Tag Archives: learning

Why I stopped buying textbooks (and gave higher education the middle finger)

books

I remember the first time I bought textbooks as I got ready for my first semester of college. After saving a couple hundred dollars from my summer job, I proudly searched the depths of Amazon and purchased “collegiate” textbooks, that ensured my novice mind that I was on the path to bigger and better things.

However, it was sometime between my first and second semester of my freshman year, that I had an inkling that I was being duped.

The mindset went something like this. But probably with more curse words, snarky eye rolls and less than clear language:

  • “Wow. I can’t wait to learn something and better myself. These books will be of great assistance.”
  • “Okay. Well you can sit down and memorize something you’re not going to remember, or you can do something more productive like sit on Facebook.”
  • “This is dumb. This book is dumb. It will be out of context in a few years. My professor doesn’t even reference it and I’m out $500. Not buying a single book next semester.”
  • Next semester: “Hey okay, let’s buy these books.”

It’s a vicious cycle where I overestimate my capabilities, and believe that I’m actually going to do hours of assigned reading everyday, when in actuality, my attention span is too short and I’m too darn lazy.

I used to think that I was really unintelligent, especially when I saw some people around me immersed in their textbooks, and reciting verbatim the content they read. I wallowed as I attempted to read page after page, but my mind was always on something else.

For my sophomore year, I decided to say “screw you” to my professors and to Amazon, and decided to keep that $500 in my wallet.

In each of my classes, my professors told us to go out and purchase the required text. I just smirked and went on with my life.

When they said, “follow the syllabus and do the assigned reading,” for me it meant, “go do something you actually want to do and screw this.”

And I did. I did a lot of things. I worked on a political campaign, met and gave a speech before Michelle Obama, wrote a ton of news articles (and then got promoted to editor), started up an electronic magazine and led an LGBTQIA group on campus.

I was busier than all of my friends and often didn’t have time to eat or sleep. And yet — I didn’t do a single bit of homework I deemed unnecessary and I definitely didn’t read the assigned text. (Instead, I used the money for textbooks and received subscriptions to some newspapers and read those all day.)

I still hold a 3.5 and above GPA. Because well, we can’t get too crazy now, can we?

Now it’s not to say that I think higher education is bad.  It’s just that for the price that I’m paying — I wish there was a way to serve the needs of different personalized learning experiences. By the time you get into college, it’s pretty hard to stray from your learning habits.

And I know many people disagree with my analysis of college (I’m assuming my friends who are education majors are cringing at this moment.) That is completely fine. What works for me, doesn’t work for everyone else. I understand the importance of being a well-rounded person and having the ability to sit down and read, and analyze information, and all of that other stuff.

But.

It’s not for everyone.

And I’ve learned that it’s not for me.

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On Self-Loathing

shadow

Self-loathing is the unshakable tormenting imaginary friend that every 20-something young adult tries hard to break a relationship with.

It’s that invisible whisper in your ear that reminds you why you’re not good enough and doesn’t let you sleep at night. It’s that transparent body that blocks you from moving forward and tells you that you might as well just go back to where you came from. It sometimes takes the form of a parent, a friend, or even a stranger who chuckles at your naivety and mocks you with a middle finger.

For myself, my self-loathing became more prominent my fall semester of my sophomore year. In everything I did — no matter if it was successful — there was an auspicious awareness that it was not good enough and would amount to nothing. No matter what I did this semester: present a speech before First Lady Michelle Obama, get promoted to News Editor, meet amazing writers, and among other things that I was lucky to take part in — I still came back to my dorm riddled with anxiety and stress over my apparent inability to produce anything worthy of being called, “good.”

Even self-loathing made me stop blogging after I posted the most successful blog post I ever had.

And like so many self infatuated young adults, I assumed it was just me that had this problem. It wasn’t until I was at a party when a friend of mine drunkenly confessed her feelings of inept when it came to herself, her work and her future. In my opinion, she was an extremely amazing artist (her undergrad major) and that it was silly to spend time hating herself when she was perhaps one of the few people I admired my age.

In contrast, I think of my friends who are confident in themselves but are ignorant to their lack of ability. Like most young adults, I have many friends who want to be authors, photographs, artists, actors; but are acutely unaware that the work they currently produce is lackluster.

Why do talented people feel like their contributions are below average, and why do untalented people feel like their contributions are “God’s gift to mankind?”

In a quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: Miss Maudie speaks about Atticus’ hidden shooting talent and says, “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

While perpetual and severe self-loathing is never a good thing as it is detrimental to someone’s own psyche — an understanding of humility and one’s own lack of ability is a thing that a person can learn from. The person who believes they have a lot to learn will eventually outshine the person who believes they are superior and gifted.

In turn however — humility is a balancing act. Recently, I had an internship interview at a prominent newspaper in Iowa. I was 100% positive they weren’t even going to contact me for an interview. When I did get contacted for an interview, I was in immediate panic mode and was sure that I was going to do a terrible job and would be an unqualified candidate. My best friend’s father gave me the simple advice of acting like the paper would be lucky to have me, instead of the other way around. Through this simple façade of courage and vigor — I know that the interview went 10x better than it would have if I went in with a determination that I was unfit for the position.

But things like acting confident during an interview is obvious. It’s the balancing act of humility and courage that young adults need to sort through when applying for jobs/colleges, swimming through the dating scene or even living their everyday lives.

Most young adults in this generation lack assertiveness and confidence which is saddening. We lack the ability to feel strongly about something or voice our opinion for fear of offending someone. And then when we do stand up for ourselves or do something daring — we chastise ourselves for it immediately afterwards and follow up with, “but that’s just my own opinion” or “but I could definitely be wrong.”

At the same time, American society is individualistic and is focused on the sole person. Parents smother their children with overbearing compliments and comfort, and those children turn into young adults who fail to see themselves past the veil of, “Oh Johnny, you were the best pumpkin in the play out of all of them.”

So after rambling about the same thing over and over again — I leave you with this one belief that I’ve acquired.

I would rather do great things and self-loathe myself, rather than be mediocre and live in naive state of mind. I would rather be talented and not talk about it than be average and act boastful. I would rather believe other people are better than me, than proclaim myself as the best.

At the same time — there are certain things confident people have a better chance to get such as happiness, friends and certain things that require charisma such as a job interview or even a job offer.

So after today, I am going to try and learn how to live with my self-loathing imaginary friend, and take everything he says with a grain of salt.

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