It’s not been easy, but being a good steward is an important component.
I recently was reading a post by Matt Walsh on how he detests the societal imperative that everyone must go to college and how he has found success although he didn’t go to college. It was quite encouraging for someone like me, who had never been to college (although I keep talking about it like I will someday) . I too am trying to find a path with my writing, although it’s not quite clear to me how to do that…yet. I think it’s a mix of good fortune and working your tail off. It might take a decade before I can even consider this a viable career option. Needless to say, I’m a realist about this.
Although, this is an appealing scenario for me, there is one thing that has always been a greater goal and has actually been more beneficial to me than any other life principle I’ve adopted – staying out of debt.
Before I even married my wife five years ago, I determined that I would do everything in my power to stay out of debt as much as possible. Any debt I would accrue had to possess one of the following qualities:
- I had to be able to pay it back in 6 months or less.
- I had to see it pay off as an investment some time in the future.
So, we do have a mortgage and we do have some medical bills and that’s pretty much it. I don’t make a truckload of money each month, but I make enough to support my wife who wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and our three young kids. I consider my family more of a success than any other accomplishments in my life. I owe whatever little we have to staying out of debt and a good job.
As far as college debt goes, I never saw it as a good investment, partially because the cost was too high and also because I had no clue what career path I wanted to pursue. It’s a bit daunting to choose to give up four years of your life and (possibly) a huge chunk of your paycheck to learn to do something you’re not sure you even want to do. I also have heard many times the old adage, “Well, any college degree will help you in the long run”. Hmm…really? Because most of the job boards and statistics seem to disagree. They’re looking for people with very specific degrees and experience to boot. I have neither for 98% of the jobs listed.
I’m not ever going to totally rule college out. I do possibly want to go back someday when I have the time and resources (code for “money”). I also just wish college could be more like how it was when I was homeschooled. When I was in junior high and high school, I had a set curriculum, but I also could pursue differing interests as they appealed to me. I learned public speaking through a Toastmasters Club. I learned most of my history by reading biographies and other books I thought looked interesting. The local public library me saw me so much, I was asked if I wanted to volunteer on a weekly basis, so I did. As a library intern, I learned organizational and time management skills.
I would never discourage any young person looking at college from going. For one, I think it is largely a good investment if you have a clear passion and career you want to pursue. If you’re like me, it might not be the best decision off the bat. However, I would strongly urge people like me to be careful with their money and develop job and social skills. In all truthfulness, I learned most of my job skills at my current job, which I’ve had for almost seven years now. I’m still learning, as many of my co-workers would probably tell you.
In conclusion, I think Matt is right. For many people, there’s just no good reason to go to college and society puts way too much pressure on it, but I also don’t think that you should anticipate your best life will fall into your lap either. You need to make good choices (like staying out of debt) and be willing to learn from other people. If you’ll never stop learning, you’ll have more ways to find what you’re passionate about. You may also never be wealthy in the worldly sense, but it’s up to you to decide if that matters or not. It’s never really mattered to me or my wife.
As Proverbs says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”