I am not who I once was. With time, I will say that once more. I know this because I have changed. I know this because there are things that I am still trying to change. I have experienced things that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, and I have done things that I wish more people were able to do.
Four months ago, I graduated with my second Bachelor’s degree. The irony of majoring in English and Creative Writing is that I still don’t know how to properly write Bachelor’s degree. Is it a possessive S? Is it a plural S? Do you capitalize it? Do you take the easy way out and kill whoever coined the term? I don’t know. What I do know is that a college degree is overrated. Most of what I’ve learned has come from books that I’ve read on my own. The remainder of what I’ve learned has come from great teachers. Despite being able to count them on a single hand, they made going back to university bearable.
The first year didn’t count, in more ways than one. I had moved to a new city and I was living on my own. It was my first experience with the British educational system (which makes no sense whatsoever, by the way). I was giddy with hopes and expectations. I was distracted by having one of the best teachers I have ever had. The second year was a mixture of hope that it wouldn’t all be as bad as it was and anger that it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. It was a struggle, both physically and mentally. The third year was the worst because it had not gotten better. I couldn’t cope. I struggled to write essays, to meet deadlines, to be creative when neither I nor the lecturer cared about the course they were teaching, to remain calm when the lecturer was obviously an unqualified moron.
I read what I wanted to read. I spoke up. I talked back when I knew the lecturer was out of her depth (this happened on three separate occasions with two different female lecturers and a male lecturer). I experimented with my work. I took chances. In the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, I learned that “I was made for the library, not the classroom”.
I wrote about topics that I wanted to write about (while remaining within the parameters of the assignment). I have struggled with assignments on topics I felt comfortable with and vice versa. Sometimes my grades took a hit because of what I decided to write. Who cares, though? Yes, at first, I might have been upset for getting such a low mark. But, now, I’m proud of it all. A number is never a measure of one’s achievements. If it were, we would all have jobs.
We all have a job we think we would love to have. I know I do. That’s why I decided to go back to university and earn a second degree. I wanted a change of career and I believed that that was the path I needed to take to eventually get the job I wanted. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have gone back to university. But despite my regret in choice of university, I am happy that I did it and I am grateful.
I have two college degrees, three years’ worth of various work experience, no current job, and an ever growing possibility that I’ll be forced to leave the place I have called home for the past three years and move back in with my parents.
I carry all that with pride against a world that looks down on people like me with shame.
We are expected to graduate from high school, go to college three months later to study something that most often than not pleases our parents (and if you are really unfortunate, it must please the rest of your family as well), to then study for three to four years and graduate with a degree, only to accept the first job you can find so that you start earning a steady income in order to get married and start a family. And if, somewhere down the line, you were to go back to university, it would only be in the form of a Master’s degree as a continuation to what you had previously studied.
I know how difficult it can sometimes be to do it alone. That is why I am here, supporting you, just like I have people who support me. Experience the things you want. Work at the job you have always wanted. Earn money from your hobbies. Be proud of everything you have done and achieved. Live the life that makes you happy. Live.
“Remember when you were young? When your head contained as many futures as hair sprang from it? When you had few cares and infinite potential? When you owned the world and almost nothing in it? Remember when you weren’t just a ghost who changes face to suit the weather, or a strange device used by others to manufacture their happiness, but a true being at the center of the universe? Remember when you could go out with what you had in your pockets, and no map, and leave an adventure unfinished, and return home with lungs filled with stories, eyes bruised with happiness?”
– M. Suddain