Originally titled, “The one thing I miss about college,” in which I mentally process while writing and reach a thought I had not begun with, and I feel overall better than I did when I started

While my classes during my undergrad weren’t great, my overall college experience had some bright points to it. I remember fondly sitting up with my suite mates all night my freshman year and playing games, and D&D over Cheezie’s pizza in that little apartment on Harrison, and spending time with the Model U.N. club, and hanging out at Potter’s House, and Bible study at FnC…

These days, I feel socially isolated. It’s not the quality of the relationships I miss, but the nature of the conversations. In college, everyone was being exposed to new ideas and they were learning at a fast pace. Conversations were tinged with a sense of discovery and excitement, and we were focused on those ideas.

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Oh, right, I’m not in college anymore

I started college in 2003 working on a bachelor’s in religious studies. In 2006, I met April and fell in love, and I knew that I was going to need a job and some money before we could get married, so I started pursuing a full-time job and I was hired at Missouri State University in January 2007. Subsequently, I dropped down to part-time as a college student.

And then, due to bad advice from my advisor, I didn’t get the “right kind” of credit hours and it ended up taking an extra two years to finish my BA.

I almost dropped out. Technically, I did drop out for nearly a year, but I went back, and throughout much of my undergrad career, I was desperate to finish. So when I would see an ad from Phoenix University or others, I’d think, “Maybe I could transfer and finish faster!” Whenever I’d see a billboard for Kaplan or another program, I’d wonder if it’d be cheaper and faster to go to them.

Of course, it wouldn’t be. It’d be way more expensive, only slightly faster, and my degree would have been less respected. But this wasn’t a rational thought, it was an emotional one. I wanted to be done so badly.

And now I am done. Not just with my bachelors, I’m done with a master’s degree. But this emotional response, triggered by seeing these ads, is still strong. I see a billboard and think, “Hmm, maybe I should check that out so I could finish faster.”

And then I remember that I’m done. I’m done, and I smile. It’s hard to let go of that response because it’s so ingrained, but remembering that I have gotten all the formal education I need to is pretty great.

The Return on Investment for Good Grades

Young woman with books balanced on headI’m not a good student. This came as a shock to my high school graduating class, many of whom assumed I was valedictorian when I actually ranked somewhere in the 40s. I lost my scholarship after my freshman year of college due to a combination of bad professors, working too much, and not knowing how to study. And as I began work on my master’s degree, I realized something new about hard work and good grades.

It isn’t worth it. When I was younger, I got mediocre grades because I didn’t care. I cared a lot about learning, but I didn’t feel the need to jump through hoops to prove what I knew. During my post-graduate work, I had a new reason, which was that working hard to get a better grade simply didn’t buy me anything.

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Going back to school

Almost a year and a half ago, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. It took me eight and a half years, and it was sometimes hard to find the motivation to finish. My job at the time only required an Associates or equivalent number of college hours. I had learned everything I needed to learn. There wasn’t any reason to finish other than to get the credentials.

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Graduation excitement

I’ve lost the blogging buzz. My promotion brought with it both an increase in activities as well as increased focus on finishing everything. I want to wrap up this year and seal it away in the archive so I can move on with my life.

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Poems About Things I Can’t Fully Understand

One of my classes this semester is about the Holocaust, and as our final project we had the option of doing either a research paper or a creative piece. I had intended to do the paper–I enjoy research, and I can put together a good paper pretty quickly–but when I met with my teacher to discuss the class and my project, he seemed to be pushing for something creative. I mentioned that I (used to) write poetry and could do a dozen poems or so in about the same time it would take to write a paper, but he tweaked that a bit: he wanted six poems, but with explanations of what each one meant.

I think explaining the poem ruins it a bit, but I wanted to share the poems themselves with you, along with the introduction.

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So long, Heartbreak. Hello Dreams!

My frustration about school and the attendance thereof has only become more pointed as this year has progressed. We’re barely a month into the semester and my two classes have been infuriating. One is Children’s Literature and is essentially, “How to teach literature to children between the ages of two and five,” which is definitely not how it was described in the course catalog. The other is The Life and Thought of Martin Luther King Jr. and we have yet to discuss the good doctor, let alone his life and/or thoughts. We have instead been treated to many rambling and often racist stories by our professor, unclear expectations and assignments, and a litany of “extra credit” opportunities that often manage to involve attending his church.

The real issue is that these classes, and most any classes for that matter, prevent me from pursuing my dreams in the here and now. I can’t write when I’m taking two classes a semester. There are two reasons for this:

  1. My work requires a lot of time dealing with people, particularly in management situations. For someone as introverted as me, this is mentally and emotionally exhausting. I already have a regularly scheduled game night on Fridays that takes some of my energy, and when you add in two classes for a total of three days a week, each requiring twelve to fifteen hours of extroversion, I’m wiped out. Deeper thought and the writing that would come out of it aren’t reasonable in those circumstances.
  2. Because of the previous issue, I use class as an excuse to not do work. Part of me recognizes that I’d completely burn out and have a nervous breakdown if I pushed myself much harder than I do and forced myself to do a lot of work and writing during my limited downtime, but I can’t ignore that this an excuse, not a reason. Ideally, I would be able to do everything, but that’s not feasible in real life. If I try to do everything, I’ll fail at everything. Being in class keeps me focused on the problem, not the solution. The solution is simple, but I’ve been too wrapped up in the problem to admit it.

It’s not the classes themselves, or even the six hours a week they take. It’s the poor state the entire schedule leaves me in. Six hours isn’t much, but the long days they lead to makes achieving my dreams impossible.

So I’m done. As of this semester, I was only enrolled for one reason: to be able to attend PAX ’10. I won’t be able to afford to go if I have to start paying on student loans, and if I’m not enrolled in six hours of classes a semester I’ll have to start paying. As much as it sucks to not go, though, I’d rather be happy and fulfilled 362 days of the year than have 3 days of revelry and good times with friends. My year and my life isn’t worth that.

I’ve already got the line item in and our budget balanced to accept this.

I’m not saying I’m dropping out entirely. When I see a night class that’s 300-level or above that looks interesting, I’ll take it. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the 2-3 classes I have left to finish my major and minor. I’ll probably take some graduate-level courses too (since they satisfy the Upper-Division Credit Hour requirement), though never more than one a semester, if they look fascinating and challenging. But I’m done with playing the game, staying enrolled for no good reason.

I realized last night what I want to do with my life in regards to work. It’s going to take a few years to get that set up, but I’m good with long-term plans. I’m tired of not starting, though. I’ve been feeling dissatisfied with college for four years now, and it’s time to do something about it.