A few months ago, during a drive in my college town, I experienced a divine revelation. It was so deeply rooted in my own existential crisis that in hindsight, it might seem self-evident. Nonetheless, the epiphany that occurred had to do with the last 17 years of my life spent as a student.
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Besides familial influences I’ve had to finish my schooling, I consciously committed to my education when I got into college. I have always been fond of the structure and comfort it has provided my life. While society generally favors those with extended educational backgrounds, a Bachelors degree only goes so far in the professional world.
Time and time again, we hear stories of successful startups and innovative technology created by self-taught young entrepreneurs with little or no college background. It becomes more about who you know rather than what you know and it poses an interesting question for millennials.
If we crave bold and independent entrepreneurship why should we subscribe like the other hundreds of thousands of young adults to institutions that seldom cultivate our individuality nor encourage the development of our unique skill sets?
My parents, their parents, and their parents’ parents before them have always relayed that school was the only road to success.
My critique of this theory and the institution itself stems from trusting a flawed system and process. Most agree with the following formula:
Going to School > Getting a Degree > More Job Prospects > O. to make $ > O. for Happiness
Before moving forward, let explain the difference between trusting in a system and trusting in a process.
Trusting the system implies that you accept a functioning network.
Trusting the process implies that you accept the procedures and methods by which a network is able to function.
The two are not mutually exclusive.
Some people trust the system that is in place but not the process.
For example, you trust the system of a retail marketplace because it makes shopping easy. You can comfortably purchase the latest release of Jordans however, it might not boat as easy to entrust the process and procedures by which the system is built upon. I.e. Retail conglomerates drilling a 6-year-old in Pakistan under a mantra #JustDoIt.
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In our youth, trusting the system is imperative because it is in place to protect us. I.e. Child-locks, medication seals, childproof devices. The process, however, is what often is challenging to accept. It can be seen in the simple application of learning how to walk. When a child decides to stand up, put one foot in front of the other, and keep trying despite the chance of suffering injury, and continual failure: the result is incredibly rewarding. However, when the child does not trust the process of potential affliction, upward mobility is literally impossible and a stagnant fate ensues.
It is true that having patience and trust is what facilitates the learning process, however, absent-mindedness and blind faith in academia as the only road to success is ludicrous. The irony is that I have established my position on this topic less than 6 months from graduation.
I’ve just realized with great conviction that while it is certain degrees and the jobs that follow them help create opportunities, the formula is missing many other key components. The exploration and opportunity for happiness in realms beyond the confines of an institution is sadly disregarded. The inverted formula suggests that happiness, though fleeting, is more likely to come to pass if we start by doing and pursuing the things that give us contentment. Therein lies an abstract question. If we could do anything that gave us this sense of gratification, with no strings attached, no student loans, no fear of embarrassment, nor rejection, or failure, what would we do?
Most are not conditioned to answer this question freely. The 10-15 year influence of an institution consequentially leads nearly all students to answer “what we want to do” with practical degrees and more often than not unsatisfying, humdrum careers.
A few years ago I read Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In, a remarkable self-reflective piece that inspires females in the workforce to believe in themselves by pursuing careers in the most industrious ways.
She introduces themes of feminism along with intersectionality and challenges the reader to think outside the box. In the book, she cites a longitudinal study that follows a group of children beginning in Kindergarten. The group of students were asked what they wanted to be when they grow up. Both genders answer the question with professions like the president of the United States, doctors, astronauts, and policemen. The purpose of the study was to demonstrate the overwhelming number of females that dwindles and tapers off over the years in regards to these ambitious careers.
If I answered identically to what the Kindergarten, six-year-old version of myself wanted to be when I grew up, plain and simple, I’d be the next pop star, M.D. President of the United States.
However, when I answered the question recently, during my fateful drive a few months ago, I realized if I could do anything, I’d love to help people. While activism and investments in own personal relationships have been gratifying thus far, the power of words and writing has the potential to reach larger audiences. Millions and millions of people enjoy short stories, novels, poetry, essays, histories, and blogs. So here it is. My first blog. Typos and all. It will be an unapologetic expression of myself with critiques, poetry, rants, and content that hopefully will help, inspire and entertain others. Beyond that, I am hopeful that by thinking outside the box, I can further develop my self-awareness, improvement, and skills as a writer.