So let's say it is 10 years ago...no...it was longer, but let's go with 10.....so it is 10 years ago, and I am sitting in a dingy highschool classroom, listening to a teacher fill my head with some story about the necessity of choosing a career, going to university, etc. Apparently it is possible to get a really good job with a university education. Apparently there is some kind of prestige in having an education. Apparently you won't have to work at McDonald's. Wow. Sounds good. I am a completely impressionable teenager - I had heard this song and dance before - my parents had told me the same story on numerous occasions. Now I'm sitting here in class, and someone with more authority and knowledge than my parents (I'm a teenager, remember?) is confirming their propaganda. Must be true. Decide to explore it on my own.
Alright...so lets stay in the past for a minute....freshman year of university...I'm young, still impressionable...naive...oh-so-naive. The course catalogue is filled with unique and interesting classes. I have no clue what I'm doing, or what the world expects from me. I choose a major. I dislike it. I choose a new major. I change it again. Its all about having a university education, right? I mean, it doesn't really matter what the degree is actually in, does it? Its the education that matters, nothing else? As long as I love what I'm studying - that is the key? At least, that is what I have been lead to believe.
Ok...time leap...2008. I have a university education...a fairly substantial one, in fact. I have spent the better part of a decade getting that education. And what can I say about that decade? It was stressful, fund-draining and a time management nightmare (between work and school) but filled with drunken escapades, random encounters, sporadic and spontaneous travel, and friendships fueled by likemindedness and intoxication. I can sit back now and look back fondly at those times. They were great - minus the stress and vomitting. I can't really complain about the student life. You commit to your education, but nothing else. You never truly commit to your employment when you are a fulltime student....I have worked 2-3 jobs at a time, and still kept my education as a priority. But seriously...spring break comes, there is a mention of Cancun, and suddenly you find yourself in a tequila-induced coma on a white sand beach in Mexico - and it is during those times that present and future employment become virtually nonexistent thoughts.
After a decade in school, it is easy to see how someone might have trouble readjusting to the "real world". Ok...no...scratch that! How can someone readjust to the "real world" when they have only ever known a world filled with school work and deadlines? It is a bit overwhelming to suddenly find one's self outside of academia. But I am. What now?
Ok...so where have I been leading with this? University was a great experience. But in terms of experiences it was also the most useless thing that I could have possibly done. It sounded good - "get an education, get a high paying job" - but then reality sets in after graduation....what exactly is employable about 85% of the classes that I have taken (and paid to take!)? I am in severe educational debt...but am so beyond unemployable that it is actually somewhat scary. I don't have a trade...I have no skills (apparently being able to study well and write a paper are not skills that most employers require). I have an HBA...a B.Ed...a BSc (hopefully soon to be an HBSc)...and no job. Yes, I could teach. But wait...university has burned me out of wanting to do prep work every single night. So much for teaching. Where is that great job that university supposedly guaranteed?
The odd thing about commercialism is that you can return a sweater (let's say the sweater cost $25) if you don't like it, or if it doesn't meet your needs. Granted there is generally a time limit, but it is returnable. Now...a sweater is the most mundane item - it doesn't really impact your life, influence your livelihood (unless you designed it) or anything of that nature. But you have the option of an undo. Now let's look at university - the average university education runs around $40,000? Between tuition and text books, supplies, etc....ok...so $40,000 - many of us come out of university riddled with that debt. My university education isn't working for me. I don't like it. It doesn't meet my needs. Can I return it? No. I'm stuck with it. Now granted, you can't return knowledge - something about intellectual property, yada yada. But I would be more than willing to return the initials behind my name.
So let's go back 10 years again...I took the other fork in the road...didn't go to university. Where would I be now? I don't know. But I'm beginning to think that I would be in a better place. I might have entered the workforce straightaway, learned employable skills, or even gotten a trade. By 2008 I might have been more valuable than minimum wage and parttime employment. But wait - I can't even say that I am as valuable as minimum wage, because dammit...those degrees are on my resume - and who wants to hire an educated person for a minimum wage job? The answer: "remove the degrees, and you will find work. " "But...I spent a lot of money to get those degrees"...oh well...
Life is made up of experiences. Some of them are wonderful and beneficial. Some of them are just plain difficult and expensive. University was all of that. But what has it left me? If I stay in my hometown, my education is wasted...and that's the reality. What now? I don't know. But I'm going back to school in June - which absolutely contradicts everything up until this point....but this time I will return with the hope that one day, something can come of my education. I'm realizing too - I had it right the first time around, and now I need to fix that. Maybe I am as naive as I was 10 years ago, but I'd like to think that is not the case. And it can't be, right?