I Want What I Want, Not What They Want

The right path for me? I'm not done making it yet... Come back later

I‘m fairly confident that I’m not going to be getting a bunch of As or anything this semester. I’m too focused on other things to concentrate a whole lot on school. Normally, when a student says that, it means they’re playing video games, partying, or doing various other things with their time in which “grown ups” would frown upon in place of school. I’m not doing any of those things. While I may be on a computer, I’m not playing games. I might be on Facebook, but I’m communicating with potential colleagues, readers online, and even an advertiser once (don’t ask). I might be in my room all day, but instead of sitting on a Gameboy wasting the day away, I’m enhancing my skills in the professional applications that are going to end up being the difference between a job, and a career. I’m teaching myself stuff that will decide whether I become a contract worker every now and then, or a desired asset that has an ever-ringing phone for work opportunities.

Truth is, I understand what direction my life is going to take now, and I understand where my skills lie in place of finding work, and creating awesome stuff later. I’ve figured out the in’s and outs of my long-term life, and I’m trying to put together the pieces in the short-term that will lead me there. I have to focus on the obstacles and limitations that will prevent me from my dreams, and learn as much as I can, as fast as I can. There seems to be a pattern here, and this inescapable disease called college haunts me every day I wake and throw that backpack over my shoulder.

School has done a few things for me in the past five years. Teaching me the curriculum directly, isn’t one of them. I can’t do calculus. If you asked me, right now, how to find out when two damn trains were gonna ram into each other if they left stations at different times, traveling different speeds, I’d say “I don’t give a shit.” – It’s the truth… I don’t. Let them hit.

The purpose of attending a university, as seen by this sixth year senior, isn’t to learn facts, and how to do complex math. It’s not about learning the elements in the periodic table or learning about the history of ancient Rome, or even the United States (which is very boring in comparison to pretty much ever other place on the planet, by the way). Sure, people need to know these things ONLY if they want to go into a career in chemistry, or history, or mathematics. For the rest of us, it’s required for only two reasons, and that’s it:

  1. It teaches you problem solving skills, and how to find answers to the questions you don’t know.
  2. It makes the school money. 

That’s it. The second part is fairly simple to understand, because they teach math in high school well enough to understand it. Credit hours cost money, and by requiring students to take more pointless classes that don’t pertain to their development in their chosen path of life, they require students to pay more money to them for it. Even if the school has nothing to do with the education the student receives, like internships for example, the school still requires that they make money on it.

"We don't have any money because the state reduced our..." wait.. what?

I’m about to try for an internship (or two) in Hollywood in the Spring, and even though the school has no part in the education element of it, and really no part at all in it (aside from an instructor that sends emails of opportunities), I still have to pay for credits. I have to pay them for “credit hours” for the internship. How pathetic is that? Clearly this isn’t something that’s thought through in the best interest of the students. They have to come up with $2,000 for housing costs for 6 weeks, food, gas (to drive 3,000 miles to LA), and other various expenses, but we’ll still need another $1300 or so to give to the school too… who has nothing to do with us in Hollywood (aside from the emails).

Pretty pathetic, but enough about that. I really could go on and on about my distaste for university politics, as many already know…

 

Lets dive into the first part a little bit. Some may not agree with the money thing, but you’re a naive idiot that probably hasn’t paid enough attention to the politics within the university you attended (or you went to community college, which is totally different). We’ll talk more about that later…

School doesn’t teach you facts. It teaches you how to find the facts.

I learned how to type fast by playing video games, so school didn’t teach me that. I learned how to make a website by making a website, so school didn’t teach me that either. I learned what I know about tech from experiencing technology, so school didn’t teach me that. I learned all about how to make great images from my camera, and take “decent” photographs with it from experimenting and playing around from it, so school didn’t teach me that. I learned Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Photoshop, After Effects, Word, Powerpoint, excel, Final Draft, etc. (all programs that directly pertain to my future) from being self taught, from high school, or with online tutorials for just $35. School didn’t teach me any of those things. In fact, even the classes directly meant to make students practice and experience those applications hasn’t taught me much (Jim Shaub’s Media Technologies course being the exception to this). Certainly not the $15,000 I’ve paid in total so far for those courses.

No… School didn’t teach me any of those things to help me through life. However, without college I wouldn’t have ever learned them. I wouldn’t have gotten far at all. Because in order to learn something new, you need to not only know what you don’t know, but you need to know how to find out what you don’t know, and learn it. Grand Valley State University has showed me interesting parts of life that I didn’t know before, and made me interested enough in them to search for the knowledge. Rarely did I obtain the knowledge in my classes, but outside the classroom instead. For that, I’m thankful. Knowing how to learn is the most useful trait a person can have. It builds character. It makes you patient. It makes you humble. You realize where you are in the world, and you dream of where you want to be. You look at obsticles as another math problem, only instead of getting some pointless letter grade that ultimately means nothing to you or your future employer, the goal is your future. The goal is what YOU want to achieve, big or small (most of the time big).

College forces you to grow up.

College changes you. It makes you mature, and driven toward bigger things at a much faster pace. I look at the freshmen at the school now, and I see myself five years ago. I don’t want to admit it, because it embarrasses me at how immature my mind was then, but that’s life. You have to give yourself time to grow, and living on my own in college, independent, without the constant dependance or direction of my parents, made me who I am today. It made me older, wiser, more stable, calmer, more responsible, and ultimately more confident. It was like fertilizer on a crop, enhancing myself more thoroughly than if I had grown differently.

Many people will read this post. They will be those who are still living at home, maybe in high school, maybe in college, and they’ll question what I’m saying now. They’ll say “whatever, I’m a grown man/woman now. I know how the world works.”

You don’t. Not yet. Take it from a person who went out living on his own (somewhat) when he was 18 in a dorm room, abused that freedom, and came back home to live for more than a year. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t responsible enough to handle it. After living back home, I realized how much different it was. I didn’t have bills again, no utility costs, and no real “need” for a job even while I was in school. Asking mom for gas money was simple, and my parents have done everything in their power to provide me with enough resources to become who I am today.

Then, when I was accepted to GVSU, I left again. I was three years older than the first time, and much more prepared for what was about to happen. I had turned my life around, because I realized that I was a nobody. I realized that I wasn’t gifted, and nothing was going to be handed to me. That saying “I want to do this” didn’t make it any easier to get it. I met a girl who had a completely different mindset about her (much simpler too), and it brought a new way of thinking into my mind. I had goals all of the sudden. It was strange, and I felt uncomfortable for a while. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t used to having a person outside of my family (besides you Vaughn) that really talked deeply to me about the future, and logic, and purpose. A person that pushed me to actually “become” somebody (somebody that I wasn’t at the time). Somebody who actually made me “care” about something other than “just trying to make it”, and start thinking about really becoming something more.

I did things the hard way

Yay debt! I love you!

My life decisions when it comes to school wouldn’t be something I would wish upon anybody. It’s currently my sixth year in college, almost every friend from high school has since graduated, or is currently a graduate student (some dropped out, but that’s their choice. I justify it as an option for myself all of the time). I’m behind them now, but while I trail behind now, I will rise above later. You see the funny thing about doing things the hard way in life, is that you almost never make the same mistake twice. It’s against our nature as humans. Do something that impacts you considerably, and you’ll never forget about it again. That’s me. I dig myself out of bad situations, and while many people may not have had to deal as the bad stuff yet, I’m a much better digger than them. Someday, they might ask me for a shovel. I hope not, but I take comfort in knowing that I’ll have one, and know how to use it.

What’s the point of all this?

My point is that I’m spending 90% of my time working on something, and about 20% of my time is school related. The other 10% is sleep, eating, and activities related to personal hygiene. I have very little money to spend, and I have my three-year anniversary coming up with no real idea of what to do for it on such a tight budget. I have next to no time to do anything for myself, and I haven’t actually gone out to do anything fun that wasn’t somewhat business related in what feels like half a year. Even when I’m a bus, I’m working on my future. I read two how-to articles on making cool effects in After Effects today while I was on my way to a Cuba project meeting… even when I’m on a bus, I’m not getting away.

This was originally going to be a Facebook status update. As soon as I got this huge white sheet of empty typing space in front of me, it just sorta flowed. Now I have no idea how to end it. It wasn’t originally supposed to be this long, and my fingers flew on autopilot for most of it.

I guess I’ll just… end it. Comment below if you want! :D

(Road image source)

Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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