Traveling as a Student in the School of Hard Knocks

Traveling as a Student in the School of Hard Knocks

On this week, exactly one year ago, I was concluding my run around of a four-year stint in tiresome undergraduate study.

Sporting a thrift store tie with killer whales, a medium blue gown made out of recycled materials, and a snug-fitted tasseled cap, I prepared to accept my degree from the president of a budding Michigan university.

At the time, these seemed like big steps forward. I could finally toss aside all the societal expectations of having a degree, because I’d have one for myself.

Travel, and self-exploration, and all those other long-awaited freedoms would gradually introduce themselves to me, getting to know me, and opening new doorways for opportunity. 

I’d run out into the marketplace and announce myself as a recent graduate ready to work for a greater cause, and I’d spend my free time roaming from country to country, improving myself as a human being as I went along.

During all of the commotion, I hardly even stopped to think about all the other universities that were unleashing their recent graduates into the world, and how big of a stadium it would take to make room for all those people.

Taking Those First Steps

Perhaps what would happen next would be a clear indicator at how ambiguous my career path would be with a new degree in Religious Studies.

As I entered the stadium downtown with thousands of other recent graduates making their way to their respective colleges, I quickly realized that I had no idea where I was going. 

This simple, yet sudden epiphany would eventually lead me to sit with the wrong college during commencement. Apparently, Religious Studies falls within the college of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Not knowing this, I instead sat uncomfortably with hundreds of students from the Liberal Arts college as I watched my academic peers from the small Interdisciplinary department walk across the stage and receive their degrees.

Rather than settling into my seat to sulk in my mistake, I was determined to make something of this happy accident.

As a word of advice for soon-to-be grads, evidently when you decide to sit with the wrong college during your graduation commencement, they don’t have you on file, and thus, don’t have one of those little note cards with your name printed on it to hand to the commencement announcers.

I was hereby blessed with the creative potential of a blank note card and a pen.

As I scribbled down a name and waited to enter the long line of students who would soon cross the commencement stage to become graduates, I nervously giggled at how mildly funny of a story it would make to have my name read as Shane Gorgonzolas.

Sure enough, when that time came, and the announcer audibly second-guessed her decision to read my fake moniker aloud, I had the last laugh at all the trials and misery that are usual to come with being a full-time student.

On to the real world from there.

One Year Later...

To be true to my emotions, I’d tell you that acquiring a college degree turned out to be a joke, and the laugh was truly on me.

Did you know that it takes ten years of paying hundreds of dollars a month to fully pay of a thirty-thousand dollar student loan spent on a degree in Religious Studies?

Call me sullen, but that’s just as much as any other degree would have costed.

The reality is that I was naive. My academic advisers told me to follow my passions and I haphazardly gobbled up their suggestions like a starving dog, not stopping to accurately assess what kinds of opportunities would be available to me with a degree in religion.

As I have studiously discovered, the School of Hard Knocks is a much greater, albeit more rigorous method of learning. I’m not being pessimistic, but I did deal myself a difficult hand.

There’s no entitlement that should be awarded for having a college degree, nor will there ever be. Though, it’s obvious to me that if I would have chosen to study another discipline, my chances at finding a job would have been significantly better off.

But it was never just about this for me.

Sure, my Millennial naivete muddles my faith in approaching any fashion of a career, but I feel as though I’m not just here to go through the motions. I want to be, and do, and feel something amazing for every waking moment that I’m alive.

That’s where travel comes in.

Not Falling For Mediocrity

Maybe my intentions seem sullied to older generations, or my affairs seem rutted in misdirection, and that’s all okay if it appears that way. 

I’m striving for something deeper, for something that will give me a sense of purpose, rather than water cooler colleagues and dental insurance.

It’s not that I don’t want a career. There’s just a lot of pathways to take, and they all take time to process.

Assuredly, I’d love to have something that I can call my “thing.” 

I want to live a life that makes a difference to others, without “selling out.”

I want to see the world.

And writing is notably the only thing I’ve ever really been good at. I love writing, and doing things worth writing about, and translating assortments of complex illogical feelings through the tappings of my fingertips.

Even my mom has always seemed to tell me that I should find a profession in writing, and if that doesn’t count then I don’t know what does.

Though it’s not easy, you know. 

The lack of any relevant degree, such as those in communications, journalism, professional writing, and so on make the quest extremely difficult. And not to mention, every organization worthy of working for seems to require years of professional experience to even enter into an entry-level position.

But let me be clear here, I’m not writing all of this to put off any would-be writers; after all, as they say, content is king. My thoughts here are primarily meant just to be cathartic, and if anyone finds interest in taking up benefit from this, well that’s all the better.

Up and Onwards

This week, a year later from my graduation date, my sister is graduating. She attended the same college, wore the same medium blue gown that I handed onto her, and walked across the same commencement stage.

Fortunately, she did sit with the right college, her name was accurately read, and she chose a degree that would befit her career goals nicely—writing, among all things!

A year later and I’m hoping she has better luck in the world of writing than I have.

As for me, my aspirations are to keep traveling. But not aimlessly—never aimlessly!

In the annals of time, I hope that looking back on this chaotic and confused search for finding something purposeful to do with my time will inevitably be seen as necessary.

But as for my degree, I hold no illusions. It’s something that can never be taken away, but frankly I wouldn’t be too perturbed if anyone tried. For all that I am, and ever will be, I could have accomplished without the means of acquiring a degree.

Lest I go on to graduate study…that’s a different story.

But as for travel, and the importance that it holds for this time in my life, the loan repayments for my years of dedicated study have proven themselves to be more burdensome than anything else.

And so, the battle of priority ensues. 

Do I search for a “real job” that would help me pay off my loan debt, stockpile me with professional experience for my future career aspirations, and see to living a moderate life replete with various insurances meant to house me in a safety net of well-being?

Or do I continue to strive to make art out of my being, so that living with bouts of squalor may become the norm in order to chronicle invigorating accounts of a well-travel life?

When I Was A Young Dreamer

If only there was something in the middle, like a book deal, or a remote writing position that cropped up, then I’d probably feel like all of this wasn’t such a daily struggle. I’d like to say they’ll come in good time.

At least one can aspire endlessly in the School of Hard Knocks. 

If you’ve made it this far in reading what was otherwise meant to be a cathartic outlet of an article, I’m surely humbled.

Maybe something will happen where I’m left unable to travel, or I’ll accidentally get into the wrong sort of situation, or the inability to find work will leave me shivering in a ditch on some wild and untamed roadside.

But the sheer fact that you’re reading this here and now means there’s a story to tell. And the dream of creating a vivid legacy means the story is all that will ever matter.

So year two of being a recent graduate and my student loans are a little lower, I’m a little more well-traveled, and I have new ideas for how to apply myself in the School of Hard Knocks.

Maybe it’s the feeling that time is running out, or that everyone else seems to be finding their own personal pathways of success, but finding my “thing” has never seemed more important, and yet seemingly so far away.

If, perhaps, you find yourself deliberating over some landmark event, like pursuing an industry ambiguous degree or deciding to travel to some ambiguously foreign land, I’ll say this: be sure to make it count!

Don’t rush, chart your course smoothly and methodically, and strive for what will make you feel the most in this uncharitable life.

And if you’d like to read my very first post about graduating from college, click here.

Thanks for reading. Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Feel free to share them below.



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