In Retrospect

I’m officially done with college. I’ve danced the dance, kissed the babies*, learned how to take tests, and hopefully retained a thing or two worth taking home.

A couple of questions would be in order. Where is home? What things will I be taking from college? Will I ever be able to carry on a normal life again? Will my new arsenal of argumentative and critical thinking skills make the world a better place?

Home. I used to have one. It was a place where I slept, ate at regularly scheduled times, kept my stuff, and came back to when I had nowhere else to go. Home was a good place. The corporate ladder*** has tall rungs. It’s like yanking a plant up by the roots every few weeks and throwing it into a different environment, to make it stronger—only this is really bad for plants. I guess people might be different. I hope so. Regardless, a home would be nice.

What will I be taking from here? A pickup line a friend uses is that his neck always hurts, because his “brain is so big,” but this sounds like not a good thing. Thankfully, my neck is still okay. I’m a little concerned about my brain, though. College permanently affects people for better or for worse. It’s a Utopian environment where people study, play, and live**** in a sheltered community****. It’s unsustainable, because a campus would die without a huge pipeline of funds coming in from real people working on the outside who are doing un-college things. It’s a wonderful place. Success is measured by making good grades; good grades are made by anticipating what the instructor expects; instructors are successful when they anticipate what the student wants; and, when instructors are happy, everybody is happy. Happy people***** keep the small world of college humming. Taking this a few logical fallacies further, one could deduce that without colleges there would be no happiness.

I’ve learned a lot about life. Instructors have made a real contribution to my store of knowledge, and credentials are worth something no matter how foolish they seem. I’ve gotten into, and been put into, situations which I couldn’t even have dreamed up, that have taught me a lot about people and a lot about myself. Not all of these are pleasant to recall but nevertheless, learning took place. There are different paths, different perspectives to every problem. Not every problem has a single solution, and there are many solutions without a problem. The college perspective tends to blind me to other paths that value exclusivity. College did a good job of teaching me to recognize what I don’t know. This seems like a valuable skill. (As if I could know.)

According to my spreadsheet tally, I paid to college $104,785 over a period of 44 months. This includes books, rent, and tuition. $37,058 of this was gifted to me through scholarships and grants. The rest came through a combination of student wage, freelance, tutoring, and investment income while accepting student loans (to guarantee cashflow) which actually increased my savings over the college period. So, in case anyone’s still reading, paying for college is doable with a bit of planning. Or, by having good credit; my backup plan was to tap a $120,000 line of credit I personally secured for this endeavor. That wasn’t necessary, but it was a powerful motivator.

I’ve completed 6,500 hours of homework, sat through more than 2,100 lectures, and finished 50 final exams. Was this a waste? Yes and no. I could have made thousands of dollars and bought all kinds of stuff with that money had I stayed at home and worked. Here I learned that stuff is bad because I have to move it from apartment to apartment. Besides, I rarely have time to use this stuff, a fact that eluded me at home in the other world. I learned that people on the west coast are different than people on the east coast, and, yikes!, even have different values sometimes. People in rural areas (that’s me) are different from urban dwellers. This seems like a good thing to know.

It feels really good to know how to argue; it’s like taking candy from a child*******. I’m talking about reductio ad absurdum, or winning by reducing the other person’s argument to in-cohesive meaningless phrases. I always get my own way—not really because I’m right, but because people can’t stand to argue with me. But I’ll relent this time, and admit that I’m a little unclear on the real value of argumentation. (Someone didn’t finish their job with me.)

Do critical thinking skills make the world a better place? I’m going to go with “It depends” on this one. A critical thinker examines both sides of every problem. That’s actually pretty funny because one person can never see both sides. This effectively makes the person with a college degree right. All the time. This comes in handy. I can never be wrong because I’m a master at switching sides when the going gets rough. Refer back to the roots analogy.

Some things haven’t changed with me. I don’t believe in Utopia and haven’t been able to shake core beliefs I have about human nature. I’m not racist or gender-biased but I also realize that life isn’t always equal. All problems will not be solved by meeting in the middle. It takes more than “agreeing to disagree.” I’ll never know the whole story but that shouldn’t stop me from taking a stand. Discussing sensitive issues is usually the better way while agreeing kills creative thought.

I’m done. This is a good thing. Hopefully I’ll recover.

*Yes, that’s right.

**Nope, I haven’t. But it sounds nice. I kissed up to a lot of other things to get here. So there.

***It’s not really a ladder because it doesn’t go anywhere.

****People die here, too.

*****Sound familiar?

******Actually, happy people have nothing to do with it. Money keeps colleges humming.

*******This actually feels terribly wrong.