Here I am, trying to avoid writing a “response paper” due tomorrow, one of those brilliant inventions of the educational institution to get you to do more work. The professor has a good reason for why he gave you this assignment, but when you’re sitting and staring at the tiny, vague prompt, you start to wonder if this higher education thing is one giant con. I mean, if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past four years of college, it’s that a degree (or two or three or five or…) doesn’t necessarily make a person, 1) good, nice, or compassionate; 2) interesting; 3) organized; 4) knowledgeable; 5) right about what they’re talking about; 6) a good teacher; 7) a good academic adviser; or 8) in touch with the real world.
After four years of college, I’ve seen some good professors and some awful ones, some thought-provoking, challenging assignments and some pointless, time-wasting ones. Overall, I find school a bit baffling, which is interesting since I spent a year and a half of those four years at college studying education. I think that actually made me more baffled by the whole concept of school. Why does passing through a certain number of hoops of various designated shapes, colors, and sizes make you suddenly more qualified to hold a job, have a higher pay grade, and hang an oversize piece of paper in your office? I don’t want to be cynical, but entering my (second) senior year of college does have me wondering, in my almost-burnt-out state, what the value of this jungle gym of assignments is.
I guess I tend to be a contrarian; when someone tells me to do something, I’d rather work on something else. If someone tells me to believe one thing, I’d rather swing to the other side of the spectrum. This can make being motivated for school tough because it’s all about doing a bunch of random, seemingly pointless things you’ve been told to complete and having a lot of theories you’re supposed to believe piled on your back without having time to really think through whether you believe them and process the implications.
I also find school tedious at times because it feels like I’m wasting my time on work that won’t change the world, serve any purpose, or ever see the light of day after I slip the graded stack of papers into my tattered 2016-17 folder to be archived in a dusty plastic bin shoved under my bed. I’d rather be working on real projects at a real job, fixing real people’s problems. I’d rather be writing articles about mental health that might actually touch a person’s heart, save a life, encourage someone to get the help they didn’t realize they needed. Instead I’m neglecting that work (that I do eagerly on my own accord) for papers about random articles that will never be read by anyone but my professor (which I drag out of my brain like teeth pulled without Novocaine).
I went to a liberal arts college for three years where the value of knowledge for knowledge’s sake was lauded at every turn, and normally I agree with such sentiments. I love learning, but I like doing it of my own accord. I wish I didn’t have such a bad attitude when I have an entire year left. I wish I didn’t have such a bad attitude when I am so privileged to be getting an education, and I was initially looking forward to this year (before it started, of course). Yet I also keep thinking about my life after the anticipated graduation date I keep writing on information forms. I find my mind drifting more to the things I hope to accomplish beyond the brick and mortar than the syllabuses that sit in front of me. After all, it seems almost selfish to be absorbing myself in these lofty arguments over trivial details of historical anachronisms when it’s National Suicide Prevention Month, a heavy reminder of just one of the many hurts of the world that often weighs heavy on my heart.
I guess blog posts are supposed to be positive and have a point, two things school often fails to do, so I’ll taper off with some mildly-conclusive closing thoughts. In life we have to go through the long, arduous, seemingly-pointless processes of preparation so that we can experience the slow, painful growth and formation necessary to be a person of character and ability. It’s like how you have to go to orientation before you can start school or be single (in my case for forever – ha) and work on appreciating and improving yourself before you can start a committed relationship. In the Christian tradition, there’s a lot of discussion of “sanctification” – God using the little trials of daily life to make you into the person he hopes for you to be. In counseling, you don’t go to one therapy session and solve all your problems – it takes years, decades of slow, patient work.
I guess that school must be one of those times; it may not feel like I’m learning anything and it may all be pointless, but all over my years in the education cogs have formed my brain and scholarly aptitude more than I realize. So maybe this year will hold more learning experiences too, I just have to be open to them. And all of this makes me realize that change is slow and often unidentifiable, especially in the moment. We don’t have a lot of grand epiphanies, visions, or dramatic turns in our life narrative. It’s typically gradual shifts in direction or gentle caresses that mold us with each turn of the wheel into a unique vessel.