Take your experience and run with it

Courtesy // Tiffany McGaughey

Courtesy // Tiffany McGaughey

I’m 22 years old, about to begin my last semester of college; I’m starting to wonder, “what was the point of it all?” Perhaps I am just confronting the regular college senior blues and deeply existential thoughts, but I think there’s more to it this time.
From the day we are put into kindergarten to the day we submit our first college applications, we are constantly being conditioned to believe one thing: without receiving a good, college-level education or attending a prestigious university, we are nothing. In societal standards this may ring true, but should it?
Everyone should value a good education, and education shouldn’t be a privilege, although our bureaucratic society would seem to suggest that it is. We fight along-side our peers to receive the best grades, with college as the golden trophy at the end of our race. What we don’t realize is there is no use for a college degree if in the end, we’re just half-assing it for the sake of saying that we have one.
At the end of the day, no one cares if you went to college, it’s what you did while you were there and the plans and dreams that you aspired to have with your degree that matters. The problem with this is many of us don’t have solid dreams or aspirations when we graduate high school and we still haven’t really gotten it figured out by the time we’re well into college. We’re told we must declare a major, and once we have, we’re still somehow wasting our time taking useless anthropology general education courses that have nothing to do with what we want to study.
If I could do it all over again, I would have taken a gap year (or two) to work, figure myself out and learn what I’m passionate about. Not waste the best, most vital years of my life drinking and partying to the point where you have that scary realization of “what the hell am I doing with my life?” But maybe we need that. Perhaps that’s part of growing up; but I could’ve done that without spending 15 grand or more a year.
I love college, everyone’s young and excited, carefree and bubbling with new ideas. But why must we put so much pressure on the importance of going to a four year university? It’s especially silly when we don’t know what we want to do. It all ties back into our societal bad habits. I chose to study Communications because I thought, “well I like people and I’m a good communicator… Communications it is,” and that’s not the way it should be. I should have never felt the pressure I felt and still feel to make something out of myself. I can become someone without following bureaucratic and societal standards.
I have a daunting image that my mother has ingrained in my head of me becoming a big, fat, failure; but shouldn’t it be my happiness that really matters? Not what makes her happy or what society tells me will give me happiness or a good life.
I have felt overwhelmed with the pressures my family and other adults have put on me by asking the most dreaded sentence; “what do you want to do once you graduate?” I can’t tell you how much I hate that sentence and how often I’ve heard it. Sure some people have it plain and simple, figured out; they’re going to go to grad school and study medicine, or become a lawyer, or work on their music or work for some startup in San Francisco. Me? I don’t know, I change my answer every time, and I’ve gotten pretty good and creative at sounding like I know what I’m going to do.
The important thing I’ve realized is I don’t need to please anyone but myself; I don’t need to quiver at the idea of being a failure in the eyes of my mother because I know as long as I’m happy she will be too.
So when I walk the stage this May to grab my much anticipated college diploma and turn to face my unknown future, I’ll have a new sense of self-confidence and comfort that whatever I choose to do, I don’t need to figure it all out right away. I’m only young once, and if I want to travel, explore and continue learning and growing as a person, I should do just that. I’m not ready to take up a desk job at some small office downtown, running someone’s boring social media account. I have so much more in store for myself and I don’t need to prove my self-worth to anyone but myself.
There will be plenty of time in the future to sit at a desk and do the “adult life” and provide for my family. For now, I have my youthful spirit, energy, curiosity and soon a degree in the mail, but I have time to live a little first before I condemn myself to an eternity of work. Money can buy happiness for some, but so can experiences, and I’d rather make the memories now. There will be plenty of time later on to make money or go back and get a masters, but for now I just plan on living and learning about myself and what I love, and with the idea that it will all work out in the end, one way or another.