On Higher Learning or School Daze

09:44 September 14, 2017
By: Phil LaMancusa

It’s the election cycle, football season, dirty laundry is waist high, and it’s ladies night at your local pub Forget it! You’ve got homework assignments that are due yesterday! You’re availing yourself to the auspiciousness of advanced education because of circumstances that may or may not be of your own volition and possibly far from your control. Peer pressure, parental pressure (your daddy’s rich and your ma’s good-looking); you’ve taken out a lifetime of debt in student loans, or you’ve decided that there’s more money being a hairdresser/massage therapist/vet tech/dental assistant than being a bus boy/dishwasher/floor-sweeping babysitter (au pair, my butt!). Or, the three to five bum rap for B&E afforded you some state-sanctioned free ed. In any case … this is your life right now, so pull up your big boy pants and get on with it!

Otherwise, what’s your alternative? You may decide that structured learning is not for you; you don’t fit into the curriculum; it’s a drag or you just ain’t gettin’ it. Well, to quote Neil Young, you could “pack it in, get a pick-up, take it down to L.A.” Consider that you’re not really gonna be comfortable In your skin until you’re at least 30 years old, so give yourself a break and take one. A break, that is. Pursue a dream, then climb a mountain, join a cult, fight a fire, volunteer for foreign service, apprentice, make mistakes; program your own syllabus and educate yourself. And/or run away with the circus. Do something that you haven’t done before, start at the bottom somewhere and check it out, see where it takes you. Hit your stride, live under the overpass. Hold up a sign at the intersection. “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack”, failing to live up to expectations, yours and others. Perhaps, like a lot of us, “happy” is what you want to be when you grow up.

First of all, you’re not going to school because you have talent. If you had talent, you’d be out in the world workin’ on your next million. You may have the ability, you might be tenacious, you may want better for yourself, you might have nothing better to do, or you just don’t want to go out into the world and get a friggin’ job! In any case, you need to get to crackin’… that learnin’ ain’t gonna just rub off on you!

Oh, so you thought that you had talent. Everybody told you so—your parents, your lovers, your friends and your second-grade teacher. Do you know what the odds are on you having talent? If you need to ask, then save yourself the heartache. At best, you have the aptitude, drive, ambition and, if you’re lucky, the capacity for passion. You may have intelligence, charisma, charm and good intentions; it takes that much to get a cup of coffee. For an amount of success, you’ll need more than that.

Ah, with luck on your side, kismet, serendipity, good karma and love in your heart, you’ll go places. The streets and cities of the world are littered by the likes of those kind-hearted souls who believe that the meek will inherit the earth. To make it around here, all it takes is looks and a whole lot of money, right? Wrong, that only gives you comfort, not success. So you ask yourself what success is? 

Success is the result of hard work, whether you’re a banker, a butcher or a Buddhist monk. Add to that, timing, wise (especially financial) decisions, connections, and location location location. And on the subject of luck, a very wise man I know told me “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. Focus, paying attention, toil and an amount of personal sacrifice, learning the tricks and tools of your trade, taking care of your health and body, being courteous, well-groomed and mannered … all help a lot. A barnacle attaches itself to something stable and its sustenance comes to it. A mushroom is kept in the dark and fed manure. A zinfandel vine fights for its nutrients and produces great wine. Pick a role model. 

On the lighter side, one day you’ll look back on your educational experiences and exclaim that these were the happiest days of your life. So what if the older generation looks at you like you’re some kind of techno freak. You’ve got your smartphone, iPad and Wi-Fi. You’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and a whole lot more. Whatever you need from life … there’s an app for that: YouTube, Google, Tumblr and your very own blog. You’ve got voicemail and instant messaging for Christ’s sake, what could go wrong? The world.

Outside of your student cocoon, there’s this thing called the world and what others consider real life. Unless you stay in school (which I highly recommend), you will be part of a larger universe where a man named Murphy is in charge and whatever can go wrong, does. Plans change (and should), dreams may become just that (dreams), love comes from unlikely places (it does), then there’s magic as well as danger, mystery, adventure and humor (often simultaneously) everywhere (count on it). You turn a corner, take a chance, miss a step, consider an alternative, play a hunch, avoid a conflict, make a point … things happen. Education, on the other hand, can be insular. 

One of the things that I’ve seen in other countries is that being happy is more of a priority than having fame, fortune or notoriety. Coffee in the morning, off to work as a mechanic or mailperson, pick up the kids, dinner and a good book before bed. “What do you want from life?” Song and lyrics by The Tubes (check it out). 

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