College, To be or Not to be?

This post is my reflection after reading 8 Alternatives to College by James Altucher.

I went to Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, California in the lovely area of Brentwood.  Let me be clear here.  I wanted to go to college MAINLY to get away from my parents.  Yup, you heard right.  It helped that I loved to read and learn and yup, I actually LOVED school (weird? yeah tell me about it)…but my love of reading and learning was probably something of a survivor instinct inside me telling me: do good in school=be free from home.  

So when Junior in high school came and everyone started talking about what they would be doing-most of which amounted to going to University of Hawaii or community college, my panic set in and I went into survivor mode.  Like hell I was not going to to leave home…I needed to leave.

I left.  It was the best experience of my life.  It was what I needed to do.  I needed to be away from my parents who wouldn’t let me grow and fail.  I wanted to do all of that and I did.  It took lots of convincing to make my mom say “yes”…but my sister and I worked on her (thanks sis, you rock!).

Thing is about college.  I partied too much.  My first year, my grades were dismal.  Like seriously…awful.  Passing, but I had never gone below 3.0 before and this was the first time I did.  I partied Friday-Sunday.  Then Thursday-Sunday.  Then Tuesday-Sunday.  Then…7 days a week.  There was always some boy involved.  There was always some party or thing to do in Los Angeles, because come on, it’s L.A!  There was always some place to go to, people to meet…and I didn’t clean up my act until late sophomore year.  I didn’t start trying to learn anything until I said no to partying so much.  I am not like some people who could not sleep and still get straight A’s.  That’s not the genetics I was born with.  Eventually I brought the grade up and started doing the “work”- But I loved college-loved the classes, loved the parties and all the friends I made.  I loved learning to rely on myself and after I got that degree (of course I’m not doing anything with it) at least I can say I did DO it.  I did finals, I met deadlines, I presented in class, I wrote the papers, I studied and memorized…and it was an education in life more than an education in academia for me.  I completed and accomplished something.

And to be honest…when I graduated college I was hoping more people in my family would follow and do the same.  I can’t really figure out why it didn’t happen.  I am the only one still in my family to have a Bachelor’s Degree.  I’ve scratched my head a few times and wonder why people stop the process.  I’ve had relatives of mine enroll into the process and leave after the first semester…I don’t know why.  Big part may be the money, college is not cheap and our family is not wealthy.  My mom is a hotel room housekeeper and my dad is a construction worker…they sacrificed a lot to send me to a college with a $20,000 tuition price tag (a year).  And I’ve just recently paid them back every penny.

Then I thought…maybe college is not for them.  I LOVE learning.  No joke.  When I worked in the library, I read every day: newspapers, magazines, journals (just because I was bored), and I read about three books a month-it used to be five.  I’m waiting for the new iPad so I can consolidate all my magazines and newspapers into one place.    But people love learning in different ways.  For some people, sitting/reading/writing is not their cup of tea.  They may learn more from hands-on, being in the thick of things-more action kind of learning.  Some people have to do it at their own pace.

I think trade schools are good.  Along with my bachelor’s, I have my license to practice massage therapy.  And last year I had started grad school to become a Librarian…but that’s on hold for now as I try and decide if that’s what I’m really interested in doing.  Education is free, but to have a certificate (degree) is expensive.

College is not for everyone, but as an Aunt and Cousin and hopefully one day a Mother, we want the best for the younger generation in our families.  We like to think education is the way to a better life.  Not “better” in the sense of reputation and rank.  But for me, I want “better” for them so they can survive without too much of a struggle (not that I have a say in that, that’s all God).  I want them to be prepared.

I am not my degree.  I was working with the elderly BEFORE I went to college.   But my experience in college (making new friends, leaving home, being responsible and getting back on track) is definitely what helped me be who I am today.  People tell me I am very strong, especially because I was a widow at 29.  I disagree…but the only person who sees my weakness is Josh and I trust him with it.  But it’s life experiences like college and moving and having accomplishments that give you confidence that life will be okay no matter what.

I wish people weren’t put into categories so that we stop trying to fit in somewhere we are clearly not meant to be.  And I wish, society didn’t penalize us for not fitting in where they think we belong.

People have their own paths in life.  College or not-eventually everyone will deal with the question “how do I survive?”…college or not, you’ll have to come up with an answer.  And you’ll keep answering it, year after year…until you don’t have to anymore.


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