Last year I had the displeasure of going through what was one of the most humiliating moments of my entire academic carrier. However instead of dwelling on it I take pride in this event, not because I’m a sick freak who likes being abused but because of the way that I came out of it. It was truly an eye opener and although in the moment it had made me question a lot of things about myself I am grateful for what it has given me; and that is a better judgment of character and a hard kick in the ass for being a door mat and or a sellout (I haven’t quite figured out which one would best describe my behavior).
Just a few days ago I ran into a friend of mine who is a sophomore and is going through the same thing I did. I do admit that my experience felt a bit harsher because it happened all at once instead of over time but the important thing to realize is the negative long term effects. I couldn’t help but feel all of the old feelings come rushing back, naturally I empathized with her. The fact that anyone has to go through what I went through makes me angry and brings me to my big question, what is the true meaning of College/ University?
Before I get into my answer I want to back track and inform you about my situation so you’re not wondering the whole time what happened to me. It isn’t anything life threatening and although it may not seem like anything serious in your eyes, to me it was a small moment that spoke volumes and did in fact change my outlook on life.
I’m a business student and I am part of an honors program that at times feels more like a cult for individuals who aspire to be Wall Street or corporate elitists. Actually, we have been referred to as a cult so the word is being used well in context. I had a particularly scary experience when I had a falling out with one of my professors over a misunderstanding. I was humiliated in front of my whole class by someone who I admired and I will never see them the same. After the falling out in front of my classmates I became very jaded and upset at myself. I had grown very depressed and frustrated with things because I had given up a lot of who I was in order to fit their image of the perfect student and I failed. I remember crying a lot at night thinking that maybe they were right, maybe I wasn’t Wall Street material, maybe I should change my major to Finance, or Accounting because Marketing isn’t going to make me successful. All around me I had students who were finding their niche and I was still here trying to figure out what it was that made me want to get up in the morning. I wanted to feel like I had found my purpose and I thought I did for a while but I was just pretending and it took public humiliation for me to realize it. I am in no means trying to knock my program, actually, I do very much love different aspects of it. For instance, those of us who chose to be are very much a family. We look out for each other in every possible way. However there are those who are in it for themselves and I will not judge them because I don’t know their story. That just happens to be who they are. I think that in this day in age there is too much attention put on making money straight out of college. I am in no way saying that having lucrative carriers that contribute to our society isn’t important. But I also think that if we want to inspire we need to remember why people went to College/ University in the first place.
I have read different blogs and articles on what the point of college is and I have seen a change in perspective over recent years. It is no longer about the experience, it is now about getting a “useful” major so that you can start making money and if you are in a field that isn’t very lucrative then your whole academic carrier is seen as a loss of money. This is the mentality that many students have today and I think that it is because of this that so many students don’t even want to go to college and those who go and actually finish college sometimes don’t do as good as they would have liked to in life and are often pretty unhappy. Our honors faculty are good people and want the best for us, but like most experienced adults believe that they know best and there are no exceptions. They tell you that there is only one Steve Jobs, Derek Jeter, and Jay Z and that you aren’t it. You can dream big but the reality is that it will never happen. Hello! We know that there is only one Steve Jobs, we know what our chances of being famous are. We know that we can’t actually change the world, and we know that we have to be smart about what we choose to do but if we don’t have the courage to dream about even coming close to being like any of those people and achieving any of those things, then what is the point of even trying?
I am tired of listening to people give the most un-inspirational speeches about inspiration. I am tired of feeling like I am not smart enough or good enough to have a lucrative carrier. I am tired of being afraid to be myself and I am tired of thinking that dreaming of being great is a waste of time because I may never get to be as great as I would like to. I used to think I could do anything that I put my mind to and somewhere along the way I got lost in translation. It took public humiliation and being emotionally scarred for me to finally put my foot down and break free of that negativity. I realized that I cannot force myself to be the person that I am not. I am not the person who can be safe her entire life from fear of failure and I think that it is a tragedy that this is what is being taught today. Carpe Diem is something I heard a lot when I was younger and now it is fading in to the background because it is too un-realistic for lack of better words. Since when was seizing the day reserved for a specific type of people? When did it get to be un-important?
It is imperative that we realize that the experience that we have in college is just as important as anything else. We have to remember that the original purpose of higher education was so that people from all walks of life can come together and share ideas, and learn from each other so that we can create and grow into people who have and will one day change the world. It is because of this “experience” mindset that we have democracy, fine arts and a profound understanding of the liberal arts. Oxfords dictionary states that the definition of both college and university is “an institution of learning of the highest level, having a college of liberal arts and a program of graduate studies together with several professional schools, as of theology, law, medicine, and engineering, and authorized to confer both under graduate and graduate degrees”. “Institution of learning of the highest level” is the important sentence in that statement. College is where we find out who we are. It is where we get our hearts broken, it is where we have revelations about life by taking a world religions class. It is where we are forced to do group projects with people we wouldn’t normally stop to talk to. It is a place that we go to in order to test our intellectual and mental strength. It is the time to make mistakes because we can afford them. It is where we go to push the envelope and a time for discovery.
We need to remember what it was like to dream that we could do anything we put our minds to and to gain courage to go out and execute that dream. We need to remember that it is and will always be about learning; learning about a subject, about our world on a higher level, and about who we are. It makes me angry that there are students who have to go through what I went through. It is something that does not and should not ever happen. A 19 year old should never have depression because they are constantly being told that they are average. They should not have to grow up resenting their educators and they should not have to feel like finding fulfillment in life is stupid or irrelevant because it is not. They should absolutely love what they are going to do because if you don’t then what is the actual point of doing it anyway? We need to realize and remind ourselves that seizing the day is just as important as picking the right major because it leads to the unraveling of who we are.