Why am I in college? If you ask your parents that question, they will have a quick answer for you. You go to college so you can get a good job and make lots of money. This seems to be the popular answer. The word “successful” sneaks its way into the conversation more often than not.
When I examine this answer, I find it difficult to agree with it. I graduated valedictorian from a class of 18 students in a small country town called Quinton, Oklahoma. My parents were in debt, so I had to borrow money to go to college. Like father, like son.
They told me it was okay to borrow money because I was going to be a doctor and I could pay off my debt my first year out of college. So I packed my bags and moved to Norman to attend the University of Oklahoma. As I crammed in useless knowledge I would forget and eventually relearn in medical school, I learned valuable lessons I would never forget outside of college. I worked as a tutor at an elementary school.
Every day, I could see the mother picking up her child alone. The work of a soccer mom is never done. She would force a smile when I explained that her son wasn’t doing his schoolwork. She would tell me the father was always on business trips and she had trouble getting everything done around the house.
Success is measured in dollars and cents in our society. Using this measurement, the businessman is rich, but doesn’t know his own son is successful. I examined the path I was traveling. I was going to the same place as that businessman, but I was on the road to failure.
My parents were wrong. College couldn’t contribute to my success. As I continued to cram in knowledge about Organic Chemistry and Genetics at college, the elementary school taught me that success was a fancy word for happiness.
I was $20,000 in debt and standing outside the college of journalism. I had always wanted to be a writer, but people told me there was no money in it. I changed my major so I could walk a little taller despite the burden of debt on my shoulders.
Sometimes I see people walking down the sidewalk carrying an armload of biology books, and I want to flag them down and tell them to stop. I want to say they should pursue the one thing in life they really want to do. I would say they could toss those books down on the ground, walk away, and never look back.
They wouldn’t listen to me. The voice of their father, who they don’t even know is ringing too clearly in their ears, deafens them. The father never told his child that he loved her. He didn’t have time. He only told her he wanted success for his daughter, and that means a life of work.
The student will be wealthy. She will have a nice car and a nice home. She will never see her children. When they get old enough, she will send her children to college to achieve success. When she finally retires, she is old and tired. She looks back on her life and wonders where it went. She has all this money, but she is too tired and weak to enjoy it. All she can do is await death. This is the American dream.