Something popped up as a Facebook memory for me today, a quote that I had clearly appreciated eight years ago:
“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” ~Nelson Mandela
It makes me happy that I took that quote to heart so many years ago. Sometimes just a few words can shape a person’s life, perspective, or attitude. Which is yet another reason why people need to choose their words wisely. I have hundreds of examples of this, but I’ll share the few that are on my mind today.
As I approach my last full year of school before graduation, I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. I have always wanted this for myself. Will it change me? Maybe. It’s possible I could advance in areas of employment. But the fact that I like my job and worked really hard to get here makes it a moot point. I know many people, myself included, that have made their way through life without a college education. I know people who have led humble lives and been happy with the meager wages they earn. I have met a couple really stupid people with giant paychecks that can’t put two sentences together that work in the automotive industry and I’ve met smarter ones that make less. Good for them for sticking with it from high school graduation till their fifties to make a good living. A dear friend of mine spent most of his life dedicated to Consumers, and worked his butt off till retirement by being on-call and working as much overtime as a human can handle. But he has a comfortable retirement, and his kids were well provided for. I know people with sheer dumb luck that were able to navigate through a few jobs to design what they wanted (this best resembles my own path and that of a few of my friends that are close to me). I know people with legitimate skills that were fortunate enough to be recognized, or maybe even have an “in” that led them to the job of their dreams that paid them well.
Having said all of that, I also recognize a lack of interest in the trades is a real problem with our current youth. And if there is a trade that interests you, go get it. You’ll be set for life. If you are passionate about serving your country, by all means enlist. Opportunities are boundless and you will be well cared for. I think what I find the most frustrating is when people take to social media to bully those of us who pursue education. I work in education (something I never even knew was possible for someone like me) and the free education I receive for working for a major university is a gift. Only a complete idiot wouldn’t take advantage of a benefit like that. AND it has been my lifelong dream to be a college graduate. I came here with an Associate’s degree that I paid out of pocket for, through hard work, scholarships, and pell grants. Believe me, I paid for plenty of it. It was a proud moment for me to graduate from community college, even with the Associate’s. I spent many years taking one class at a time, and taking years off when life got in the way. But eventually, I did it. Because as I always say, the semester will come and go whether I take a class or not. As it turns out, I was hired for my job history and experience, not for my degree.
When someone goes out of their way to make fun of someone pursuing higher education, quite frankly it makes them look stupid. I have seen people post pictures of artists, philosophers, writers, musicians, and liberal arts students that are usually unflattering if not completely inaccurate. Not all of us are vegan hippies (and guess what, so what if we are?) or unemployed actors. Some of us have a genuine desire to learn, to know more, to not just “settle” for whatever simple life we have learned as a child. Wanting to be any of the aforementioned people does not mean you do or do not require a degree. How many actors have you heard interviewed that stumbled upon their careers by dumb luck? How many went to acting school? I would venture to guess the numbers are not that far off.
Many people like to point to “book smart” people with zero common sense. While that is sometimes true, as is the reverse, there are a whole lot of us that have both. I know that I am a highly intelligent person, and I was before I ever showed up to any college class. College has opened my mind to things I didn’t even know were possible and that’s a beautiful thing. When kids cry about taking history or math or some subject they don’t like, people are not lying when they say it is to make you a well rounded person. Taking a couple semesters of Spanish, at an age where learning is harder than ever for me, was the best thing I was ever forced into. I learned A LOT. About A LOT. I had a very brief conversation with someone who could not speak English recently in a restaurant. While she giggled a little at my pronunciation, we were able to communicate effectively, something I could not have done a year ago.
My intelligence does not lie solely within books or schools. I have gutted my own bathroom and dry-walled it. Then tiled it. I tiled the backsplash in my new kitchen myself. I figured out how to work a tile cutter and managed it. I have been paid to decorate cakes. I am an ordained minister and performed a legal wedding ceremony. I have painted more rooms in more houses than I care to count. I have planted gardens, maintained a lawn, and killed as many houseplants as I’ve kept alive. I have made and lost friends, usually by my own decision. I have raised a child who is a nice adult. I have used common sense to make purchases, to buy and sell real estate and cars, and bake a loaf of bread. I know when to keep people around and I know to walk away when the relationship is no longer healthy and not serving me.
So…to the blue collar bullies out there, hear this: I will not bash you for your decision to clean toilets, fix cars, or whatever it is that you do to make an honest living. “Dirty Jobs” showed us how vital so many of these jobs are to make life tolerable for the rest of us. Mike Rowe, the host of that show that I have a not so secret crush on, also had a viral video about the need for tradespeople and how college is not for everyone. Can’t we all just get along? I’m damn proud of myself and you should be proud of yourself too! I don’t care if you’re growing medical weed, cleaning hotel rooms, or a corporate executive, we’re all in this thing together. And a little kindness and consideration goes a long way.