Opinion: The void I didn’t know was there

“Where do you work?” is one of the first questions asked when you meet someone. Your job and career path say a lot about you as a person. First impressions and self confidence are dependent on it. No matter how much the individual likes his or her job, as a society we stereotype people based on their career or lack thereof.

Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.

Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.
Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.

“Where do you work?” is one of the first questions asked when you meet someone. Your job and career path say a lot about you as a person. First impressions and self confidence are dependent on it. No matter how much the individual likes his or her job, as a society we stereotype people based on their career or lack thereof.

With absolute certainty, I did not think about this while in the military. I would go so far as to say I took it for granted. People constantly tellking me, “Thank you for your service”, free drinks and instant respect happened so often it was almost expected.

Well, now I face a different reality. I am a full time student. But all of those adult ways of life I accumulated during the last 10 years  like getting married, having a child and paying bills don’t stop when you go to school, and they make the college experience a little different than the norm.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill pays for tuition, a little bit of books and a monthly housing stipend, but being a student comes with its own strings attached most of the time. It is hard to jump into a career while being a full time student. The balance of money and time faces every student veteran I have talked to. It takes a lot more of a commitment to stay a student when life is pulling you in so many directions.

The answer, at least for me was to supplement income with a temporary job, not a career, and there comes the void. The demands of school make it nearly impossible to take a full time job, so you have to put your career on hold. The bottom line is always money. Going to school is a privilege not a right. I worked hard for 10 years to put myself in a position to obtain a degree beyond a high school diploma.

So I am now in a spot where I took a job making sandwiches. I grab bread, place meat and cheese, add condiments and repeat. Not that I am old, but at my age and experience, I feel like I should be a little beyond that. I met some new people over the weekend, and they inevitably asked “What do you do?”

I lied, well kind of.

I simply said I am a student. It felt too embarrassing to tell them I make sandwiches, and it got me thinking. A lot of our fellow classmates think of being a student as a way of life. In their defense, most of the people they interact with socially are students themselves so it is expected.

When I felt the urge to lie about my job, it got me thinking. I never had to do that before. I was always proud and willing to share the information. I have said before that with hindsight my view on my time in the service has changed.

At least I did not have to feel ashamed to share my career choices. In fact, I was proud to tell people that. Obviously, a younger me did not understand the importance of this.

Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.

Edited by Maggie Jones