I’ve always been good at things. I’ve always been in the top of my class. Even in elementary school, I fill my afternoons with extra curricular activities. I’m logical. I’m creative. But, mostly importantly, I’m passionate. I have a huge space inside of myself that feels it can only be filled through a combination of film and social justice. Well, at least I thought that it was important, until I graduated from college.
I can hear the story of a person and, on my own, make a film about it. But instead, I’m an intern at an amazing film program and I spend my days writing thank you notes and making copies. Here I am, nearly three years after graduating college and I still work at the same coffee shop that I did when I was 17. I’m a documentary filmmaker and, while I know that I am good at it, I still feel like I can’t apply for a video production job for fear that an employer won’t think I have the proper skills. The foundation and passion is already there, but in a market where you need 5 years experience to get a job, I’m afraid that I’m just not good enough.
I remember a fight I had with my mother my sophomore year of college. I felt like I was trapped, that I was wasting my time. I was angry and I didn’t understand what all this time and dedication was really for. What was I really learning?
“I’m never going to remember any of this! I spent weeks learning it, hours cramming for test only to forget it all moments later!” I said.
I’m sure my mother combated me with something along the lines of how even though I wasn’t learning facts in the long run, I was learning how to think. I was learning a process of reasoning and expanding my views.
“It’s just two more years,” she would say in an attempt to comfort me.
I specifically remember being most frustrated at a lack of freedom within my university’s system. You must take this, you have to learn about that! Two Math classes, a Science class, some History, some English, hardly any Art, and hardly any say. I understood it for the students who felt like they weren’t sure what direction they wanted to go in, but I have never been a person without direction. I entered college with a path and not one required course helped to change or steer me. In fact, it only took away from time that I could have spent getting to work with amazing professors who shared my passions and had skills I didn’t.
Why wasn’t I allowed to make more decisions about the courses I wanted to take? Why was I forced to feel trapped in subjects I had little interest in (and, as a result, put little effort into) when I could have been doing something I felt passionate about? Is there truth in the idea that a well-rounded, educated person is the best person?
As I sit here at the coffee shop I just spent 8 hours slinging lattes in, I can’t help but wonder if I would have been in the same place I am right now (poor and disheartened) had I been given more choice in my education.