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How To Live (A Good Life) After College
So in keeping with my dedication to write one hub a week, I'm addressing a common train of thought among educated twenty-somethings. Now we all know higher-education is all kinds of greatness -- The great equalizer, the great wallet drainer, the great transition period, etc. But I think the current generation, my generation, has taken things a little too far. Now don't get me wrong. I am completely in favor of gaining new skills, new insight, or pursuing your academic passions (even if it does involve a little improv). Yet, the whole-college experience has become somewhat of a security blanket; a warm, fuzzy security blanket made out of Solo Cups and pizza boxes. (And trust me, you don't want to know why it's "fuzzy.")
Problem is, you eventually have to leave. You have to transition to that new place called adulthood. For all you early birds who are already there, this article ain't for you. This is for the guy or gal feeling absolutely confused about the "real world" and its insanity.
Come, Join Us.....
Having left higher education four years ago; one of the weirdest things I find is how much social pressure there is for me to return. I mean, at the core, there is no reasons for me to do so:
1.) I paid off my student loans in full.
2.) I'm working for a strong steady salary.
3.) I have opportunities for advancement.
4.) I have quite a few entreprenuerial ideas and aspirations that I actively work toward.
And yet, they (mostly friends pursuing higher degrees) still ask. When are you going back to school? Are you going to get your MBA, your JD, your [Insert Random Acronym Here]. Do you know where you want to go? Have you started applications yet? Join Us...Join Us....Braaains.
Assuming my friends and acquaintances are not actually zombies; I can't quite understand the incessant push for me to re-embrace academia. Or maybe there is something more sinister in the works.
"Man I promise, she's so self conscious
She has no idea what she's doing in college
That major that she majored in don't make no money
But she won't drop out, her parents will look at her funny
Now, tell me that ain't insecurrre
The concept of school seems so securrre
Sophmore three yearrrs aint picked a careerrr
She like fuck it, I'll just stay down herre and do hair"
-Kanye West, feat Syleena Johnson -- All Falls Down
Ahhh, when you can use rap lyrics to get your point across; you know you've done something right. But back to my point. Universities, specifically the room and board - three meals a day - toga party at night variety, are specifically designed to be secure, comfortable and appealing. I mean, how would they attract students otherwise.....credentials, alumni success rates....please, give me a break. What students are looking for is this. That's right, loft style dorms and resort style pools.
When I was in this very same college setting, I embraced all the creature comforts of this security blanket. The active/close-quarters social life and the occasional study breaks made me feel at ease. So what if I had no idea what to do after college? So what if the economy's in the dumps? As long as I follow my carefully laid out course schedule and go practice with my a cappella group every Sunday things should work out for the best. Shouldn't they?
Time To Wake Up!
As soon as a week after my graduation ceremony, I felt the cold, icy chill of the real world. Gone was my personal study space; gone were my navy blue crocs. Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt myself fall further into the abyss of....well......reality. Job applications and interviews were plentiful; but then again course so were the rejections. There was frustration, pain and heartache but you know what, I made it through.
And I am better off for it. To live life without a clear schedule or a clear safety net; That Is Life. To create your own goals and then move heaven and earth to accomplish them, That Is Life. Surprising failures and even more surprising rewards; that's what makes each moment so worthwhile. If higher-education will only serve as a disincentive to joining the real-world mosh pit....what's the point. Almost makes me want to embrace online degrees......almost.
Lessons Gleaned From This Experience
1.) Slowly and steadily incorporate more independent behavior into your daily habits. This will go a long way.
2.) Remember that commencement speaker who spoke about "carpe diem" and all that crap. He was right. Focus more on setting and accomplishing your own personal and professional goals. You will slowly become more and more effective and your influence will grow.
3.) Unless you truly love school and never, ever want to leave. Avoid becoming like these perpetual students
- Benjamin Bolger -- 11 degrees, 10 masters and 1 doctorate
- Michael Nicholson -- 27 degress, among which include 19 masters and one doctorate.
- John A "Johnny" Lechner -- Currently residing 17 years on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Campus.