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Take A Walk on Your Own Side

Updated on December 17, 2016

True Paths Toward Success

Today, on my car's AM radio station, the talk show host yammered on per usual, but suddenly I became aware that he was absolutely "singing my tune!" I heard him saying, ", in our public schools, the division of good students and bad students is growing and there is no middle ground." He mentioned that this educational division can be used as an analogy to describe the economic situation occurring in America today. He explained, "The middle class is becoming either wealthier or poorer... usually poorer. The middle class is disappearing just as the average student is disappearing. In schools, this division is created by the existence of Advanced Placement classes..."

I heard him exaggerating the truth of the matter, but I did agree with some of his points: "... in AP classes, students are loaded up with six hours of homework a night. I am very happy that my girls are in "remedial" classes," he explained, "because they have less homework and therefore are able to 'have a life!' There is so much pressure for these AP high school students to get high grades in order to get into ivy league universities." Then he proclaimed, "My girls are going to junior college! There is NOTHING wrong with junior college!"

And it is true! In California, tuitions for these JCs are very low: $48.00 a unit. Here, a student, anywhere from 14 to 21 years, whether he has graduated from high school or not, can explore a wide variety subjects, learn at his own pace, and follow his own direction. By living at home, the financial expenses and risks are less. In fact, if he pays for his own education he will value it more and work harder to earn good grades. JCs foster recovery from the effects of the tyranny of high school by offering so many choices. In my case, I satisfied a craving to take as many art classes as I could. Later, I settled down to work and earned an Associate of Arts degree and two years worth of units toward a four year education. I look back fondly on those days and consider them better in many ways than my university days. The classes were smaller, the teachers more personally involved, and counselors easier to access.

Diving headlong into a university education generally provides a much different experience. Here, one's very serious education must be supplemented with craziness! Parties serving gallons of alcohol provide the necessary therapy to ease the frazzled nerves caused by the "gun to the head" type pressures introduced at this level. A friend of my son's made it through the university program, received his law degree and passed the bar. It was not easy, but he did drag himself over the finish line. However, he crossed over with more than he bargained for... an addiction to heroin. Eventually, he almost died, hitting rock bottom, a couple years later. He has since climbed a hard road nearer to "normallacy", but thanks to the pressures placed upon him by his father, his schools and consequently, himself, he may never really get back to that place.

The goal, however, should always be to land an interesting career. It used to be that getting a degree or two guaranteed a good job and the ability to earn a decent living which traditionally included either retirement benefits or a pension. However, when I was employed as a gallery attendant at a local museum, I realized that this once possible dream is over. Many young adults I worked with could find nothing else to do with their degrees in Political Science, Philosophy, Art, English, History, etc! I felt so sorry for them as we all stood at our posts hour after hour, day after day, basically wasting our talents and potentials. (Gallery attendants don't have to be treated like pieces of wood, as they are at this museum, but that is another story.) Due to student loans, living expenses, etc., these young people felt compelled to endure an impossibly boring and unfulfilling job. (Believe me.)

In the end, one is either forced in earning money, or fulfilled in earning it. But, we should never be afraid to to discover or indulge our true interests, at our own pace, no matter what we think the future holds. By pursuing what truly interests us, we can carry ourselves along on personal paths toward success and fulfillment. To the youth I say, Your Life is up to You. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, you have to make money to survive, and you must pay your way through life. But, for goodness sake, do it Your way and stay in touch with your inner self. Hopefully in this day and age, with so many enlightened parents, I am preaching to the choir. I truly enjoyed Steve Job's graduation speech, ("stay hungry" on Utube) and highly recommend it to anyone.


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