Is college really worth it? Does it really give you an edge?
Having suddenly realized I gave birth 17 years ago I find my mailbox crammed each day with literature promising the brightest futures, the most, the best, the least, the highest, and the lowest whatever will cause me to allow the college of our choice to accept large amounts of money from me. In exchange we shall receive an ornately decorated certificate on which they will probably spell my daughter's name wrong just as most of the ornately decorated certificates from high school have been so cruelly raped.
Each day, each night we spend preparing ourselves for that moment when my baby leaves me and goes off to parts unknown in search of the expansion of her mind and the deletion of my bank account.
As parents do, despite all our "when I'm a parent, I'll never..." promises that went out the window with the first time you said, "if Cliffy jumps in the lake does that mean you will too?", I begin to retreat to MY memories of my college life.
OH MY GOD!
The 'higher' in my education meant breaking into and sneaking up the staircase to the cupola high above the third floor of Holloway Hall to leave my name as indelible proof that I had attended college there! That was the pinnacle of success for a student, to achieve that and not get caught by the dreaded campus security! Lofty goals indeed!
I don't remember ever not wanting to go to college, although I never remember knowing exactly what I wanted to do when I was finished. I often think I was trying to attain a Guinness record for most changes of major, or using it as a stopgap between the security of high school and real life!
I began with the grandiose belief that I wanted to shape young minds by teaching history until my first psychology class. Then was it those deep penetrating eyes of Dr. Delaney or the subject matter that sent me scurrying to the add/change registration lines to grab every class he taught? Perhaps it was the things I learned about my own mind that that explains why I even attended classes that I wasn't enrolled in, spending time learning without earning credits.
Of course all that was before I discovered I actually could pursue my love of all things artistic, spending long hours with fellow artists discussing the greats. (I still say Wyeth rocks!) By modeling for the drawing class I got my art supplies free. No, the guys did it naked; I used a bathing suit! And I always drew the guys from the back...so hard to concentrate otherwise, BUTT my portfolio is totally one sided. It was almost a badge of honor to stroll around campus always wearing smudges of paint, ink, and charcoal. The art curriculum there was still in its infancy so we were 'different'. How very cool that was to someone who had been so very ordinary for so long.
Without college I'd never have been able to change the world, one dorm at time! Our campus had a thing about naming dorms after local bodies of water. My sophomore year found me in a 'goody goody' dorm named Manokin Hall, aptly named for the Manokin River. The red light bulbs were JUST the right touch after we spray painted and hung out a sheet just adding a few spaces... and renamed it 'MAN OK IN HALL'.
Higher education teaches so much more than what we were supposed to retain from the books and lectures. It's life away from home, it's learning to be on your own, and it's discovering ALL NIGHT PARTIES! It's your first experience with drug use...'No Doze' to cram for exams, 'Rolaids' after whatever that was they served for dinner, and 'Excedrin' because for the first time in your sheltered little life you had something to really cause a headache. Your roomies hung all your underwear outside on the tree!
I likely went to college because my parents wanted me to, because it was the thing to do, because a good job required it, and because all my friends were. I discovered how to get good grades without really trying, without really applying myself. I honestly didn't make exceptional use of those years. They had a lot to offer me, but I'm not entirely sure I used it to my best advantage. Potential I had, desire was another matter.
I stumbled around after college checking out exactly what I wanted to do with my new found knowledge and eventually ended up with a career that requires merely that I can remember alot. They barely care that I finished high school, and had I joined this motley crew at the tender age of 17, I'd be nearly ready to embark on one of those careers you do just to keep yourself busy after retirement...you know, like "do you want fries with that?"
So from a technical practical sensible perception, I wasted my time and money lusting after algorithms and psychology professors when I realize I could have been plying my trade and padding my bank account much earlier.
What's that old adage..."Go to college, a degree is something no one can take away, you'll always have it"??? The same thing can be said for an inoperable brain tumor..and aids.
But in the closing hours of the day, when my thoughts are mellower, when the hard edges of the day have smoothed into soft wisps of comforting memories, I can look fondly on those years. Perhaps I learned something afterall, perhaps I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself I didn't benefit from it. No matter what, I know I'd not trade them for anything.
Well, maybe for Dr. Delaney!