Tag Archives: Life

Education vs. Working Up The Ladder – Which Has The Bigger Pay Off For Our Generation?

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Lately, I’ve been having many discussions with people: peers, friends, loved-ones, co-workers, and mentors — ranging from “The Lucky Few/Silent Generation” all the way to “Generation Z” – regarding how much a standard 4-year college degree pays off for people, at this day in age, or whether it’s a better decision for most, especially current generations from Generation X to Generation Z, to simply try to gain work experience in a field and work up from there. Upon spending much time pondering this situation, I have started to wonder how other people feel about education vs. working to establish a career at this current day. (Before I go on, I’d like to apologize for any mechanical errors, as this is mainly a stream of conscious thought rather than a formal piece I’ve been working on.) So….here’s my question:

What do you feel is a smarter decision for one’s financial security and future, for our generation: To go to college for a bachelor’s and pay for it with student loans, or to jump into a field and try to establish a career through work experience?

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Do you remember that time where you could, out of your own pocket, and maybe with a little help from your parents, afford to put yourself through college? Do you remember the days where you started making plans to be a full-time student while working a part-time job and were living independently – perhaps on a Top Ramen diet – but in the comfort of your own apartment, flat, or studio? Do you remember the time where you knew, as long as you went to school and acquired that 4-year degree, that you would be able to land a job, establish a decent career, and provide for your family? ….. Yeah, neither do I, because it seems the notion of a basic college education keeping you afloat for the remainder of your life, is just a romanticized nostalgic idea from when our parents and grandparents were growing up. I grew up in a household that preached, “Education is crucial to your professional future.” And although I personally have a fondness for academia, I have often discussed with family members whether that is still practical advice.
Now, there’s no denying that education is something — we as a country — can always benefit from (and currently are lacking in, on a global comparison). Furthermore, that being more well-rounded and educated as an individual is beneficial for our personal growth. Also, that we can certainly establish a higher-paying job from the get-go, along with having competitive opportunities open to us, when we have obtained our college degree. I cannot deny that my college education has been very beneficial for my personal growth and development of my mind and potential. Ironically enough, I find myself enthralled with the academic lifestyle: being surrounded by scholars and experts in a multitude of fields, participating in intellectually stimulating conversations, exercising areas of the brain I otherwise wouldn’t use on a regular basis, discovering my capabilities of hard-work and accomplishing goals, thriving in an environment thirsting for knowledge, and contemplating concepts I never would have fathomed on my own.

It also should be noted that these attributes do become valuable in desired professionals. However, my point is not to dabble over the personal benefits an education offers to an individual: personal qualities and individual growth, pursuit of happiness, intellectual broadening and stimulation, and honing of interests. I am not advocating for either option regarding establishing a career from a college degree vs. working one’s way up the ladder. I am simply interested in the opinions and observation of others, as to what my peers think, regarding the pay-off of working with (mostly) work-experience or working from an education. My main goal is to discuss whether education is still the sure-fire path to a strong and secure financial and professional future, or if perhaps the long-practiced “keys to success” now require some reevaluation given current and shifting economic times.

Given the above, one has to ask the question, why go to college? For some, it’s purely intellectual growth, but for most, college serves as a means to a better end. The structure of our educational system has been used to, ideally, prepare us for our futures and ultimately, our careers. It seems good-paying jobs one would obtain, from a 4-year bachelor’s degree, are getting harder to come by, and often some fields don’t promise much of a decent-paying career at all. Honestly, the term “decent-paying” might be too much of a stretch even-still, as we watch the disparaging rates of our middle class dwindle away year by year. There are most certainly fields booming in high demand: information technology, engineering and robotics, the medical field, and bio-friendly power/energy efficiency — and with high demand often comes better wages — but for a strong majority of other fields, comes a question about whether it will pay off for a desired household income, gaining some profit and live comfortably while trying to pay off student debt.

When our grandparents and parents were going to school, it was much more affordable to be in college, and to make a living while doing so. People could go to college, a private institution, or a public university by a simple combination of working and some savings without racking up bankrupting levels of student loan debt. In addition to that, people could also afford to work alongside school, and a full-time college student, working as a waitress or busboy 3-4 nights a week, could put themselves through school and afford to get themselves a quaint one-bedroom apartment while enjoying their college years.

However, it seems times are definitely changing, and that what once was seemingly attainable to go to school, maintain a standard level of independence, and then land a career that would pay for itself, is merely a dream of the past or a luxury for a rare few whose interests fall into one of those high demand fields.

Personally speaking, I know people who have had to go back to school, because whatever they got their bachelor’s in the first time, didn’t get them anywhere professionally that would provide them with the means to keep up with the cost of living . I also know of others hitting their late-20s to even early-30s, picking up the phone to tell Mom and Dad they need to move back home, because the cost of living is escalating at an exponential rate and they can’t afford to stay in their one bedroom apartment. I know people who are in their late-20’s to early-30’s, whom even past working a 40 hour work week, can’t even dream of what it would be like to have their own place, as they share their living space with (often more than one) roommate(s). I know of many people in my age bracket, who are consciously avoiding having children or getting married — despite their actual relationships or desires — due to the fact they “can’t afford it.” I know of people who are struggling to pay off their student loans and had to go back to school, just to have some more time to come up with the money, or are struggling to get deferrals because they can’t seem to pay off loans plus interest, while simultaneously providing for themselves and their loved ones. For goodness sake, I know of people with PhD’s who can’t find work or have been homeless at some point after receiving their college degree. The notion of anyone with a doctorate not finding work is beyond absurd and almost completely counter intuitive.

So I ask you, with regard to certain high demand fields offering a six figure salary, is the promise of a secure economic and financial future — from a bachelor’s degree — merely a retired concept of the past for many, or should it still be the prime focus for anyone who is looking for job security and the financial means to provide for themselves and their family before they hit 40? What are your thoughts?

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Filed under Career, Debate, Education, Finances, Future, Philosophy, Success

A Letter to the Men that Left a Mark on My Heart,

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Dear First Boyfriend,

You were incredibly profound to me. A handsome guy who genuinely liked me, found me more beautiful than the girls that dressed provocatively, cuddled with me when I felt sick and unattractive, had the attention of all my female peers, and yet for some reason pursued me and made me feel wonderful every day…. You may have been the first teenage love of my life. It’s hard to tell when we were so young and it was so short-lived.

Dear High School Sweetheart,

You were an interesting learning experience. Never did I feel such naïve emotion and have as many “firsts” as I did with you. We created many memories together, some really good, some really bad. We shared a lot of experiences between us, quite a few that shaped my future; but in the end, you not only betrayed my trust, you made me feel as though I wasn’t worth anything. You gave other girls the attention I deserved, and you wandered. I can understand that now, as we were young at the time. I just wish you had treated me better. You were the first man to have me, and the first man to break my heart, and set me on a course of skepticism. It wasn’t all bad; I established many friendly and professional connections, from knowing you. But I am forever grateful for having met some of the people I did, through you. I hope in your future you can love, and be loved, in a way we all deserve.

Dear Soldier,

You were a glimpse of hope for me. The escape from a relationship I felt I couldn’t leave. You were a guy worthy of feelings and trust, laughter, and long drives. I looked so forward to the days we could visit. I knew you were going to be deployed. I knew that was a big reason why you never wanted to go steady with me. I guess I felt as though that wasn’t reason enough to not be together: when your friends were proposing, you couldn’t even commit. I felt a third of the time, that we were just friends. And the other two thirds, I felt there was something much deeper. It was hard to get a read on you, despite the effort I put forward. And yet, every experience and memory I shared with you I still cherish – I’m not sure if I cherish it from a romantic or platonic perspective, but I don’t regret it. I felt a void in my heart as it ended. If not absent in distance, absent in emotion. But alas, it’s the nature of dating a soldier. I guess, like the strength soldiers have to learn, there is a strength the women who date them have to gain as well.

Dear Nerd,

You introduced me to passion. With you, I felt intense emotions.You shared deep conversations with me, many difficult times, a majority of beautiful memories, and plenty of travel. I began a life with you. I fell in love with the city when I was with you. Because of you, I quit bad habits, and I felt the urge to strive to be someone better, working harder, studying more, being more communicative and more sincere — finding within myself a level of love and vulnerability I gave up on, or perhaps, thought I had lost, and I brought that to life once more. I saw a life with you, and for the first time, I looked forward to a strong future with someone. I thought I had never experienced more love in my heart…. But I’ve also never experienced such pain. With you, I lost my world. My dreams, hopes that rebuilt trust, years of my young adult life, my belief in lasting love and true soul mates, came crashing all around me, shattering into a million pieces. I have done the most of my growing, learning, and maturing, from what I shared with you. I discovered who I am, what I want in a partner, and what I want out of my own life, from the experiences I shared with you. I was lucky to have a lot of support and friendship from you, despite the broken relationship. I feel torn as to whether or not I should have ever pursued you, as it, for a long time, left me a shell of someone I once was. But in the end, I’d have to say it was worth it, for I learned valuable lessons about relationships and myself.

Dear Fighter,

You were the first guy to make me feel butterflies since my devastating break up. I know I wasn’t initially emotionally available to the degree you may have wanted. I also know that when I finally reached out to you, willing to give it a try, I had missed my chance. Between the time you pursued me and the time I was ready, you fell in love with another woman. I wish you had been more honest with me from the beginning. I wanted badly to see where it would lead, for I was rather enthusiastic about getting back into dating and sharing a level of intimacy with you. But I never was able to let go of the fact you hadn’t moved on. Although I never personally met her, I am sure she was beautiful to you. And I can understand the difficulty in letting go of something that means a lot. You are a strong man, but there were areas I wish you stepped up and either communicated more or stood up to others when I needed someone in my corner. I believe a big reason for that was that you were emotionally unavailable. I’m not a mind reader, nor can I say I understand your position 100 percent, as you never fully opened up to me. And I’m sorry that that’s all I have to go off of. But I do wish to thank you for getting me back to feeling somewhat normal, and for the fun times we had, though short it may have been.

Dear Future Whomever I End Up With,

I hope to be to a point where I’ve figured all this out — where I’ve realized the value in taking chances before I’m “ready,” and for allowing myself to be vulnerable despite my disdain for being taken advantage of. I certainly hope you pursued me – men often show interest, but often the interest seems short lived, and not unique. Everyone asks for dinner, and yet, no one tries to provide reason as to why they should be the one worth my time — so quick to give up; I don’t understand what happened to courtship. It’s been a while since I’ve seen true romance,  a guy sending me flowers, or writing me a love note. I hope you are someone that supports my goals and demands in life, but in the same regard, you are someone whom I find myself so enamored with, that I discover a strong reason to be everything and anything you could have ever asked for. I hope that we are a power couple, working hard towards our goals and our dreams, and yet constantly challenging and motivating each other to step outside our comfort zones, achieving and living new experiences and accomplishments we never thought possible. I hope that we can make each other laugh, even in our angriest of times, or that we can embrace forgiveness and compassion. That we not only hear, but listen to each other, out of respect for the other person. I hope that we share, and talk, about anything – stupid things, meaningful things, nothing, but that even when we sit in speechlessness, it doesn’t feel like silence between us. I hope that we aren’t perfect, because if we were, where is the adventure, and growth, that comes from learning and trying new things, and becoming better people? I hope that our love is passionate and intense, exciting and frequent — and that we understand that even when the flame gets dull as sometimes it’s bound to be, there’s always a way to rekindle that spark and reignite that flame. I hope that between us, we share a deep level of intimacy, trust, and vulnerability – one that consists of no harsh judgments, and always leaves us feeling like we’re never alone. I hope to have a good friendship with you, and that we can sit together, sharing stories of our past, respectful of those that helped shape who we are, and yet confident that we both deserve the best, and that we give the best to each other.

Until then…

I hope to figure this out, because I still seem to be rather lost on this road of life and love. Despite the message that I’ve received from past experiences, as well as the standard societal norm that has been adopted in the general male population, I still refuse to believe that men don’t want love. We all do; it’s human nature to yearn for being needed, important, loved, and to have a sense of belonging. I know all too well the wrong kind of love. And I hope, for my sake, I embrace the right kind of love when it’s standing in front of me, before I let it slip away. Relationships at this day-in-age are complicated: We have instant access to so many, the divorce rate is through the roof, and we’re moving towards a lifestyle of showing little emotion, needing no one, and finding instant gratification in short-lived interactions. I personally, have a hard time saying “I love you.” I used to make a vow to myself, that I wouldn’t get close enough to anyone to feel love, to feel hurt, or to cause hurt. I’ve had a lot of growing up to do in that regard.

To all the men who left a mark on my heart; To all those in between who have sprinkled bits of hope, sparks off short-lived romance, curiosities, or proved lasting friendships; To the ones I may not have even met yet; And to the rest of you who are just trying to figure it out,

If there’s anything I can suggest, it’s to be honest, raw, and passionate about pursuing the person whom you want to get to know; and alongside that, to recognize that love comes in many forms and with many people, but the only way to experience it, is by embracing the opportunity to feel it when there’s a person who is deserving. It’s hard to take my own advice, but the advice I have to give, and the advice I should be more receptive to, is to not let the opportunity pass you by – it may be a unique experience and a love unlike any you’ve felt before, and though not everyone is going to be someone worth pursuing romantically, nor should that aspect be ignored, there could be one whom you decide to dive head first into love with, and never look back. Meanwhile, I think we’re all a little lost, just swimming aimlessly, hoping to find one in this collection of many fish in the sea.

Sincerely,

Me

This blog post was made in honor of the upcoming Over-Commercialized Single’s Awareness Day.

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Filed under Lessons, Life, Love, Relationships, Romance, Valentine's Day