I did the math once and this is my 22nd year of school. It’s not like that’s hard math, so don’t be too impressed, but it does mean I’ve spent way more of my life as a student than not. I’ve had two pretty much equal breaks from school: one before I started it up the first time at age 5 and one just now, leading up to my recent re-enrollment. I will admit that even though I’ve always been pretty good at school, I was a bit nervous to come back. What if I’m too old and have been out of the game for too long to focus in lectures now? I do tend to fall asleep after like 5 minutes of reading these days, so what if I can’t keep up? What if all this time and perspective haven’t actually made anything easier? What if none of these kids wants to have some old guy in their study group and I never make a single new friend? There are a lot of “what-ifs” and since I’m an over-analyzer, I definitely went through all of them. But despite all my over-analyzing, I usually just do the damn thing anyway, so here I am.
And I’m happy to report that I have made it to week 6 and things are going great. Amazingly, no one seems to care or notice that I was born during the Reagan administration. And the adjustment of going to class, doing homework, staying on top of reading and studying for exams has been weirdly easy. I even added an internship to the mix. Since I’m old now, I’m not as tempted to stay up all night partying. I’m still living with friends, but now those friends go to bed at 10pm after watching Jeopardy instead of convincing me to stay up until 2am playing Beer Kart (wait, I think that was usually my idea.) Actually this whole thing is way easier than it was the first time. I mean, I recognize that it’s only week 6, so a lot could still go wrong, but I have a good feeling about things.
So this has all lead me to a conclusion: why the hell do we go to college to study something that’s supposed to be the foundation our life-long career when we’re stupid 18-year-olds? I had no clue what I wanted to do when I was 18 and I did not have the capacity to figure it out. I liked animals, I liked music, I liked swimming, but I also liked drinking most of a bottle of Southern Comfort and hiding from the campus police in my dormroom closet, so why would anyone ever trust me to make a decision that would impact the rest of my life? High school kids all have this mentality that we need to go straight on to college, finish in four years, start our career, work for like 40 more years and then retire. And I know that equation works for a ton of people, and those people are really lucky to already know what they’re passionate about right out of high school. But it also seems like a huge chunk of the folks who finish school and then work for 40 years hate their jobs and wish they were doing something else. So what if we started showing high school kids that there are other options? Like, maybe take some time to be a person after high school and figure out what drives you? Take a year or two and work a few jobs, travel around the world, learn about other cultures, see what the world’s needs are, and then pick your major? I was amazed at how inexpensive it was to travel around Europe and Asia once I got there. Like, infinitely less expensive than paying for college tuition. And while the stuff I’m learning now is incredibly interesting, learning more about the world and realizing that I could have a career I’m excited about was priceless. Taking a “gap year” (or more) is becoming a more common trend, and as college prices continue to increase, I think the value of knowing what you want to get out of college before you get there is increasing as well.