I got 99 problems, but a degree ain’t one


Christian Vasquez , Copy Editor

There’s a lot of pressure to have specific accomplishments by a certain age, whether they’re from society or from yourself—to know who you are by 18 and what life-long career is lined-up by 21.

I graduated from high school at 17 years old and I thought I was set. I thought I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The idea of not having to worry about where I will be in life was like a weight off of my mind. But, just one semester in, the idea of knowing the outline of my life drew all the fun out of it. I’m not normally an anxious person, but that got me anxious. What if I made the wrong decision? What if I’m 30, doing my job and am absolutely miserable? Half-way through the semester I wasn’t enjoying my classes so I went to my adviser to change my major from art to undecided.

I was scared that I would hate my life because of the decisions I made then. That was because I was making decisions based off  the formula handed to me at birth; school, career, marriage, children, retirement, social security, death.

Later that year, much to the chagrin of my family, I stopped going to school. I’m stubborn, and I don’t like doing things I don’t like doing. People would continuously ask me, “when are you going to school again?” “When I feel like it,” I would respond. I wasn’t being snarky, I meant it. When I felt like going to school, I would go.

So every other semester I would go to community college and sign up for a couple of classes that interested me. The classes that stayed interesting I attended and got an A, but the ones that I didn’t like I just stopped going to. I wasn’t going to EPCC to get my associate’s degree and transfer to UTEP, I was going just to learn and have fun. But I had too much fun and was told I was reaching the maximum amount of credits someone can take for that degree. Okay, no worries. I stopped going. Did something else, had fun again.

I wanted to write, and I wanted to get paid to write. So I decided to become a journalist. Rather than going through the blog-to-fame route, I came to UTEP and applied at The Prospector. It’s fun. I write, meet new people and take classes I think are interesting. Some of the required classes are less interesting, but that’s okay.

If journalism doesn’t work out, I would like to work at a library for a while and catch up on all the reading I’ve missed out because I’ve been reading textbooks. But if I find a job in journalism somewhere fun, I’ll probably quit school, accept the job and finish my degree somewhere down the road. Or maybe not. Who knows? Who cares? I’ll let future me decide. He seems like the person to make that decision, not present me.

Some would call me irresponsible, and some have. But I’ve found that I’m a lot happier when I just follow my own sense of curiosity and wonder. Planning a life out is easy, formulaic and, for me, boring. I don’t even like to plan trips. I won’t go somewhere blindfolded, I’ll learn enough to feel like I have a general idea about the place. But when I get there I won’t follow an itinerary. I don’t want my life to be a listicle. I don’t want to go somewhere and think, “Yes, this is exactly what the article told me it was like.”

So I don’t mind that it’s taken me so long to get my degree. It bothers other people, and I’ve seen more than one shocked face when I tell them my age. But I don’t regret it and would do it all over again if given the chance. I like that I’m always surprised where I end up. I like that every year I would not have guessed that I am where I am and I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing.

There’s a phrase that gets used throughout everyone’s formal education. They’ll say things like “you know out there in the real world they won’t do this or that.” As if school is apart from the “real world.” Please tell my bills that I cannot pay them, as I am currently not in the real world. It makes school seem like a separate part of life that you have to endure in order to get out there and experience “real life.” School is just another part of life, and if you need it to get somewhere else, then don’t treat it like a bad stretch of road that you want to speed through.

Life is just one long road anyways. You might as well learn to enjoy it.