I caught a news article this morning about President Obama’s eldest daughter’s plans for college. Apparently she will be graduating from high school this spring and has been accepted into Harvard University, which is her parents’ alma mater. And she has also decided to take a break, or a “gap year”, in between graduating from high school and entering Harvard as a freshman.
Naturally, a lot of people in the media are criticizing Malia’s decision to take a gap year. And it really wasn’t just her decision to do so, either; Harvard also recommends taking a gap year in order to better prepare students’ brains for the intense coursework they will undergo upon entering the university. But the criticism instantly reminded me of the nasty criticism that I myself endured for many years from a handful of people in Illinois for taking breaks from school.
I did my best to pay my own college costs so that I wouldn’t have to burden my family with any of it, since my aging grandparents had raised me and no longer had the income they once had in their younger years. I took out student loans and paid the remaining costs that the loans didn’t cover out of my own pocket. That means I had to work and save a lot in order to do that. I spent my first few years of college at a prestigious private university two hours away from home and then later transferred to a smaller and cheaper college that was closer to home. The close proximity to my home and family helped me focus on my studies better, since I suffered from bad ADHD and high-functioning Autism. It also lowered the amount of student loans I needed to take out.
Unfortunately, the State made several sweeping changes in regards to the credit courses and certification required to become a teacher. Some students were grandfathered into these new changes and did not see many changes to their degree plan, but since I was a new transfer student and not all of my courses from my former school were able to transfer over, these new changes completely overhauled my degree plan, adding A LOT more required courses that I didn’t have to take under the old plan. This caused my education to take longer than the customary four years to earn my Bachelor’s Degree….although it likely would have taken longer than four years regardless of the new changes due to the fact that I was a double major in History and Secondary Education. (My Bachelor’s degree is a dual degree with two major areas of study combined into one degree.)
In addition to being a double major and having lots of extra course work unexpectedly dumped into my lap, there were times when I did not have the funds to register for another semester of classes. So during those times I temporarily dropped out of school for a semester and went to work full time in order to earn more money to pay to continue my schooling. There were two or three semesters that I dropped out and went to work full time, and there was one other semester where I was able to take all of my courses as Independent Studies while working full time in order to avoid having to drop out again. I had two part-time jobs that semester, and one of them was as a waitress at a local restaurant and bar. My History professor was kind enough to bring my Midterm and Final Exams to me right there at my place of employment. He would sit at the bar and enjoy a meal and a drink or two while I sat at a corner table right there in the restaurant and took my exams. Then he would take my completed exams back to campus with him to grade them. I was very lucky to have such understanding and cooperative professors at school. In fact, I’d say that pretty much all of my professors and the administrative staff at my college were very supportive of my endeavors.
While I was in college working towards a teaching degree and certificate, I already had enough college credits in my field of study to allow me to obtain a Paraprofessional Educator’s Certificate from the State. So during one spring semester that I quit school to go back to work full-time, I was actually hired as a full-time teacher’s aide at my former middle school and high school working alongside my old teachers who had taught me way back during my own public school days. That semester of working full-time in a school setting provided me with invaluable experience and credentials that served me well throughout my remaining upper level coursework and Student Teaching semester.
All in all, between transferring schools, having a ton of new coursework added to my degree plan, and having to take several semesters off in order to work, it took me a total of eight years to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I was 26 years old when I walked across the stage in my cap and gown to receive my degree. Very few people cared one iota that I was going to graduate from college later than most people do, but of course there always has to be a handful of people who just can’t get through each day of life unless they are making a huge dramatic stink about something. A few younger fellow students often remarked to me over and over again throughout my years in school that I was a “stupid pathetic loser who would eventually be 30 years old and still not have a degree”. Apparently there is some unwritten rule somewhere that every single person who ever attended college HAS to complete their degree in only four years or less and graduate by the time they are 22 or else they are deemed a loser for life. Coincidentally (or not), those were also the same people who decreed that any woman who wasn’t married with kids by the time she was 23 was also a pathetic loser (along with a lengthy list of other nasty names and insults). Hmmm….how odd that they believe that every adult must have every aspect of their life settled and in order by the time they are only 22 or 23 in order to be considered “normal” or “successful”. Smells like good old-fashioned rural redneck brainwashing to me!!
Graduating from college after age 22 makes one a loser, you say? Well I find that decree to be quite odd considering that the people who dictated this to me NEVER graduated from college themselves at all. Some of them are now in their 30’s and STILL working on getting a measly Associate’s Degree. So by their own logic, that would have to make them the Biggest and Most Pathetic Losers In the World, right? It sure is funny how I was a “stupid pathetic loser” for being 26 years old when I earned a dual Bachelor’s Degree due to having to quit school several times in order to work and pay for my own schooling, yet it’s apparently A-OK for some people to still be working towards a two-year Associate’s Degree in their 30’s because they spent several years making shitty choices and sitting on their asses at home unemployed and breeding spawn. I have to call bullshit on that. If you’re going to shit on me all the time for still being in college past the age of 22, then you better damn well make fucking sure that you still aren’t in school past the age of 22 yourselves!!! If there is one thing in this world that I despise, it’s a HYPOCRITE!!!!!
It’s also funny that while I was in school working towards that degree, I was constantly told by that small handful of people that that degree I wanted so much was out of my reach and that I would never be able to attain it….but now that I have that degree and am working on another one, suddenly now it’s “just a degree” to them and it’s “all I’ll ever have and nothing more”. LOL….I just can’t even with some people. Their defense mechanisms and hypocrisy are just too much.
But really, a degree is a degree, and the value of a degree does not change based on the age you are when you attain it. The fact that I was 26 when I received my degree instead of 22 certainly didn’t stop me from using it and obtaining other professional careers and opportunities with it. My close friend and former pageant sister queen Kelly spent a total of TEN years working towards her Bachelor’s Degree and is now slowly working on getting an MBA. So is she also a “stupid pathetic loser” for getting her Bachelor’s Degree when she was past the age of 30? Slowly, steadily, and dedicatedly working your way through school while paying your own way is a very noble thing, and there is absolutely NOTHING shameful or “pathetic” about it. I have always known damn well that the people who gave me a hard time about it were merely projecting their own shame and failures onto me. Because when you have dropped out and/or been dismissed from multiple schools and eventually give up on trying to attain a Bachelor’s Degree and instead opt to become an unemployed gold-digger who purposely breeds kids in order to trap men with some money and resources into supporting you forever (or at least until they finally come to their senses and get sick of you enough to finally leave you), then anyone can see that the most pathetic loser is in fact YOU.
And I’ve got a little newsflash for those people, too: They likely don’t realize this due to having lived with and been financially mollycoddled by their aging parents for so long, but a measly Associate’s Degree won’t come anywhere close to adequately supporting them and their spawn once they are out on their own and no longer suckling at the teats of their parents and the men they latched onto as meal tickets. It is hella expensive to live in this country, and it’s only going to get more and more expensive as time goes on. Nowadays you need to be making close to $100k per year and have at least a Master’s Degree in order to live a comfortable, stable, independent life, especially if you are on your own with kids to support. But hey, they’re the ones who made the shitty life choices and not me, so that really isn’t my problem to worry about, is it.
So my words to Malia Obama are go ahead and take a gap year and enjoy it!! Rest your brain, do some volunteer or intern work, or go travel around the world. Use that time to nurture yourself and discover yourself, and then enter Harvard refreshed and ready to tackle the immense study load. Even if you don’t graduate from college until you are 26 like I did, that Harvard Degree will still be worth far more than any other degree or accomplishment that your haters will ever have. 🙂