Going to college seemed like a good idea at the time. My parents, my friends, my teachers and role models — they all waxed rhapsodically about my “intellect and potential,” and how I would “blossom” in a college environment. I suppose that’s true, if by “blossom” they mean “drink three gallons of whiskey a week and depress myself with a 50-page thesis about the horrors of the private prison industry.”
Having a degree from an elite university, I was told, was a one-way ticket to Moneytown.
So, that’s how I treated it: as a series of trials I had to pass in pursuit of a great reward. In practice, however, that’s not how it works. And now, I live with my parents and walk dogs to cover my expenses.
Not that I’m complaining, really. Dogs are dope. It’s like being in charge of a group of late-term alcoholics if that were cute instead of depressing. And my parents are fine, as long as they aren’t talking or in the same room as me. My endless well of free time has allowed me to pursue my other interests, namely politics.
But the drudgery is beginning to weigh on me, as are the 15,000 piles of dog poop (and counting).
There are certainly worse places to be in one’s mid-20s. I could work in a coal mine, or a shrimp vessel, or the IT department of a Fortune 500 company. Despite the rote nature of my work, walking the same dogs on the same route every day, I can’t help but laugh constantly. Every time one of these pups gets scared by a plastic bag, drinks rainwater from a can of potted meat in the alley, or takes a huge dump on the mayor’s lawn, I feel vindicated for my choices. I may not make $500,000 a year working at Goldman Sachs or 20th Century Fox — like many of my college chums — but I also don’t work 90 hours a week. And, I have the freedom to, let’s say, go for a hike on a Tuesday afternoon.
That type of freedom can’t be measured in dollars or amount of worry my grandma feels about me.
All jokes aside, my burgeoning career as a dog walker has kept me grounded and grown my emotional awareness in the areas it has most severely lacked — namely, compassion, empathy and tact. And my interactions with dog owners have done the same, with the added benefit of serving as a great networking tool into the world of politics.
But there’s no denying that this was not the world I saw on the horizon from atop my ivory tower.
While my lack of job security is nerve-wracking (what if there’s a mass rabies outbreak?), I’m not crying in my soup about not using my degree right now. I can flex these muscles at my own leisure, while affording a degree of freedom that would be impossible if I was thrown into a certain kind of working world.
I may not be the Junior Senator from the State of New York, or the host of the Dick Cavett Show, but at least I’m the city’s best dressed dog walker — and a damn good one at that.