Death Metal, Jon Stewart, and Me

Having a song stuck in your head is bad. Not knowing the name of the song, only knowing part of the lyrics, and having those lyrics play in an endless loop as you sprint to the subway in a misguided attempt to somehow outrun your own brain is worse.

After I left the fellowship meeting last Tuesday, I had the latter predicament. The line of the song that kept playing in my head, over and over, like a demented death-metal parrot, was Give me a chance to be the person I want to be.

I decided that the only way to get this infernal song out of my head was to analyze the lyrics that I did know. Give me a chance to be the person I want to be.

What kind of person did I want to be? My thoughts swirled around and muddied themselves together. I want to be kinder. More patient. Learn to manage my time better. Perhaps break the cycle of overextending myself, flying by the seat of my pants, and then crashing unceremoniously, over and over again. Learn to love myself. And once I accomplish those miracles, I thought, maybe I’ll go punch out God.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I had a frame of reference with which to answer, and thankfully, it took the form of this blog post.

We would like you to blog about how you see yourself as a future professional? This includes writing about what major and course of study you have currently chosen at your home campus and how you will use this training as a tool in your future career. Has your plans changed since you first enrolled at your home campus? What expectations do you have about being professionals in your future career fields? Are you aware of the social elements and work culture surrounding your possible future profession?

Right now, I am an Art History major, with a minor in World Religions. I have always wanted to work in a museum, and being an art history major seemed to be the way to do just that. I minored in World Religions because I have always been fascinated by the way humans think, and religion has done more over time to shape the way humans think than anything else. Plus, the Religion department at Hunter contains some of the most demanding and delightful professors I have ever met.

There are people who question the validity of my chosen academic pursuits. Mainly, the questions coalesce around a certain well-intentioned faux-concern about my financial state. How are you going to get a job with that as your major? they ask. Is that field even hiring?

The thing is, being an art history major has given me an invaluable skill set, no matter what profession I chose to follow. As an art history major, I honed my pattern recognition skills. I learned how to do archival research, which will serve me well no matter what professional field I go into. It certainly made me a better writer, because when I analyzed a painting, I was forced to eschew overly flowery language in favor of short, declarative sentences and terse, tough prose. Most importantly, it gave me an eye for the fine details, and the patience to simply look at something and communicate what I saw. Being a Religion minor showed me how to find the divine in the most trivial of moments, how our values are baked into our language, and how the world is so much bigger than what can be explained.

God is, after all, in the details.

But I digress.

I am not so conceited as to think I know what being a professional in the museum world—be it curation or education or development—entails. I have interned at the New-York Historical Society and am currently interning at the Frick Collection. As an intern, I have learned a great deal, but being a museum intern is simply different from being a museum employee, and I imagine I can only know the scale of said difference once I experience it myself.

I am also not naïve enough to think that I will get my dream job once I graduate. Most likely, I will apply for 200 different job posts, get rejected from at least 75% of them, interview for four of them, and then never hear back. I have no control over that.

However, there is one thing I do have control over before entering the professional world, and that thing is the utility belt I take with me. What kind of person do I want to be, once I get a job?

The person I want to be professionally can be summarized in an anecdote and a video. When I was in high school, I was part of a team assigned an archival research project and later a documentary. There were nine of us, and we had 2700 primary-source documents to analyze and categorize. Each of us had about 300 documents to categorize. If each of us did ten a day, we would be done within thirty days.

Best laid schemes do often go awry. There were members of our group who refused to do their share, or, worse, would, once one member of the team had tagged a document as finished and theirs, go back and substitute their name instead. The teacher in question chose not to intervene. I took up the slack for the members who didn’t do their work, and, over a long weekend, categorized 300 documents in three days.

However, there was one member of the group who was my saving grace. I knew, that when the group was engulfed in drama and infighting, I could rely on her to step outside with me and develop a plan of action that we could take to the group and then to our teacher. I knew I could count on her when I got burned out, and that knowledge alone kept me from burning out.

The best way I’ve heard this sentiment expressed was when Jason Jones left the Daily Show, and Jon Stewart gave him a send-off. In that send-off, which I have enclosed below, Jon Stewart said:

“Nothing makes my job easier than knowing there is someone there who I can always go to, and always count on, to deliver the funny, the smart, the everything. You were always that dude. I thank you very much.”

No matter what field I go into, once I’m in that field, the person I want to be is the Jason Jones to someone else’s Jon Stewart. Eventually, to continue the analogy, I want to be the Jon Stewart and find a Jason Jones of my own, but that is a long way off. Until then, I look forward to finding the chance to be the person I want to be, and making those chances for myself.

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1 Comment

  1. Michaela, you got it…and you will go far. 🙂

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