Stop Telling Me To Use My Degree

Howdy Internet Friends,

With the lack of activity in the world and my life, I, like most people, have had lots of time to ponder and reflect on things. With that pondering, I decided to write on something a little different today. This is in no way me trying to brag or be ungrateful for my life. I realize how privileged I am to have had these opportunities and am truly grateful for them. I am merely reflecting and sharing what I have learned in hopes to inspire someone in a similar situation. Or just bring awareness that it’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing with your life.

I don’t like dwelling too much in the past, because it’s not helping me learn to be present and it’s easy to get stuck there. However, it is nice to see how the past has helped shape us into who we are now and give us a sense of empowerment. With that being said, before I can put the big picture together, I feel like a little backstory would help.

4 years ago (tomorrow) I graduated from UA with my bachelors degree. I was a first generation college student and one of the few people in all of my extended family to earn a degree. I didn’t really plan on college. Aside from teachers, I didn’t know anyone who went to college and finished, etc. I spent high school being very caught up in my emotions and was mostly focused on just getting out of my hometown, anyway I could. I didn’t have money for college. And my grades sure weren’t going to get me a scholarship. I didn’t know how to apply or fill out any of the paperwork. I didn’t know what major or area of study I wanted or how to figure that out. I eased in and spent my first year at community college before transferring to the university. I really didn’t know what I was doing, ever, but I did it. And I had fun.

I cried a lot, but I also laughed and smiled more than I ever had. Like the stereotypical college student, I was often inebriated, but it made for some funny stories and great lessons. Game days were without question my favorite part of my experience. I made so many cherished memories. And not only did I finish, I did it in less time, with honors, and got accepted into multiple graduate schools. It shocked a lot of people who knew me. It still shocks me, I had imposter syndrome so bad at some points.

I don’t hold onto academics or degrees to define success. I don’t care how “smart” someone is based on a weird education system, that controversially may just keep certain people oppressed and is there to make money (thats not me knocking research and academics, you guys are doing amazing work, it’s the system and what it creates that makes me skeptical). College isn’t for everyone and that isn’t me saying people shouldn’t educate themselves, you should. However, that setting and learning style isn’t for every brain. Back on topic…. I’ve never used that degree and I didn’t finish the grad program I started at the end of 2016. I was bitter about it for longer than I’d like to admit and I pushed blame and made excuses instead of realizing it just wasn’t for me. But that’s not really what this post is about. It’s being reminded and highlighting the fact that I can do things that seem so unreachable to me. That degree was the stepping stone to me realizing I can do anything that I want to in this life…it’s just figuring out what I truly want that challenges me now.

The past few years since this, I have changed so freaking much. I’ve been through so much crap. A lot of it wasn’t good, but some of it was. I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world. And I’ve made a lot of “mistakes” and messes. Those are things that are always going to happen with time regardless of what I do. It’s easy to get upset with myself for not using this degree that I worked so hard and am in so much debt for. Especially when people question it. It’s easy to internalize the idea that I threw away “a bright future” because I decided I didn’t want something I was working on for a few years. But, that’s not me. It never was. I slowly have realized that I learned what I needed to from an academic setting and it took me to where I needed to be and it gave me this amazing sense of empowerment. Through these experiences I realized I can do whatever I want (as long as it’s not hurting anyone). I mean a solid example is me just flying to Thailand on a whim because the opportunity presented itself and I wanted adventure. If I had never went to college where I did, I never would’ve decided to go to grad school. If I had never went to grad school and moved out of the south, I wouldn’t be so okay with doing things solo and being around people who are nothing like me. If I wasn’t okay with doing things solo, I never would have taken that first planned trip abroad and be the *somewhat* fearless human I am today.

Sometimes I forget to recognize that power I have over my own life. I think a lot of us do. Just because I’m not working in a field of my major (or a “9to5”) doesn’t mean I am not using what I learned or that my life could be any better. Life is weird. There is no universal plan that it is supposed to go any certain way. And if you think there is, maybe consider where that idea is coming from. I know for me, a lot of the ideas of what I should be weren’t mine.

Anyway, here’s your reminder that you can do hard things and that just because things don’t go similar to how you envisioned them doesn’t mean they’re bad or that you failed. I truthfully can’t imagine being the person I thought I would be back then, but I can’t imagine not experiencing those few years. The girl in the photo, I barely recognize her anymore. I hope this resinates with more people than just myself and I hope everyone who reads this knows if you fall, it doesn’t mean you failed. There really are lessons and meanings to everything. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself. I’m so grateful my life has been what it is, even the messy. And I’m grateful for my alma mater. Roll Tide.

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Someone once told me to never stop writing, so I'm not.

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