Thursday, August 2, 2012

Reconnect Part I

Not as easy as Yeezy

I'm a college dropout.

I don't like to admit it in writing because now, of course, those prospective employers scanning my ambiguously worded resume can simply Google their way to this knowledge, but it's a fact. It's who I am. In a way it defines me and all the choices I've made since that fateful decision way back when.

I remember enjoying wine, women and song a little too much as a college freshman. It was no surprise, really. When I went to college I was a virgin who'd never touched alcohol or drugs and had a fairly strict Baptist upbringing. I was a preacher's kid and seemingly well on the way to becoming a minister or maybe even Obama (before there was Obama). When I got to college I was surrounded by a lot of people who had a much freer interpretation of carpe diem than I had so I jumped in head first and had a ball.

But not really. Nostalgia's funny that way. In actuality, I spent most of my time in college disgusted. I drank a bit, but it was never really my thing the way it seemed to be for a lot of others. I picked my school because it had been listed as one of the top universities in California for creative writing, but the writing program was basically four classes and then it was a wrap. I became disenchanted fairly quickly with the whole thing and started to wonder why I was paying so much to take these weird classes at this hippie college where the students taught the classes just as often as the professors. It was also a major culture shock for me because I found myself as one of only a handful of students of color. While I certainly hadn't had ambitions to go to Morehouse, being so isolated made me feel perpetually uncomfortable, not for the first time in my life.

So I convinced myself that leaving was the best thing for me. After all, I was a hot young up and coming writer who'd been on television a couple times and knew how to read as well as anyone. College was a colossal waste of time, particularly since fame and fortune were doubtless just round the corner. There were also some serious financial considerations at play that would've made my staying an almost impossible burden on myself and my family.

Years later in my work at a Bronx based non-profit settlement house, I would learn a classification for young people in my situation. I was a disconnected youth. Most of the time when people use the term, they refer to high school dropouts and/or GED recipients, but the technical definition extends to young people 16-24 who are simply listing with no real plan other than getting away from whatever they're supposed to be doing because something (typically less important with the benefit of hindsight) came up.

In the intervening years I've scoffed at returning to school, mostly because I was still arrogant, broke and, at bottom, stupid. I hit a pay ceiling pretty early at my previous job and as I've tested the employment market lately on a few interviews, I've seen my lack of degree come back to slap me hard in the face. I could rail about how unfair it is that a piece of paper defines my capabilities when it's more or less plainly evident that I'm not a complete moron, but the game is what it is. Life has winners and losers and part of the job of the winners is to make sure it's a little harder for the losers to come up and take their spot, which is Darwinism (or maybe Spencerism) at its finest.

So as of this writing, I'm in the process of making my glorious return to the hallowed halls of academia. The path has thus far been fraught with self-doubt and head-scratchingly absurd complications, but I'm on it for the long haul. I'm going to chronicle my attempt to reconnect and go legit periodically on this blog and hopefully help some people avoid some of my missteps along the way.

No comments: