’ve gone back to college again.
POSTSCRIPT 2/1/18: My financial aid appeal was approved. I will have funding to take classes starting next term. I will be able to continue deferring my student loan payments. I won’t have to enter bankruptcy because I can’t afford payments on an unfinished degree that I can’t afford to finish without financial aid. O THANK THE OLD GODS.
*Back up here to explain my issue with art degrees: They’ve always been presented to me as a waste of money, since they don’t qualify you for a job like a technical certificate or teach you “real skills” like a STEM degree.** The thing is, I know logically that’s bullshit. I know there are a lot of people making money off of their creative work. I read their blogs, I follow them on Etsy and Tumblr. This isn’t impossible.
**There’s also the assumption that creative people will be creative whether they have any formal training or not (and formal training beyond a vocational certificate is kind of low-key discouraged if you’re poor,*** since you’ll be wasting resources by following a path you can’t afford to walk on your own—how dare you pursue self-fulfillment needs! Don’t you even know where you are on Maslow’s Hierarchy?! You should be concerned with food and shelter, maybe personal safety if you really want something to aspire to).
***When it isn’t being openly/loudly discouraged.