Auntie SparkNotes: I Hate College
Dear Auntie SparkNotes,
I started college this past fall and, thanks to some accelerated courses in high school, I am considered a sophomore. Being a sophomore means that I need to decide a major ASAP so I can start taking the necessary courses. The problem, however, is that I have no clue what I want to do with my life.
Every time I think about majors and their corresponding jobs, I just get so dejected. I just feel like I'm withering away, all of my happiness just going away. I hate getting up every morning to commute to my college. I hate the classes and the demanding coursework. I just can't stand it! This is the first time I am actually talking (or should I say, writing) about this. I know my friends and family are just going to say "You need college to get a job," which I understand, but to put it frank, I would rather stab a fork in my eye than to continue college. What should I do?
Well, depending on how serious you were about that last statement, you could certainly buy yourself some time away from college by having a tragic, disfiguring accident involving a fork to the eyeball.
... Just kidding. No, really, I'm kidding. Put down the fork. No, not there, put it down somewhere other than in your eye socket, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
And now that we have officially ruled out any/all extreme measures involving cutlery, let's talk about your letter—and more specifically, about the part of it that made Auntie SparkNotes go hmmmm. Because while you started out lamenting the pressure of having to pick a major, it actually sounds like your real problem is something bigger and broader: you're completely burned out on academia. You hate the classes, you hate the coursework, you hate the act of getting up to commute to campus; you basically hate school, in its totality.
And darling, if you feel that strongly about it? I know this is going to sound crazy, but you might want to consider not doing it.
No, really. There's no law that says you have to go straight from high school to college, and straight from college to a career, without ever stopping to consider your options, change your perspective, or explore the world. Gap years are a thing. Minimum-wage temp jobs are a thing. Taking a semester or a year to work on an organic farm in exchange for room and board, and using that time to gain some clarity about what kind of direction you want your life to take? Yep, that's a thing, too. And for that matter, so is not going to college at all. Graduating from a four-year university into a white-collar job might be the most typical path these days, but it's hardly the only one available; the world is always also in need of plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, hair stylists, cooks, landscapers, mechanics, waste collectors, welders, nurses, machinists, and people who kill cockroaches professionally.
So, with that in mind, here's my advice: Tough it out for as long as it takes to finish this first year of college, so that the money you (or your parents) have already spent on it doesn't go to waste (and so that you have those credits under your belt if you decide to continue your studies after all.) But while you do that, start thinking as well about whether there's an alternative path you'd like to travel, either temporarily or for a little longer. Think about what interests you, and what you're good at. Think about whether there's something you'd enjoy studying outside of the usual academic subjects. Think about how you'd spend your days if you had the freedom to choose (and if you still had to be a productive member of society, e.g. "on a beach eating potato chips while the Hemsworth brothers fan me with palm fronds" is not an option, sadly.)
And if you're too tired to think? Then maybe think about taking a break, and spend a year washing dishes or working retail or digging holes or [insert menial minimum wage job here] until your brain has recharged a little. Getting your hands dirty for a paycheck might be how you realize that there is, in fact, something you hate more than college — or it might be how you discover that you like working, but in more practical terms. Maybe you have a robust and financially successful future in a skilled trade ahead of you, or maybe you just need a breather, but the point is, you have options. Remember that! And remember that if following the traditional one is making you miserable, there's no better argument for taking a chance on something a little bit unconventional.
Auntie will be off next week and will return on April 10.
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