To University, Or Not To University: Stigmas and Ideals
From the moment we were able to comprehend and form complete sentences,we were given the gift of decision making. Big or small, having the ability to choose is a privilege that holds great power.
As children, most of us seemed to have a pretty good idea of what we liked or disliked. Whether that was the color pink or blue, deciding that you were definitely a mermaid (I’m still choosing to believe this), or loathing brussel sprouts. Our answers were quick, firm, and seemingly self-assured. Before being bombarded with restrictions, trauma, loss, opinions, and expectations, children are honest and have simplistic views of the world.
But somewhere in between adolescence and adulthood, it seems as if we are encouraged to lose our sense of childlike ability to confidently and fiercely make choices of our own, and instead choose to make decisions based on the way we’ve been taught to see the world around us.
Model and activist Ebonee Davis tweeted:
“Most people live out their lives according to a belief system that doesn’t belong to them. They’re products of programming and conditioning. Behaviors and thought patterns are programmed through our parents, school, media, etc. Who created them? Those in power who seek control…”
People are often labeled a certain way for not adhering to the systematic approach of what society deems to be acceptable. For example, we’ve been told numerous times that in order to be successful, one must attend university and earn a degree. And after having acquired it, the possibilities are supposedly endless. The idea that attending college is the only option for a bright future has been chiseled into our young, impressionable minds, with little to no room for anything else to be considered.
For some, myself included, going to college has been the only possible conceivable plan capable of granting financial freedom and said happiness. But is it the only option? Is success, a term that can be subjective, objective and synonymous with earning a degree? Those who choose to attend university but later drop out, are usually stigmatized as being lazy “bums” who will have a hard time making money, and will rarely find success. And the same goes for those who choose to not attend university at all. But why? Why is it that whenever someone attempts to stray away from the norm, they are often outcast and scrutinized for it?
Let’s begin with the social control theory. It argues that “relationships, commitments, values, and beliefs encourage conformity.” Conformity is safe, and has been used as a way to fit in or get ahead. It can also be argued that conforming is necessary at times in order to get what one really wants. I’ve actually believed this as well. The more we internalize these moral obligations, the less likely we are to steer away from normalcy. Conform to certain standards or groups, and when you’ve finally reached enough status, then you can promote change. Sounds plausible, right? The thing is, it isn’t long before what you’re trying to change, changes you.
For example, many enroll in school and stick with a subject that isn’t really for them because they believe that having a degree is what will give them financial success. But this eventually results in dissatisfaction with their careers because it isn’t what they truly want. It can be proven that if you love what you do, you’ll perform better at your job.
Writer and fellow LAPP member Leigh-Anne Ncube discusses the importance of following your own path to success in her piece, “Live Your Life and Follow Your Path,” giving insight on her experience as a college student, questioning her wants regarding school, fearing stigmatization, and ultimately choosing to trust her own journey.
Similar to Leigh’s story, I too have had my fair share of “what am I doing” regarding my college career. Between going into college totally and completely sure of myself and my chosen major, to eventually changing majors twice, experiencing burnout, depression, several arguments with my parents, taking a semester off, feeling like I would be considered a loser if I didn’t go back to school, returning for the wrong reasons, majoring in subjects that I didn’t actually like just to have something to study, more depression, severe anxiety, racking up debt, finally realizing what I wanted to do, and ultimately making the decision to leave my school (again) to pursue my purpose. I say all of that to say this:
LISTEN TO YOURSELF.
If graduating magna cum laude from the college of your dreams is your goal? Great. Accomplish it. If it isn’t? THAT’S GREAT, TOO! Find your purpose, and take the steps necessary to make your goals happen.
Earning a degree, takes time, money, and effort, and should be done with intent, passion, and purpose. If you choose to attend college, I believe that it is important to use that energy on a subject or skill that you believe in, so that you can have a sense of pride in yourself knowing that you’ve made the most of your education, and will work in a field that will allow you to live up to your full-potential. This will not only benefit yourself, but others as well. Society has constructed a systematic way of unfairly viewing people as more important or valuable than others, based on the decisions they make, and if it fits into the limiting biases of that we were programmed to fit into. Tap into your own individuality and challenge these views.
So when faced with the question, to university or not to university? The decision is completely and entirely up to you.
Written by Teresa Johnson
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