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“Can I graduate?”
I got my college degree before I could legally buy a beer. This wasn’t some sort of “Doogie Howser” situation. I had the opportunity to take community college classes during my junior and senior years of high school. I jumped at the chance. While my peers were stuck in school from 8am to 3pm each day, I was taking a full slate of college classes. The proximity to home was shorter, and there were plenty of gaps in my schedule. It gave me the ability to immerse myself in learning guitar and playing golf. I loved the freedom. And the course work was fun, too.
When I graduated high school, I did so with a high school diploma and most of the general requirements classes for a college degree completed. When I was deciding which four year college to complete my degree at, the acceptance of my previous college course work was a huge factor. I chose Hiram College for a lot of reasons: they accepted all of my completed college courses, the people were nice, the location was close enough to home that I could still go home periodically without hopping on a plane, etc.
When I got to campus, though, I was a bit of an oddball. I was the age of a freshman, but I had the academic profile of a junior. I needed to declare a major much sooner than my peers, and I quickly fell into more specialized and advanced classes. I did just fine, although the weird social dynamics were never lost on me. I was in classes with juniors and seniors, but I hung out on weekends and evenings with freshmen.
I graduated from Hiram after two years. Five months before my 21st birthday.
I still remember the senior brunch during “senior week” — the week before graduation. All of the underclassmen had already gone home. Senior week was an excuse for seniors to have the entire campus to themselves and throw one last series of raging parties. I hadn’t bothered to stay on campus. All of my friends had gone home. I had zero friends in the graduating class.
I drove into town for the senior brunch. Some alumni came in and spoke. I don’t even remember who it was or the topic. But I do remember the conversation at the table where I was seated. One senior asked another senior what they planned to do after graduation. “Watch some TV” was his response. That general vibe of apathy pervaded the table. Maybe it was the people. Maybe it was the circumstance. In hindsight, I think everyone there was really afraid of what the future held. It’s a big change to go from four years in academia to the “real world.” I think we all felt like we weren’t really prepared for what lay in front of us.
You will never be fully prepared for what life throws at you. Whether you went to school to study a certain discipline or not. Learning is like change. It never stops.
I recently listened to “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World,” by David Epstein. Epstein spends the majority of the text proving his thesis — in fields that are complex and unpredictable, generalists are ultimately going to triumph over specialists. In a world full of wicked problems, generalists are much more equipped to solve them than an army of specialists.
It got me thinking about academia and graduation. We ask people to choose from a very young age what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I chose creative writing and english. I certainly used my writing ability to earn an income, but I now view it as a skill that I use to enable success in my current job. My current vocation didn’t exist back in 2001. I anticipate that it will exist for the rest of my career, but if it doesn’t, I feel confident that I can flex to something else.
I will never be a complete person.
And neither will you.
Third Eye Blind — “Graduate”
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