Higher Education (And Why Sauce Makes More Sense than Calculus)

I’ve been having some major writing blocks this week. When that big bright sun is outside, it’s really hard for me to be as reflective. Maybe it’s the usual overcast and rainy sky that brings me most inside my head. Either way, words are being pushed onto the blank screen, and for a person who writes, that’s how you get over it.

And while I eek out one word at a time, there is something I’d like to dive into, if just for a little bit.

I, like most 17 year olds at the time, was looking at what to do after high school. College was the next step. At least that was the way my community worked. I had the means and Southern Miss pretty much took anybody who could get a decent school loan.

Don’t get me wrong, Southern Miss is my Alma Mater and an important establishment in the Belly of the South.

But hear me out: I struggled with college.

I’d like to say I barely made it out. But that’s not really true. I worked hard, sometimes. For me, college was about connecting with people. The sitting in class and in the library was all on the side. An expensive way to connect — that’s for sure. People ask me if I would have changed anything about my college experience. My grades or the path I chose to study Psychology and Sociology — and I almost answer right away: No.

Let it be clear: college debt is no laughing matter and should be taken seriously. You should know what you’re getting into. Luckily at the time, Southern Miss was not an incredibly expensive school. I got out of there with about as much as some folks pay in a single semester. What that says about my school is up to you, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The people I met eventually led me to where I am today. I think most people would agree that college is beneficial — especially in the ways modern day work is changing.

But, it’s certainly not necessary in learning.

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I know that may sound off-putting. Let me explain. At least in my case.

I’m a very hands on learner. I think it’s why I picked up cooking so quickly. That in part with my intuition, it just seemed to fit in my head.

I can’t break down a long equation without getting some sort of panic attack, but I can make a sauce and know how emulsions work. At least it works in my head.

Some people understand how engines work. I listen to the sound eggs make when they cook.

I’m not just referring to cooking. But sense it’s sort of a food blog, I’m making this my example, and because it’s so very real to me. Learning is an interesting subject. Lots of people do well in school settings. But if you’re like me, answering multiple choice on Scantrons is a nightmare. Having definite answers is not something I do well. Too much pressure. There’s zero wiggle room.

There is a right and wrong. I guess that’s hard for me. The lack of grace on those green and grey slips of paper. The lack of discussion and understanding.

I also recognize the privilege that I’m complaining about higher education. I suppose my problem isn’t so much with higher education as with the ways we go about it. This is obvious and can probably assume many professors agree. Most of my education was spent on memorizing, not learning. I think there might be a difference. I had professors who were terrible at teaching, but great at research.

If you are in the process of acquiring a degree — hold fast. But know that learning doesn’t stop outside of that degree. In fact, you might want to do something else. And a bigger fact than the previous is that you probably will work outside of what you went to school for. At least there wasn’t work for me at the Psychology store.

I needed work and non-profits weren’t hiring. (Because I felt that was probably the only thing I could do with a Psych/Soc degree.) I adapted to the need and here I am. This isn’t to say I won’t dive back into that world at some point, but like I said a few posts ago, there are lots of ways to do what you want to do. There’s nothing wrong with taking space to figure it out. Regardless of what you do, you will be gaining experience in other forms of education along the way.

Soak it in. Learn to be on time and work hard even when it’s not necessarily something you want to do.

Find something you’ve been really interested in and pursue it. Most likely, you will grow. I’m a firm believer in people being drawn into the things that feel right for them.

If you take away anything from this, know that I’m not saying college is bad. Most likely, you will benefit from it in some way, at some point in your life. But it’s not the only way to learn and grow.

You are not alone if Scantrons terrify you. Or if sitting in a room of 200+ students feels intimidating.

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You’re a learner in the best sense of the word. Embrace the idea that the traditional college setting isn’t for everyone and you’ll find it easier to move forward.

And now that I’ve completely ruined my dream of getting a job in any admissions office of any school, let me just say I’m proud of the decisions I’ve made.

I’m proud of the dude I’ve turned out to be.

And trust me, you don’t have to work long in a kitchen before figuring out that most people there need a little psychological evaluation.

So maybe, I’m in the right place after all.

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One response

  1. You made a good analysis of higher education and learning – and offered some good advice. There are a lot of different kinds of learning, intelligence, and skill.

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