Sometimes I feel as though college is that all-too-friendly, nice but not really that nice, ultra-persistent, omnipresent guy who you met once and has stalked you ever since. More times than not, I feel as though that is how I treat college: Like, look, I know I am supposed to like you because you're safe and harmless and everyone is doing a version of you, so by all accounts, I should like you. But I don't. And I am acutely aware of the fact that I SHOULD like you, but don't, so I feel guilty. I feel guilty about explaining to you that it just won't work and walking away. I feel like something is wrong with me for noticing your lack of eye contact (or intense financial debt) instead of blindly accepting the fact that you want me, so I should want you.
So I treat college the way I treat a guy who won't take "no" for an answer: Maybe if I just don't acknowledge it, it will go away.
Maybe subconsciously that is what I've been hoping for this entire process-two and a half years, attendance at one college, applications to 14 others. Yes, literally 14... I counted. Judge accordingly (frankly, I am judging myself for that one... ).
College is everywhere: It's on Twitter, Facebook, the news, the bios of the people giving you the news, shirts, bumper stickers, grocery store discount cards, and in your mailbox. You can't get away from college even when you are not in college. In fact, I am constantly reminded that I am not in college. At least, not right now. I am fresh off a year at a private university where I made the Dean's List.
Even more frankly, I don't care about the Dean's List. I guess I'm glad my hard work got honored, but realistically, I've worked harder on other things I cared more about. I have never thought a letter grade represented intelligence, at least not in all cases. I know some brilliant people who receive terrible grades, some idiotic people who get great grades, and any other combination you can come up with. Grades aren't simultaneous with intelligence.
I only included the sentence about the Dean's List because I have a sneaking suspicion that some people are lingering under the belief that I am currently not attending a university because I cannot handle the stress of the social life and academic rigor. Namely, I have a sneaking suspicion because some people linger under the delusion that you can talk about someone and they will never hear about it.
They will always hear about it.
And honestly? I find it ridiculous that the bulk of society considers anyone who delays their college education to be behind. First of all, as collegiate scholars, the days of a specific time table should be long gone. If we're going to claim to function in the real world, then we should accept that the world has a time table all its own. No one bats an eye when they hear of a semester spent abroad or time taken away from school and devoted to an internship. Why does that change if you're not working in an office receiving credit? If your endeavors do not directly relate to your transcript, does that really render them void? I chose to take time away from school because I started multiple business ventures, a few of which I had been working on in addition to my academic enrollment. Therefore, it is strange for me to realize that there is a societal prejudice against those who defer college. Left to my own devices, I created a business. At college I wrote papers I did not care about.
But what if I don't care about college, either? Don't get me wrong: Some people should absolutely go to college. For some people, college is a great thing, just like some people wouldn't find that creepy guy creepy at all. It's genuinely necessary for some careers, and some people thrive in that atmosphere.
I am just not one of those people.
I'm not discouraging going to college unless you don't want to go to college. I think everyone who wants or has a reason to should go. I also tend to think I should be able to not go to college. I gave college a fair shake: I worked hard and studied, I did my best in my classes, and even on the most mundane assignment, the type-A perfectionist in my awkward little mind wouldn't let me slack. But I think for me, college is different than it is for most people.
College is just one more place I have to worry about who to sit with at lunch -- or more importantly, what happens if I decide to sit alone. College is where people thought I was insane because some nights I just wanted to stay in. College is where some of my (now ex-) sorority sisters didn't understand I COULDN'T go out because I had to work. And didn't want to miss work. College is where I was weird because I want love but am not chasing an engagement ring (sometimes literally chasing). College is where they made English literature (my major) out to be the most sinfully boring excuse for a subject ever to enter the plant. College is where a professor bragged about the intense workload of her class and insinuated I couldn't do it, so I retaliated by acing the final without completing the required reading. Namely, because I had read the reading before -- in high school.
It sounds like I vengefully tried to cheat the system, and in some circumstances, I did. But I feel like the system has cheated me.
College is where they always told me I could be myself. That's true, as long as yourself is the same as the other selves. I'm not sure when it happened; when we all had to do the same thing, and if you do anything different, you're wrong. Or something is wrong with you. I support my friends who have good collegiate experiences. I even support my friends who love their sororities, even though I count that among one of the worst experiences of my life. I support my friends who watch Jersey Shore, even though the fact that Snooki is a NY Times bestseller makes me want to hang myself from the rafters.
You know who else I support? Myself. (I only don't feel vain saying that because it has taken several neurotic lack-of-self-esteem breakdowns to acknowledge that that isn't a bad thing... ) I support the Montessori teacher who encouraged the pursuit of natural ability, and allowed me to spend time doodling and telling stories instead of perfecting math facts. Math botched my ACT score, but those doodles turned into illustrations for a children's book, which I am publishing. I support the high school literature professor who encouraged me to write books in addition to papers. I support my parents who allowed me to think in movies. I support the ballet teacher who initially told me to get outside the box and get really comfortable there. I support the people who support others and their decisions, even if they aren't the ones they'd make.
I don't understand how this became a universal taboo: What happens if someone doesn't know what they want to study? What happens if someone doesn't know they want to attend a university? Why do we advocate jumping into a situation that amounts an astronomical amount of debt, in most cases, without the individual in question being certain? Why do we not give students the opportunity to enter the work force first, whether it be in the context of starting a business or working as an intern, discover what they like, then attend college if college is necessary to that occupation? That would take one year, one short year, a blip in the life of a college-aged person. That one year could open doors we didn't realize were available and save much "I don't know what I want to do with my life!" angst that isn't welcome in an economy this unstable. For me, college wasn't (or hasn't been) where I "found" myself. I found myself out in the world by trying things and meeting people, and perhaps college is the right atmosphere for some people to explore these things within.
But I hope I don't stop "finding myself" once the four years is up. Maybe if we saw education as a process, not a time window, our academic progress would soar. Which means our jobs would become more innovative and high functioning. Which means there would be progress. Which would at least assist our economic situation.
Now, where does this go on my application?