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So, here’s the thing. I’ve been working on my undergraduate degree for way too long, and I think it’s time to give it up. After this semester, it will have been seven years since I graduated high school, and I’m about another year out (maybe three semesters) from finishing.

I squandered my first year almost entirely. Got caught up in the stupid things that freshmen living in dorms do, and didn’t focus on school at all. Then I took about a year and a half off. I won’t say that I made the best use of that time, but I learned a lot about myself, my motivations, and my goals in life. Then I came back to school. I decided to stick with the Hospitality and Restaurant management major that I had originally started on (maybe not the best idea, but we’ll get to that later). I did ok. Not spectacular, but in the classes I was really interested in, I excelled; in the classes I didn’t really care about, I mostly held it together. If you know anything about my relationship with school, you know that is about as good as it gets. I kept that up for a while, and then life happened. My girlfriend of over four years broke up with me, and I found myself deep in the throes of depression. Another couple semesters squandered. Now, with a couple more good semesters under my belt, I’m getting the feeling that the return on my perseverance is shrinking.

It’s not that the value of a college degree in general is shrinking (well, it probably is, but, not the point). It’s that, after some serious weighing of the options, I genuinely feel I could further my career and life goals more effectively by focusing on other areas. I can just imagine the “finish your degree!” crowd coming out of the woodwork right now.  Before you get all up in arms, consider a few specific circumstances:

  • Hospitality was the wrong choice of major for me, and restaurant management the wrong concentration. I honestly don’t know who that human being was who wanted to work in restaurants seven years ago, but it’s not me now. Restaurant work is just not that great, and I know for certain that I won’t be putting my degree to use. A degree in restaurant management is hardly portable to other industries. Further (and I hesitate to put this on the internet while I am still a student), the hospitality department at my school is becoming increasingly irrelevant (that, or I am just waking up to something that has been there for years). They spent millions on a brand new, “state of the art” facility to house their classrooms and a hotel, but I had a hospitality marketing professor call Pinterest “Pee Interest” without a shard of irony. This week in one of my classes, we spent two hours going around the room and saying what we like and don’t like about going to restaurants while the teacher interjected tangentially related stories. I am paying for this. I am not lying to you.
  • My entrepreneurship minor is complete after this semester. It’s the one area that I am deriving any academic value, but after the capstone class and internship that I am taking this semester, it’s all over. There’s no more to take. Instead of filling my time with hospitality classes I’m not going to use, I would be better served with some real life entrepreneurship experience. If every time I was doing homework now, I instead read something relevant to what I am currently working on, I could learn the things that I need to learn faster.
  • Switching majors would put me at least another year behind. It would mean going back to all of the intro classes that bore me to death and inevitably end in bad grades and more dissatisfaction with school.
  • The best thing I’ve gotten out of college is the networking. I guess that means I’m doing something right. But there is plenty of networking outside of college. Plenty. I could easily spend as much time networking, going to events, and meeting people as I’m spending in class right now. Not only that, but I could form more relationships that are more targeted to my goals and interests.

The best counter-argument that I’ve heard so far? “When you have a degree, it means nothing. When you don’t have a degree, it means everything”. There are scores of employers that won’t even look at you without a degree. It’s a valid point, but I am an entrepreneur. I’ve known for a long time that I won’t be truly satisfied until I’m working for myself. I want to spend my life creating companies, selling companies, and creating more companies. I’m not looking to get hired, I’m looking to hire. I’m gaining experience with two startups right now, one my own, and one as an employee. It’s experience that I can cary with me, and it is more than I have ever learned in school.

I honestly don’t know what the answer is. I think it is going to require a lot more soul searching and sleepless nights until I figure it out, but I’m bound and determined to make the best choice for myself. What that choice is remains to be seen.

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There is this paradoxical feeling of intense isolation that comes with living in the city. You wouldn’t expect it, being constantly surrounded by hordes of people, but it’s there. And, as much as you try to forget it, as much as you try to surround yourself with kindred spirits, it inevitably finds its way through the cracks of your contacts list.

When it finally does push its way through the barricades that you have so diligently erected around it, it isn’t easily bested. No amount of friendly small talk and smiles from strangers will erase it. The sounds of neighbors through the wall only serve to intensify it. The people you pass on the street are no consolation, despite knowing that, at least to some degree, they feel it too.

Its a strange sensation, wedged in a seat on a packed bus, or nursing a coffee at a tiny wooden table in the back of a busy coffee shop, when that isolation overtakes you. There is no warning for it, either. One moment you’re happily surrounded by friendly faces, and the next moment you might as well be in the woods of Montana. Actually, being in the woods of Montana would probably be better. At least then, that feeling of isolation would be more easily understood.

As of now, I don’t understand it. It shouldn’t be that way. For me, it usually comes on after great times with the people I love. It comes at times when I should be feeling the most invigorated and loved and content. It’s at least partially self inflicted: when that feeling starts to take over, I’m not going to call you. I’m not going to answer your calls, and I probably won’t return your texts. It wouldn’t do any good, anyway.

Maybe someday my better sense will win out. Maybe someday I’ll be able to take down that feeling in a mental wrestling match of logic and reason. Maybe.

Sea of cars

Beyond the turbulent ocean of steel, and glass, and circular currents ( befuddlingly and errantly referred to by locals as a “meadow”), nestled between the striped tributaries of asphalt, a blue and yellow beacon of hope arises for all those who are troubled by their lack of and/or inability to efficiently store belongings. The people, they make the pilgrimage from far and wide to visit this bastion of life improvement. In their best Ugg boots and sweat pants, and with kids in tow (often literally dragged behind on a nylon strap), they come in droves. Though the rate at which they arrive is heavily influenced by the time of day and whether or not men in tights are being paid to throw and catch a ball on that particular day, the flow continues from the time the sun comes up until well after it sets.

They come to be romanced by a veritable museum of products for sale, displayed in settings that are obsessed over, analyzed, and precisely calculated to strike the best chord with “the many people”. They come to see, and touch, and try on for size a life that is not lacking in any belongings, or novel methods of arranging those belongings. They come to dine on frozen, and fried, and from powder food, and to marvel over its low price. And when they lacking space in their stomachs, some line up for the elevator, while others are brave enough to awkwardly trot down a concrete staircase to the rows of goods that they saw in the museum-like upstairs.

(To Be Continued.)