by Shoshana Resnikoff, ’08
Rejoin Shoshana as she describes events leading to her seeking an SCA internship. Read first installment.
Rewind seven months to early May: I was facing the terror of a jobless future without the network of wonderful friends and inspiring academic role models that I’d come to depend on in my four years of college. I lived with my three best friends in a shabby apartment on the 13th floor of a strangely octagonal-shaped high rise. For the last few months we’d made jokes about how choosing to live thirteen floors up would come back to haunt us with bad luck, but as I faced graduation with no job prospects I began to think it was no joke.
My housemates seemed to have their lives in order to varying degrees: one was about to set off for Hawaii to do Teach for America there, another had just gotten a job at a law firm in Atlanta, where we went to school, another had plans to move in with her boyfriend, and the third was turning her summer job into a full-time gig working for a Republican political consultant. She didn’t agree with his politics, she joked, but his generous pay was more than enough to buy her a new set of scruples. Many friends were starting graduate and medical school, and even the ones without jobs had exciting plans to start lives in new cities or travel to exotic places. I didn’t have that option — my limited savings had been depleted by my study abroad experience in Australia and my parents had stretched to pay for my college education even with the generous financial aid I received. I’m sure my friends felt swamped with uncertainly and fears just like I did, but in the eternal self-centeredness of the newly graduated I couldn’t see beyond my own worries.
And then, to make things worse, my boyfriend and I broke up. Amicably, of course — I was graduating and he still had another semester at our school Emory University, we wanted different things from life in general, etc., but it was yet another thing that made me feel unmoored from my life. So, there I was: about to leave the place where I had found my independence and become a true adult, saying goodbye to the people I had grown to love like my family and separating from someone who at one point I had thought I might want to make a life with, all so that I could fly back home to live in my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house while I searched desperately and in vain for someone who wanted to employ a recent liberal arts graduate.
I was borderline miserable, and what made it worse was how typical it all was — even when I was going through an existential crisis, it had to be an existential crisis that thousands of young Americans go through every post-graduation summer. Even my misfortune was mediocre and mundane.
When I wasn’t sinking into melodramatic fits of self-pity like the one above, I was searching frantically for my next step. I had graduated with a degree in American Studies, one of those majors that is so engaging while you’re in college and instantly becomes a liability once you’ve graduated. It wasn’t serious like history or a “soft” science like sociology, and it didn’t have the gravity of art history.
Given what I wanted to pursue — a job in material culture and history, such as in a museum environment — I felt highly unqualified. But what was I to do? I needed a job, an internship – something that would keep me occupied but also somehow further my career goals. I was getting desperate, thinking of unpaid internships doing grunt work at tiny local historical societies or working as a personal archivist to a local 1960’s activist with an inflated sense of her own historical importance. And then, like the proverbial light bulb, I remembered Mary Battle.
When I was five, I claimed that I wanted to be Minnie Mouse when I grew up. When I was twelve, I was going to be Eleanor Roosevelt. The moment I met Mary Battle, though, I knew things had changed: she was my new hero, my new career goal. I would be Mary Battle when I grew up. Mary, of course, knew nothing of my slavish adoration. I met her in a graduate course I took on historical tourism: she was getting her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on museum studies and public history, and I was taking the class for my honors thesis. She had worked at the Smithsonian and gotten her Masters in American History and Literature. She was from Charleston, SC and embodied the sweet-Southern-belle with-a-backbone-of-steel stereotype. She was brilliant and nice and determined. She was basically the coolest person I’d ever met. So, faced with my post-college life, I asked myself, “What would Mary Battle do?” And then I revised that thought, saying, “No, what DID Mary Battle do?” The answer: an SCA internship.
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