Things I’ve Learned, and What I Got Paid For Them

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Music Theory, Music Composition, Music Performance: I was all ready to say $20,000 and counting, but then I remembered that I’m still in debt from my music career and I lose money on many shows I play. At this point, probably -$2,000.

Postmodernism: Despite the fact that my postmodernism “final project” was an interpretive dance (no, seriously, I put on my leggings and my poofy shirt and did a dance), I’d argue that postmodernism and poststructuralism have done as much, if not more, to help me think critically about what and why we signify than anything else. This is an essential skill when you’re trying to break apart an Atlantic or ThinkProgress article in 15 minutes so you can write about it for The Billfold. I’m going to generously say $10,000.

Introductions to Chemistry and Physics: Sorry, nope. Haven’t earned (or used?) anything from this.

Introductions to French: Le nope.

Linguistics: I wish. I really want to say “I use this all the time!” but mostly what I do is say “oh, you like Hofstadter too?” on dates. I am not going to add up the cost of any dinners that might have been bought for me because I am able to reference Gödel, Escher, Bach.

Arts Management: Arguably the best class I took in either college or grad school. This is where I learned how to make a cash-flow budget, do income projections on variable income streams, and otherwise run a business. This class also helped me start budgeting—I figured out that I could do a cash-flow budget for my own life, and I was like “Why wait until I have a business to run! I want to start tracking my personal cash-flow now!” So this might have earned me around $70,000. I’d say $80,000, but I have to subtract out the music business debt.

Entrepreneurship: I actually dropped this class, because I wanted to learn how to run a solo microbusiness after I graduated (I was the one artsy type in a room filled with tech startup dreamers) and the professor said we were supposed to split into groups and start real businesses right now. Group projects are the worst.

Drawing: Come on, I barely handwrite anymore. Also, thank goodness I am remarkably mediocre at drawing, otherwise I probably would have tried to start a webcomic at some point.

Ballet: We already know the answer to this one.

Why is there no English or writing class on this list? I tested out of my university’s English requirement when I arrived, and decided to take ballet instead.

Theater (acting, directing, all aspects): Essential in that it taught me how to take direction, how to give direction, how to manage people, how to be managed, and how to work with others. I probably could have learned that in a different environment as well, but there are very few college experiences that so closely replicate workplace dynamics. Theater is work, after all. You have to produce, and you have to do it as an ensemble, and everyone has to fulfill a specific role within a hierarchy. (I wonder if students who do sports get similar experiences.) I suspect I’ve earned around $100,000 from my theater skills.

How to “Play the Game:” This is my primary takeaway from The Grad School Experience, and I’m going to say it’s earned me $200,000 and counting. When you’re in grad school, you’re much closer to the inner workings of academia, and although theater productions do simulate a workplace experience, academia actually is a workplace experience. One of the smartest things a professor told me in grad school was to shut up, listen, and “play the game” of this particular workplace, even when the game felt silly or inefficient. This advice saved me from being the person who got her first office job, sat in one meeting, and then gave all of her suggestions on how to fix everything. Don’t be that person.

Computer programming: If I hadn’t dropped this course, everything might have gone differently.

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