Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall term

Tomorrow I start school again on my 14 year degree program. By now I should have a doctorate right? Nope this will be a BA, as in I've been in school Before Amazon; also before Google, Facebook, and Twitter. I started at Southern Oregon University in 1996 a year after I moved up to Oregon from Central California. I was an idealistic communications major. I was a journalist. A year removed from winning a top writing award in LA for all high school journalists. My journalism teacher gave me the word "vision" when he handed out words to his seniors. My vision was my direction in life and where I was going. Someone should have told him I have bad eye sight.

Somewhere between the Alanis Morissette CD playing in my car and my rebellious attitude with my professors I discovered I wasn't going to enjoy college as much as my senior year in high school. In high school all of my papers I finished in English were automatic A's. I could write them in ten minutes and garner wide acclaim from my English teacher on my natural brilliance. In college I was dirt. I was just one of many bright writers now forced to conform to a structured piece of writing that if I deviated from I was failed. Follow the guidelines. Conform to our rules. Your freelance nature means nothing here child, you are just another mind for us to manipulate. I realized then how corporately structured universities were. They didn't want free thinkers. They wanted free listeners. Free to listen and absorb and follow instructions or feel free to fail. I battled with all my might to adjust to this new way of thinking, but I did fail. I told off one professor and discovered that the next one after was no better than the last.

I could not accept this new way of thinking. I bolted to Seattle in early 1999 and into a more structured model than the university: Corporate America. There I stayed for the next eight years. I couldn't transfer my credits up to a university in Washington because there were holds on my account with SOU for not finishing required classes. They held me hostage. The only way I was going to finish my degree was moving back down to OR or starting all over again somewhere else. When I moved back to Southern Oregon in 2006 college was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted a healthier lifestyle. I had found activities to distract myself from the cold soulless embrace of the corporate structure but they were not healthy activities. The habits I started to fit in and move up the ladder actually stunted my growth. Maybe not career-wise as I was rising, but my creativity was dying a slow death. My "vision" was now being clouded in all sorts of liquid: rain, alcohol, and tears.

I've had friends drive through Southern Oregon from Seattle and say with disdain that there is nothing here. It is definitely not the metropolitan of Seattle. One friend said she would just keep on driving. Maybe I felt that way too a few years before I moved here, maybe even a couple after. And yet Southern Oregon has a different feel to me now. There is a balance I have here I didn't in Seattle. There are four seasons. There is more lightness in the air and maybe even more smiles from people you come across. Those are small things, but they are huge. Seattle is big and shiny. The buildings glow and sparkle at night. The Needle illuminates the sky, but it is cold. It is a cold and structured city. At least it was to me. I have friends who live downtown in different districts that love it. Maybe it is just perception. Yet that was a perception I couldn't get past in the time I lived there. I felt that people were more guarded and even friends. The openness was minimal and emotions much more calculated. I couldn't live a lifestyle like that. I would act out just to feel anything. Almost like a child desperate for attention from their parents.

Back to Medford and Ashland and school and slow days. I started back at SOU in 2008. I switched my major to business and found I could conform a lot easier. I had been doing it for the past 12 years anyways! Corporate America made me a good student for corporate university. I definitely noticed the professors treating me differently. It seems age and experience are more highly esteemed than youth and individuality. At least then and now. Maybe SOU went through an awakening themselves in the 10 years since I had last attended. I know that the required courses I was supposed to take to move forward in '98 were no longer required. Maybe they just needed the revenue.

I'm a year and a term away now from finishing if I go 16 credits a term. It will be difficult to do that and work full-time, yet I'm also committed to completing this. I also though realize that a degree won't complete me. Sure, it'll make job prospects in this economy more accommodating and it will be a burden off of my back, but it is just a piece of paper. It is just a reaffirmation that I can follow instructions and conform to rules and guidelines. I've done that. It doesn't prove anything more to myself than that. Does that make me a sell out? I don't know. Am I selling my passion to prove I can conform, or am I being realistic? Does this just provide a back up plan? It certainly isn't the "vision" I anticipated.

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