Opinions expressed by Minority Mindset contributors are their own.
I was pressured by my family to go to college. They had some fantasy that it would help me succeed. So, after 4 awkward years of high school I attended a small liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere.
I don’t remember much from my classes; however, I am frequently reminded of the massive debt I incurred from the experience. The “friendly” payment related emails never let me forget.
I was ecstatic when I graduated, and why wouldn’t I be? There were hundreds of people clapping, cheering, and holding up banners. There were people in gowns, suits, and everything in between. Parents were tearing up with pride.
Meanwhile, I was thinking “Now I can get a REAL job and make REAL money!” I was finally going to be able to buy a car that didn’t break down and eat meals that were more than chicken flavored Ramen! Yes, this is what I imagined adulthood to be like, and it was going to be FANTASTIC.
Life shook me awake from those dreams.
The first job I interviewed with offered me a whopping $10/hr. The job I ended up accepting, the best of all the offers, paid $11.16/hr. I completed 4 years of education and went into $60,000 of debt to be paid a meager $23,000/year (before taxes).
I can honestly say college didn’t teach me anything important. However, the subsequent four years after college has taught me quite a bit, especially about life. Here are the top 3 things I’ve learned since graduating college.
1) Degrees Don’t Equal Money
It wasn’t until years after I graduated that I realized my degree was worthless. It was simply a line of text on my resumé. Currently, my degree sits in a storage bin caking up dust.
I was raised on the belief that higher education was equivalent to higher earnings. I was always told to go to school, work hard, go to college, and get a good job. Since the information was coming from authorities I trusted, my parents, I believed it to be true. Also, most people were doing it, so how wrong could it be?!
Egregiously wrong, and my skinny paycheck would agree. Even after college my money barely afforded more than Ramen and cereal!
A degree is not a license to earn money, as I believed. Anyone can earn money if they possess the proper skills. I skipped a total of 3 classes in college, I guess they must have taught this lesson while I was out.
2) You can do anything, if you put your mind to it
I understand this is nauseatingly cliché. You’re right about that, but it doesn’t stop it from being true.
Approximately one year after finishing college my girlfriend and I broke up. Soon after, I developed a drinking habit, I ate fast food every chance I could get, and I’d lay in bed for hours staring at the ceiling. My life consisted of eating, sleeping, drinking, and showering (occasionally)—I’d given up.
One day, I woke up from the haze. I caught myself in the hypnotic routine that led nowhere. I decided to write down the following goals:
- Go to graduate school (this was before I realized degrees don’t equal money)
- Get a promotion at work
- Buy my parents a house
Considering that I was aimless before, these goals were huge for me. I set out to achieve the goals within 3 months. I busted my butt sending in graduate school applications, working overtime, and meeting with realtors.
I was accepted into graduate school, I was promoted, and I found the perfect house for my parents. It all happened because I decided to complete certain tasks and I focused all my energy on those tasks.
Know what you want. Focus. Work. Achieve.
3) Don’t procrastinate health
Everyone always believes they will be healthy, their friends will be healthy, their family will be healthy, and their pets will be healthy. It’s a dangerous pattern of thinking because it programs you into ignoring real concerns.
I’ve lost 2 pets because I put off their appointments. It’s a horrid thing to walk into your home after a long day and see your furry little friend cold, rigid, and blank in the eyes. Friends don’t do that to each other.
It’s just as painful to see one of your parents struggle to walk down a flight of stairs, read, and remember names—especially when you’ve continually told them to see a doctor. Unfortunately, so many people are reactive about their health. The only thing that speaks loud enough is a heart attack or a stroke, or both.
Be proactive about health, not reactive. There isn’t always a tomorrow.
Pay attention. Learning doesn’t always occur in a classroom. The most important lessons to be learned are seldom taught from textbooks, pop quizzes, and PowerPoint slides. Moreover, don’t think that simply because you have a diploma from some school that education immediately halts. Life will continually pose new challenges to grow from.
School is about memorizing the facts for a test and a grade. Life is about internalizing knowledge to get ahead.