I wanted to be a cosmetologist. I have always had thick, unruly, uncooperative hair, and I figured if I could handle that, I could handle anything with a fat brush and wide straightener. I have always had acne, so I figured I could become a master of hiding blemishes on adolescent and young adult faces. Looking at pictures of me at sixteen,its frightening my “dream” was ever close to being fulfilled.
I wanted to be a truck driver. It seemed to make sense. You just drive, sometimes fast, always carefully. You meet people, gather stories, and stay up all night. Most importantly, no other girls were doing it. I would hate to end up just like other girls. Four years later, I don’t even have a license (for several very good reasons), and I certainly don’t think I’d ever be mentally prepared to lug a semi around all alone at 3:00 AM.
I didn’t want to go to college. I didn’t want to sell out. I didn’t care about being successful. I didn’t care about being well behaved. I didn’t care that everyone thought I was a loose canon, a liability, and a reckless child. I didn’t care because I was having fun. Everyone else could kiss my ass for trying to interfere. I was unstoppable, and any efforts to prove other wise contributed to my cause to rebel
Why? Because they were all miserable. Every adult in my life seemed to dread waking up, seemed to drag by the end of the day, lament their poor life choices, and in the same breath, chastise others for the same. They didn’t mean to make growing up so grey and dismal. Their intentions were merely to caution me:shit gets hard fast, just look at my baggy eyes and workload. And I looked, twice or three times maybe, before deciding, NO WAY.
So I had to live life with no boundaries,and no restraints. My decisions were based on my emotions and poor reasoning. I thought I understood the world around me. Of course, the cliche we all know. I wanted the world to understand me, not define me. I had to be above that, whatever THAT was.
At sixteen traded in my Catholic school uniform for khakis and the choice of ether a blue or red polo (a public school ought to rethink implementing a uniform based on school colors to reduce gang violence if the school colors are blue and red). I succeeded in becoming a royal pain in the ass for my parents, my teachers, and even some of my friends. I was failing classes for the first time in my life. I was going missing for days at a time because I could.
I became a real nightmare when I decided I wasn’t going to school anymore in February, 2011. I figured I’d have to repeat the year anyway, so what was the point? I told my parents, who were devastated, that I’d get around to taking my GED.
But the nightmare wasn’t over. I gained 30 lbs, I had no job, no education, no structure, and no way to relate to peers. I felt alone. My fuck it all attitude was fading; I realized such reckless behavior was not very charismatic. I watched crime dramas all day, kept to myself, and began to live inside my head. I was useless.
In September of 2011, I took my GED and passed. I had always been intelligent, but I had no idea what that meant. I thought that being smart was something people hated and were annoyed by. So for the most part, I kept my thoughts and opinions to myself. I had no forum for their development. Until I sold out. Until I learned how to value my education.
I had to learn how to behave like a human again. When I started college, my parents only let me take three classes. It was an experiment. They questioned whether or not they could trust me. Rightfully so. I got a job, balanced my classes, and I proved that they could trust me. I did well in all the classes I’d enrolled in, took summer courses, and five courses every semester thereafter.
Despite only taking three classes my first semester, I caught up. I’m currently a junior, and I’m not bored yet. I chose to study subjects that interested me, earned my associates in Criminal Justice in the winter, and I’ve been working hard to continue what I have started. However, it wasn’t really academic success, at least not on paper, that got me to love college.
Elementary school, middle school, and high school, they are all a nightmare. By the time a student gets to college, they’re often burnt out; sick of a system that seems to promote memorization of boring and impractical concepts and operations. If a child is not identified to have math skills superior to his/her peers, they tend to end up hating the entire discipline. With the most lucrative and productive occupations today in the fields of math an science, the education system should promote creativity and critical thinking in these areas, not merely teach with the attitude “it is because it has been” and “its just the way it is”.
It’s not likely, however, education will incorporate teaching methods that emphasize creativity reasonably soon. Such a shift in curriculum would be costly, time consuming, and make many uncomfortable. Instead, children and adults must learn to love learning on their own.
When I had nothing else, very few friends, no hobbies, and no way to really network, learning became empowering to me. Knowledge allowed me to better understand the world around me, and accept that things are not black and white; in social science most questions have not only different answers, but entirely different methods of reaching them. At first I was upset by my realization that I was never going to know or understand most of the “how”s and the “why”s of the world. But I learned quickly that I could use what I did know to build a foundation and hopefully inspire others to become passionate about education: formal or informal.
Those who do not seek to change the world or go to college can still learn to love learning. Whether its trade specific, or a cross disciplinary sample of subjects, whether its practically useful or useless, knowledge inspires mental growth and encourages individuals to become experts in the area they love. Of course, that’s common sense: you know what you like and want to know.
I challenge individuals to be more receptive of what they don’t know and love. I challenge individuals to pursue knowledge that they may be uncomfortable with, and I hope that adopting a different perspective than what is typical can inspire them to be confident in their ability to think critically.
Everyone has a contribution to make to society intellectually. As a teenager, I was too angry at the world to see I was stifling my own growth. I was not allowing my true potential to be recognized.
Within the next five years, I am going to be an attorney. That’s the path I have chosen to pursue because I believe a career in law is what I am best suited for in order to help others. Many people have no desire to impact society, sell their souls to pay for higher education, or sit still long enough to learn about what makes society tick. Some people find math boring, others dread discussing literature. I’m happy I find information regarding most topics engaging and able to relate to my field of study ( wish I could say such topics exclude the Kardashians and other pseudo-celebrities, however they provide some very interesting social case studies). Not everyone feels the way I feel, and that is perfectly fine. Part of the beauty of learning is cultivating tolerance and understanding related to all types of thinking.