I coincidentally received my college diploma in the mail right before Christmas this year. Shout out to the speedy Office of Student Assistance that mailed it seven months after I graduated. The big joke was that I was holding a piece of paper that clogged my debt pores with a whopping $70,000 bill, plus compounded interest. I can’t imagine a better Christmas present for a 22-year-old than 20 years of anxiety from fear of not making monthly loan payments on time.
My degree, “Bachelor of Business Administration,” a fancy title that came with several hours in windowless classrooms and dry professors. I wasn’t a bad student, but I was barely in class. I mastered the system by taking online classes, and skipping just enough so that I wouldn’t fail. I made my own college by teaching myself with overly priced books, incense and jazz music as observers of my sessions.
During my last month of college, I was nominated for the highest award that the university gave graduates. The award committee later approached me, apologizing that I wasn’t given the honor. Apparently, after they saw my resume including Shut Up and Go, and how I’d been able to juggle a 3.7 GPA while traveling almost every other weekend, all while working as an RA in the dorms, they knocked me out of the running. They admitted to me that I had too much experience to be given the award because it wouldn’t make a difference in my career, “I was already succeeding” they said. That’s when it was confirmed to me that it was all a big pile of bullsh*t. I didn’t need an award to tell me the obvious situation at hand: I’m just not a college person.
The truth is, I’ve learned everything that has taken me through life outside of a classroom. I became savvy when I was stranded in Panamá without a phone, broken Spanish, and limited wifi. I became a business woman when I decided that I was going to tell a TV executive that he should have me and Damon pitch his development team in Los Angeles because we had an interesting show concept. I became a student when I accepted that everything I ever needed to learn would come from traveling foreign lands and asking strangers questions in their native language. The best part is that none of these teachings came with a tab of $70,000.
Monetary debt aside, I can’t forget to mention the exhaustion and mental pain that came from college. I remember suffering from the shakes every morning due to the fatigue of juggling a PR internship, a part-time job at the university, and a full 18-credit workload. I didn’t have to do all of those things, but being an immigrant doesn’t ever promise you a pot of cash at any point in life. Naturally, I had to do everything, and be the best. Each semester got unnecessarily more stressful. I didn’t realize it back then, but let me share something with you that might change your life:
GRADES DON’T ACTUALLY MATTER.
Can we just ask ourselves for a second: why the hell do we spend hours of our life writing papers that one person is going to subjectively grade? Yes, grammar and spelling matters, but there has to be a more efficient way to learn these things. I actually learned from writing business emails; my fear of embarrassment forced me to Google grammatical rules that saved my a$$. Don’t even get me started with test taking; you cram for one hour that won’t matter in a year, let alone in ten years.
Now if I play devil’s advocate with ma damn self; It wasn’t like the last four years of my life were a complete waste. I got the chance to live in NYC, where many people only dream of living. I had enough time (thanks to effective schedule planning) to take naps throughout the day in between classes. I would roam the city by night with my sister’s ID, as an 18 year old posing to be a classy New Yorker out in the nicest lounges with strangers that quickly became my “party posse.” I learned the way of Manhattanites; you could see someone after dark, and had not a damn clue what they did during the day. I became sensitive of the cellophane that wraps city life, giving it a shinier glow than it deserves.
I also can’t say it was a complete time killer because I met people while in college that have impacted me through deep stories and genuine trust. Most importantly, I’ve befriended change makers who have opened doors that have brought me further than I could’ve imagined.
Here’s the bottom line: I beg of you to reflect if going to college is worth your time and money.
Before pulling the trigger, ask yourself if you need a degree to do what you want to do. If not, consider mastering your craft and learning how to pitch yourself to create your own opportunities. It’s not easy succeeding when you try so hard to fit in with society’s dream. Which, if we’re keeping it real, we can acknowledge that all that is, is to create robotic graduates who join the 9-5 school of numb working fish who obediently contribute to consumerism by sipping Starbucks on their 15-minute break from the cubicle. I’m a traveler, so that life isn’t for me. However, I do get that sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to do, to get to where you want to go. Get it? If that’s your case, as it is mine at the moment, remember it’s a means to an end, and this too shall pass.
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