My twitter Timeline seemed to all be talking about a video on YouTube today so being the inquisitive soul that I am I hunted it out and watched it. It was a video about someone’s decision to drop out of university and that it shouldn’t define her as a person. You can watch the video below.
Now it isn’t a huge stride to say that this is of course all true. University isn’t for everyone and education doesn’t define intelligence. All it does is define how educated someone is. I have a degree. I have never once looked at it nor even taken it out of it’s brown envelope but I know what qualification that I have. It should have opened the door on my chosen career path but a funny thing happened on my way to a glittering career in that field – I lost my love and appetite for said field. Like a very significant percentage of university students I knew what I wanted when I started but by the time I ended I had no idea.
2005 was a long time ago and my career has chosen a new path and even now I don’t really know where I want it to go. For those of my era they’ll remember the song called ‘Sunscreen’ that was a #1 hit in 1997 which was ‘sung’ as a guide to the future. One line always stood out to me, ‘the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.’ At the time it came out I had my career path sorted in my head. Of course that changed.
So I sit here now staring down at my 30s not exactly knowing what I want to do with my life although I have slowly gravitated towards a goal which I am actively pursuing. I have options work wise and I have options in other avenues to strike out and do something different. However to strike out and do something different then you have to actually know what you want to do – and that is something I think most of us struggle with.
‘What would make me happy?’ is a question I often ask myself and there is no clear-cut answer. For those who know the answer without hesitating then I envy you. I’m pretty sure that what would make me happy would be something that requires a lot of work and an awful lot of luck. I don’t think I have hidden the fact that if I could do anything at this juncture in my life then I would be living in a lighthouse writing a novel. Sadly there are financial considerations that stop at least one part of that but the latter is something I can (and am) working on. Maybe in time I might become a half-decent writer and actually be able to achieve that but who knows what is around the corner?
The thing is though going back to the main point I’m trying to make is that education for education sake is relatively pointless. Having a degree does open up avenues but so does just being good at what you want to do. For example all my practical work at university was marked at 2:1 or higher. My theory was most certainly not. I was clearly more than adequate doing the practical side of my course but the theory and knowing about Foucault (yes I mentioned Foucault again…oh how that name slayed me down many moons ago) and other people dragged my mark back.
I went to university because I wanted to be a journalist (preferably broadcast) and I went to get a degree and learn the practical skills to help get me there. It didn’t work out due to several issues that I don’t feel need to be aired at this point but I think it is fair to say they helped evaporate my love and desire. I rebuilt myself knowing that a goal I was working towards wasn’t going to pan out as I’d hoped and expected.
The thing is life is a journey and you never quite reach the destination mainly because it is hard to know where the destination actually is. We all have to marry the issues of being financially secure and being happy. For some it is easier than others but being educated certainly isn’t a precursor to being happy and/or successful. I don’t think it is inaccurate that if I had my time again I would not have gone to that university. Would I have gone to another university and done the same course? Yes, probably but that isn’t the point. I made a mistake going to that university and it didn’t do for me what I wanted (either set me up for my chosen career nor make me grow as a person to understand myself). I did the latter when at my lowest ebb after uni volunteering in a charity shop. I can – hand on heart – say that I gained more in that year than I did in three years at university.
So if you are reading this and are thinking whether university is for you or not then only you can decide but if you aren’t happy – and you can’t see yourself being happy there then plenty of other avenues can – and will open up for you. I remember how big and important a decision it feels but as I said earlier life is a journey and plenty of things will change over the course of your life and choosing university or not will not either define you as a person nor define your feelings of happiness with your life.