Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why College Matters … To Me, Anyway


Why College Matters … To Me, Anyway

   It baffles people when I tell them that I graduated ( well, escaped ) High School from Houston back in 2003. I was lucky to have gone to a fairly nice High School called Stratford in the Spring Branch area of Houston, a school where I should have done my best in all my classes, studied, and tried to make better connections that I did.

   I honestly spent my time watching anime, avoiding math and real work, and basically kept my head down. On the up-side I did make some amazing friends that I still have to this day, a decade later, and I am super grateful for each and every one of them.

   My first “real” college experience was actually not much of an experience as I went to Houston Community College for Film/TV studies. I had an awesome teacher named Mr. Herrington and Mr. Ira Black, but they were the exception, not the rule. I hardly did anything worthwhile, I was sleeping in class and … I was a poor excuse for a “scholar”, that much is for certain. I had spent my whole academic life basically getting by and not making any impressions so this, I felt, was going to be the same thing.

   I got delayed with college by choosing instead to work ( at a Blockbuster, no less … not a great move, in hindsight ) and I believed money would be a better pursuit of my time. In the end, it wasn’t. I felt like I was preparing myself for mediocrity in a “real world” where it would be hard to stand out anyway, so I made a huge choice:

   Film School

   I was lucky enough to have a friend who decided to move to Denver, Colorado and he could have used a roommate. I found a Film School in the area where we’d be living and the rest worked itself out over two year. I learned a lot ( really, a LOT ) and made new friends, learned new things, and found out more about how college “really works”.

   Basically, the actually acquisition of Degrees is useless from a work standpoint. Getting Associates and Bachelors Degrees  are good for proving you can follow a regimented plan, that you can endure changing situations, and that you are capable of applying your mind to specific standards across a long period of time. While that is not “the end” of what degrees mean, for the kinds of work I wanted at the time ( film ) they were useless. My demo reel and my writing portfolio was to be my future, not a degree. Pieces of paper were not going to open any doors for me, my work on tape/film was.

   Problem ( or solution? ) was, I loved writing! Loved it, loved loved loooved it. The issue was making a career/life out of it. The answer, essentially, was that it wasn’t, it was a passion, not a job ( not yet, anyway ). I made another huge decision ( based on many factors ) to return to Houston, finish my degree closer to home, and focus on Film if I could.

   Long story made very short – I hate the University of Houston school system and hope to never, ever return there. Period. The only good thing that school granted me was the utter despair necessary to re-align my focus towards a new degree path – English!

   So, 500+ words later, what on earth could I say about English Degrees that some people don’t already know from stereotypes, jokes, and rumors? For me, the degree path of English was one of learning new critical thinking skills and writing standards. It also opened me up to learning about tutoring, teaching, and scholastic expectations on differing levels ( English can be approached grammatically, rhetorically, or analytically … or all three! ). I decided to pursue the avenue of becoming a Professor in English because of my love for these subjects, my interest in higher-level teaching, and my desire to continually apply my mind and writing without existing in a vacuum.  To me, college and “Academia” was the one place I found I had finally learned to thrive because I had talent, not because I had only spent a lot of time IN college (Seriously, look at my older grades. They were garbage in something I “loved” except for the script writing and English classes! )

   It took me 10 years to finally find what I am good at, and even this is just the first start of the journey towards what I aim to do for the rest of my life. It’s a life path, not just a “job” for me. At least, I believe this to be true. I’ve tried working in freelance, tutoring, and for-pay writing positions and know these things are important to me.

   My point is this – I’ve done *everything* I could do that was available to me to build a career portfolio that builds up my Undergraduate Degree: editing manuscripts, tutoring, managing conferences, presenting papers at home and abroad, etc… I did these things with the connections I labored to build and cultivate, a skill I learned out of necessity and care, not simply out of ambition. Everybody who has given me the jobs or opportunities I have had are people who I had previous work/scholastic experiences with and who I (desperately, in some cases!) tried to prove myself to.

   College is the battlefield where we earn our victories through trials by combat, lots and lots of trials. I was thankful to find a field I loved and in that domain I have pushed myself, not because it was “good business”, but rather because if I wasn't doing that I wasn't living; I wasn't being who I was gifted and born to be. Still, passion is one thing but actively trying to earn my place in the world is another.

   College has been where I’ve learned that sometimes the dedication we put into things WITHOUT expecting rewards is where we will benefit. Many things and projects I have worked on “look good” on a CV or a Resume, but that isn’t why I did  it. I did it because college gave me the opportunity and I had an obligation to make the best use of the time and resources available by proving I could.

   So, I did! I guess? I am not sure, I still have a long way to go towards my dream. I just know college is an on-going place of opportunities, should be use it as such. I took me ten years to do that and I hope others learn the same things without having had such a long mental gestation period as I did! I am having to learn to be proud of myself for what I've accomplished because of how (extremely) hard High School was for me and because of how little I thought I'd ever be worth.

   In the end, I am glad I have proven myself wrong!

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