Adulthood: College Edition

Being an adult is hard. We were all warned this in the many years between junior high and high school. Most of us weren’t exactly ready to listen thinking it was our key to independence, but that’s how it goes. Now there are many like me that are fully immersed in the ways of adults and the transition hasn’t been without some unseen and unprepared for obstacles.

There was this whole generation that was told to follow the path and go to college, and then you can solidify a good job once you graduate. I don’t know about anybody else, but my entire high school experience was built around crossing t’s and dotting i’s. I did this activity and joined that club all the while making sure my grades remained desirable. This all added up to one hell of a college application that I hoped would get me into any school I wanted.

I graduated from high school in 2002, a year after a terrorist organization destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York and our economy began a slow nose dive that even now is pretty questionable whether or not we as a country have begun to recover from. This played no role in my thoughts or dreams as I filled out an application to go to the University of Southern California. I wanted to be a screenwriter and I wanted to go to the best place that would help me achieve that dream. I was so confident that all my hard work and recipe for success would get me there that I didn’t think about anything else. The day I received my rejection letter would turn out to be my first true lesson in adulthood, but one I was not ready for.

I did what any kid who believed too literally in a system that failed me. I stopped caring. All that hard work and I had nothing outside of exhaustion to show for it. I did apply for a state school and spent four years following what I needed in order to get my degree. I wasn’t active and probably didn’t put forth my best efforts most of the time. I was tired and let a simple letter not only dictate my entire high school experience, but my college as well.

I never kidded myself about believing I would be walking out of college graduation with a writing contract at my feet. I at least had realistic beliefs where that was concerned. The unrealistic belief I had was being able to easily find a job amidst the ever present failing economy that I chose to ignore while off in my dorm room. I believed that the employers would get in line to hire me after seeing a college degree on my resume. It was actually I who would be getting into line among all the other recent graduates that had the same expectation. That is the one thing that I was not entirely realistic about, and I don’t think my fellow grads were either, except maybe the Econ majors. The world outside of campus changed dramatically in those four years, and no one within the walls of my higher learning establishment were exactly bringing it to our attention. It’s not their fault entirely, they had a business they had to sell. If we were the bright shiny stars we wanted to see ourselves as, we would have read the papers and listened to the news every once in a while.

A lot of us were give a tall cold drink of reality, a reality that we had no choice but to abide by in order to survive or fall hard if we ignored it. There was no time like that one to embrace adulthood. I ended up working through a temp agency which led to stable employment, but nothing that recognized my degree as an achievement. I had to start at the bottom like anyone graduating high school, because college didn’t separate me from anyone.

The employers do not have to chase us down, not with all of us flocking one right after another to get a position. Anymore, the only time an employer will actively seek anyone is for someone with skilled education for example like engineering or medical practicing. Those of us left in the world had to grow up fast and change everything we knew in order to make the employers notice us from all of the other eager candidates. We had to do something, because we all had massive education debt to pay off and probably various credit cards to pay off that were used to make ends meet.

I, like many of my fellow grads, didn’t move into my own secluded place to continue the independence that I gained in college. I had to move back in with my parents, because I didn’t make enough to live on my own. Even moving to Las Vegas for more opportunities had me living with my brother and sister-in-law, which I appreciated greatly. Now I’m finally in my own place, and trying to move up the company ladder so that I can have the hope of finding and having something to call my own someday.

It hasn’t been an easy transition, but it had to happen. Unfortunately, everything revolves around money, and you have to focus on some things over others to make sure the important things are going to be taken care. I don’t believe that my degree or time spent in college was a waste of time. I still have my dream of being a writer someday. I just had to put it aside for the more pressing matters at hand. I write when I’m able, and maybe someday things will happen.

While I can’t change anything in my past, I cannot discredit it for it has made me the person I am today. I have learned a hell of a lot of lessons.

Firstly, college.

This isn’t so much solely my own lesson, but something I have seen from friends as well. If you are graduating high school, it is okay to not know what to do with your life. If you are questioning your path and whether or not to go to college, then do yourself a favor and do not go until you are ready. College is a fantastic experience for education and growing up. Unfortunately, it is expensive. The worst thing you can do for yourself is waste the time and education spent there when it will be on your dime. You don’t want to screw around for a couple of years and end up having to stay around for another two to make up for it. It is not cheap. The same goes for going in and dropping out, because you weren’t either ready or realized you didn’t need it. It is an expensive lesson to learn. When you are ready to learn and do it, you will take it seriously and get the most out of it. Until then get an entry level job and get some real world experiences. At least you’ll be getting paid. Those experiences will help you figure out what matters to you.

Don’t discredit community colleges. They may not have all the pomp and circumstance, but sometimes don’t need that nor want to pay for it. I’m not saying the traditional schools don’t have merit. They do, but it really depends on what you want to learn. Unfortunately, they are running a business and have their own needs to look after, and sometimes your needs are not in their best interest. Community schools will give you the same accreditation at the end of the day. What really matters is what you and your experiences make of it. Employers only pay attention to where you got your degree when it involves a skilled education, again, as in engineering or law.

Be wary of trying to save a buck by doing the “core” classes at a community school and transferring to a larger school later. Unless that community school is directly affiliated with a larger university that you have every intention of finishing your education, you are most likely going to end up losing money. Transferring credits can be like a horrid Catfish scenario. The bigger schools may not “recognize” your credits and make you retake everything again which in turn will have you paying twice what you went in for. The community school will most likely be vague about this, but in their own way, tell you without telling you. This, sadly, happens all of the time.

Core classes and grading systems in college are another rant that I would rather not go into at the moment.

High school will be the last little gem I’ll hit for this round. I did practically everything in my high school days, and I was exhausted by the time I went to college, which also didn’t help with my lack of motivation where that was concerned. Do the things in high school that you want to do, not the things your think will look good on your college application. If you are bad ass at what you do, you will be able to show it. Don’t wear yourself out. There will be plenty of time for that later. Enjoy being a kid. It’s the only time you’ll get.