Others to college, myself to the world

A staffer describes his motives to delay college life, while struggling to fulfill expectations from his parents, peers and society.


Graphic by Arthur Kim

David Chambers, Web Consigliere

Many people try to make decisions to please those that they model their lives after, the most poignant being college. Starting from an early age, one is taught education is the key to success and fortune in life. As kids we try to make everyone proud and happy by saying things like “I want to be a doctor!” or “I want to be a lawyer!” Then we grow older, our interests expand, our horizon’s change and we are still put to the pressure of deciding what to do with our lives.

After growing personally in a sense, I had made up to myself that I wasn’t going to jump into college, that I wanted to do something else, something different. I stood by this with pride, casually commenting about it whenever someone would bring up school. Life was my college in a sense, and I wanted and still want to learn everything I can from it. But as time went on, my ideals lost luster, growing tarnished under the sheer uncertainty of the future. These cracks bled into my mind and a staining sense of unquestionable doubt.

This doubt was called to attention when speaking to a friend about his applications. Toward the end of the conversation, he brought up how easy it would be to not go to college, how care free I could be with absolutely no responsibilities. Then it dawned upon me: What will I do after high school? How would I feel about everyone moving in a direction I wasn’t, moving toward a goal or an ideal I hadn’t even begun to fathom? When would I discover what I wanted to do with my existence? In short, I had a minute existential crisis with this pondering of the future.

This all started itself after my sister graduated from the University of Austin with a degree in public health. Both friends and family turned to me and asked, “So what school are you planning on attending?”

I turned and gave the best answer I could, “I don’t really plan on going to college.” This went as well as one can imagine when my mother heard this, threatening to send me to military school or force me to go, claiming I’d be nothing without a degree. I tried explaining my side as well as I could under the aggression, citing not knowing what I want to do and current immense cost of a higher education as staples in my reasoning.

Months passed, summer happened, more arguments ensued, but I stood firm in my thought. I don’t want to go to college. Not right out of high school. Not without taking a break from the constant stress of expectations from peers and teachers. Not without experiencing other aspects of “real life” that so many others claim happen after high school, but almost exclusively claim happens in college. I’m glad that my family trusts me enough in a sense to decide what I can do with my life and the fact that they don’t shoehorn me into something against my will. I also feel a very encapsulating feeling of general thankfulness and sympathy toward those who don’t have the choice to decide for themselves or perhaps have decided against college, but are still forced into it.

When high school started for the last time and I had been given the title of a senior as did most other people I know, they were always throwing around the words “college applications” and “deadlines” and “haven’t started” and “stressed out.” To say the least, I felt somewhat proven correct, vindicated almost, at just the amount of insanity and hysteria swirling around college applications.

I can completely understand the fact that applications are what can decide the future of your education, whether you go to an Ivy League school or an instate university. Not to undermine either of those achievements, granted one can get enough scholarships and loans or can just afford it, but from the outside looking in, I only have two real emotions: absolute relief and an encroaching sense of doubt.

But recently, it’s been a waning feeling. I want to find myself in the world. How I plan to do that is a bit rough around the edges, but the plan is to work and save enough to travel the world for a year, hitchhiking and backpacking across countries, dotting my life in cities and towns, leaving a part of me here and there and discovering hidden sections of what makes me, well, me.

The amount of uncertainty and sheer mystery in what’s to come is almost insurmountable, but it’s worth a shot. And when I come back with a new sense of guidance and tales to tell, maybe I’ll be ready to take on what I want to do with my life, maybe I’ll be ready for college.