Who has two thumbs, but no college degree? This guy! “But wait,” I hear you say. “Your writing is so sophisticated and enlightening, I refuse to believe that you are not college-educated!” And to that, I respond thank you. You’re too kind!
But sarcastic self-deprecation aside, my lack of a degree is something that’s nagged at me for half my life. When I was a kid, I just assumed that I’d get one. That’s half the problem, really: I assumed. I thought I had it in the bag. High school had been easy, and I never had to work for my grades. So I never learned the study skills or self-discipline that are required to succeed in college. I was near the top of my graduating class, so maybe I can be forgiven some hubris, except that that class only had 24 kids. Depending on how you looked at it, we were all “near” the top.
My second big problem was that I chose the wrong major. I wanted a career that would bring in the big bucks, so I went into business. But aside from the promise of an obscene salary, I didn’t give an upwardly-mobile crap about business. I grew up in the 80s, when the movie Wall Street taught us that “greed is good,” and a generation of Gordon Gekko wannabes made and lost fortunes on the stock market. But I’d never even seen that movie. I wasn’t one of those guys. Even if I’d made it through school, I wouldn’t have been cut out for that career.
While my extreme disinterest helped me to fail epically in my business law and macro- and microeconomics classes, I excelled at the classes I enjoyed, which were almost all electives. I aced astronomy and sociology, and did passably in philosophy. In my fourth and last semester, I took a creative writing class, which was both enjoyable and inspiring. After taking that class, I realized that I’d made a mistake. It was more important to do something I found rewarding than to make a lot of money. I made up my mind to switch majors.
And the next day I was kicked out of school.
It was an academic suspension. My grades were just too bad. I could have come back after a year. I realize now that I probably could have even gotten around the suspension if I could tell the school about my new direction. I could have. I should have. But I didn’t. And I’ve regretted it every day since.
Now, I’ve done quite well for myself considering my lack of education. I stumbled into computer programming, and have made a pretty good career out of it. I consider myself to be quite lucky. But I still wonder what might have been, had I made a better go of it in school. Maybe with a degree, my career would be even farther along than it is. Maybe not. But either way, I wouldn’t be left wondering about what might have been.
Sorry to be so wistful. I guess education has just been on my mind a lot lately, as my daughter nears college age. If college is in your future, don’t do what I did. Pick a major that really interests you, and don’t be afraid to change it if you find something better. College is hard, but a life of regret is harder.