Saturday, March 27, 2010

Higher Education

After graduating from high school with decent grades, I went to community college for one semester, where I also made good grades. Then I dropped out.

Second best decision I ever made. The best was marrying my wife.

Somewhere around the second or third grade, I really began to dislike school. By the time high school came along, dislike had turned to hate.

School ate up way too much of my time and interfered with my education. For me, it was a kind of prison. As much as I hated it, my grades were good and I was only occasionally a trouble maker. The only way to get over it was to go through it. I did my time.

The school guidance councilor wasn't much help as far my future was concerned. The guidance department had basically three tracks. If your grades were good they pushed you towards the state university. If they were middling, the community college. Grades not so good? You got a pamphlet describing the joys of manual labor.

Guidance wanted me to go to state. My grades were good enough to fit in that slot. The thought of four more years of school plus the cost seemed bad idea . Instead, I opted for a two year program at the local community college.

That summer I busted my butt working to save money for college. My parents hadn't saved any money for my education, but they made just enough money to disqualify me from student grants. In all I think I received something like $50 from the State of NH.

That one semester at the community college exhausted my savings. For me, it was decision time. Debt? The thought of going into debt for school appalled me. Seemed like a trap. (it is) Dad offered to get a second job to help me pay my way. Since I really wasn't enjoying myself, I dropped out.

That doesn't mean I stopped learning. I liked learning, it's school I hated. I'd read 3 - 4 books every week, plus countless magazines and newspapers. For years I worked right across the street from a library. Made my way though the stacks. I learned to read fast with good comprehension and retention.

So years go by and I have a good and interesting life. Then at age 35 I get injured at work and have to leave the fire service. For two years I don't do much but try and heal. The retirement system was very quick to say I was too broken to be a Firefighter any more. However, they disputed that my injuries were job related so I only received a tiny pension. Thus begins a 4 year battle for my full pension, which I eventually won.

Two years into the battle, I was feeling much better. Some days I was well enough to even drive a car. Funds were tight. No one would hire a former Firefighter out on disability. At the time I qualified for a vocational rehabilitation. The program was willing to pay for 4 years of college, plus gave me money for living expenses. I figured I could live on less money than alloted. I could. That's right, I was basically paid to go back to college. Not much, but it helped the budget.

Helped me a lot too. Word of advice: no matter what age you are, if you can find someone else to pay for college, do it.

If you go to college not worrying about having a career after, it's a great place to be. I didn't worry about how college was going to pay for itself. It was paying me every month I was there. I took any course that interested me. My studies were all over the map. In four year, I was able to double major. It wasn't all that hard to squeeze in the extra classes. Since I picked them, they were interesting to me.

I met a lot of fascinating people. Made friends with people much younger than me, and also made friends with people older than me. One of my friends was going back to school in his fifties. During the first three weeks or so of a semester, I'd do most of my required reading. That would free up time to hang with people, drink coffee, and read for pleasure. Nothing flips out your fellow students more than reading a thick book just for pleasure. Most of them were bogged down with required reading. Of course, it did help that I'd read a few of those required books during my working years.

Was college worth the money the state paid for my education? Probably not. I haven't really made all that much extra money with my college education. It did enrich my life in other ways. Had I actually paid for college myself, I'd have found some way to get a financial return on investment. However, I've had a lot more fun this way.

Now I do a lots of research on the Internet. It's better than having a library across the street. The college experience did give me the tools needed to do focused research.

School's a funny thing. K-12 was prison for me. College the second time around was a choice. I could leave any time. I could decide what to study. College was fun. My fun was backwards from the younger students. They left home to drink and get laid. I'd go home to drink and get laid. Their classes were something they had to take to get that degree. I got to enjoy classes because they were interesting. College was already paying for itself.

Never let school interfere with your education.


1 comment:

  1. Ha Ha,sounds like me I hated school.The teacher would call on me I would have to go back 3 or 4 chapters to where they were at.I do feel reading is a wonderful thing,if you can read there is nothing you can't learn or figure out.