I have a meeting this week on a college campus. Sitting here right now, I’m nervous that I won’t be able to find the building and the room that the meeting is in.
University campuses are often confusing. Also, I find them terrifying. The gravitas of Higher Learning makes me feel small and uneducated. These places are NOT FOR ME, in scary capital letters.
And oh, how I’ve always wanted them to be. At least I used to. Part of what I want to share today is what’s changed.
I remember when I was in high school, and people or magazines told me that I should look into what college I wanted to go to. As a homeschooled kid in Alaska, I didn’t know what they were talking about.
I sent in a postcard asking for college information, and packages came to my mailbox. Large envelopes with pictures of happy students–slightly older and WAYYYY cooler than me– sitting on lawns under trees laughing and studying.
Alaska had very few lawns or trees you could sit under.
When I got to the part where they outlined how much it cost I couldn’t believe it. Forty five THOUSAND dollars for a school year?
For four years in a row?
That wasn’t going to happen.
And, in fact it mostly didn’t. I took classes when I could, between working to keep myself alive and pay for school. The University in Alaska wasn’t like those fancy college packets.
Years pass and I move to California, where the colleges were a lot more like the packets. But I was now older that those still WAYYY cooler kids, and behind and not catching up.
I would walk the grounds of colleges sometimes; I felt the hunger to learn every single thing I could.
But it won’t for me. I was still there on my night classes, like some kind of stowaway, sneaking snatches of learning.
Snatches of learning served me well in the jobs I was doing to support myself. I was always ready to learn more in my job, and so I got better and better job.
Then came the magical moment that I graduated from college. Which felt great!
Except then I wasn’t in college anymore.
But wait! There’s graduate school! College can go on forever!
But I’d already started my career without college. And I’d have to abandon a perfectly good career path to go to graduate school.
Isn’t that completely reverse of what they tell you?
Yeah. But learning for learning’s sake still called to me. And when I would go to college campuses, I would have this surge of wishing I could study there.
Until it kind of felt nostalgic. Like I was wishing for a past that I has imagined I could have had but then didn’t actually have, but not in the future was remembering wanting.
Did you follow that? I hope so.
So looking at these Ivory tower campuses got really confusing.
And after I finished writing THE BEAST, aka The Russian American School of Tomorrow, I knew that colleges–even grad school–couldn’t have helped me write THAT. I was and am so proud of that book and what I created that I saw something.
I had gone past what college could do for me. Not to say I wouldn’t learn something from classes, if I took them.
But the neat packages of learning that are outlined in syllabuses are not what I’m doing anymore.
I’ve graduated. And I finally feel it and know it.
So when I go to UCLA for my meeting, I can appreciate it. Maybe like a person an old unrequited flame.
But I’m really happy with what I’ve been learning and doing. I’m confident that I have my own curriculum I’m uncovering.