School is the priority of every child’s life until he or she is given the opportunity to ask themselves ‘Is this for me?’ Most of the time, the honest answer is and should be yes; humans have an incredible capacity for knowledge, but knowledge has many influential mediums.
We learn because we were meant to; for example, language. We don’t come out of the womb talking. For the first few months, all children’s do-do’s and ga-ga’s don’t identify with any specific language, but as age develops, humans adapt and learn from their surroundings. Accent, fashion and food are all learned cultural identities according to one’s environment.
Once all potential knowledge by the age of 18 has been gained, the common question becomes ‘where are you going to college?’ not ‘Are you going to college?’ It seems as though social expectation and education, in a way, have hijacked the liberty of knowledge and the mediums it translates through. What about those who may not believe school is the best option for them?
Education is the most magnificent opportunity, for doctors, lawyers and scientists. The exposure, opportunity and knowledge gained from skilled professors is the optimal and most practical opportunity to osmose knowledge. Textbooks, study sessions and practicums are the best environment to learn in these professions, but what about the people whose heart and passions lie elsewhere?
Musicians, actors, writers, dancers, illustrators and designers dwell in a craft that relies not only on knowledge and skill, but connections. In all of these professions, mastered skill is of utmost importance, but the leaders in these challenging fields that reside in classrooms are at institutions most artists will never be able to pay off. Having debt of $200,000 as a struggling artist is an unrealistic financial budgeting. When committing oneself to an industry with a salary of $18,000 a year, school no longer becomes an option.
The next best environment of opportunity and knowledge becomes the city. Rooftops, jazz clubs, dance studios, warehouses and back porches have transformed into an artist’s fully equipped classroom. Placing oneself amongst peers with a common interest to connect and collaborate is the best skill to learn and obtain. Who you know becomes the foundation of an artist’s career. The next gig becomes your graduation certificate.
But then what? Suddenly, you find yourself looked down upon at family reunions and social gatherings fighting for your dignity. Societal norms can strip us from our intentions. The arts are now considered an untraditional career, therefore, untraditional life paths need to be taken. Disregarding judgement and making the necessary adjustments is pivotal for success.
Thousands of year ago, there were followers, leaders and experts, just as there are today. They made the necessary choices according to their interests whether to hunt with their fathers, pick berries with their mothers, collect wood for fires and knit clothes for their families all based on their skill set. Expertise was accomplished my immersing oneself in the environment of their craft, whatever that may have been. If a hunter was burdened with studying the technique of needling, his hunting skills would become less developed. Clouding the mind with unwanted information distracts from the ultimate goal.
I’ve been to three universities in two years and at times I feel I have surrendered my life path to satisfy the needs of my neighbors. With no regrets, I have gained the skills and knowledge of numerous universities, yet I feel as if I have been squandering two years of my life because no one told me that college wasn’t an option.
Average people do average things; above average people do extraordinary things. If you understand that school is a privilege yet chose not to attend, my respect lies with you. College is an incredible opportunity to gain a deep understanding of anything from biomedical engineering to sociology, but college may not be the appropriate choice for everyone. With 7 billion people in the world, if everyone went to college then who would have the time to make the Sistine Chapel?
Content producer Sarah Prinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.