My mother always said, "No education is ever wasted." She would say that; she was an educator. But I think she's right.
Me, I can't imagine starting a degree and not finishing it, but you tend to think that way when you're working-class: "Hey, I've spent good money on this!" (Don't knock it—Henry Ford's "I spent good money on this" saved Diego Rivera's murals in Detroit [which he considered his most important and successful work] when Rockefeller didn't have the same good sense in NYC.)
But there are a lot of kinds of costs—family, health, balancing school and work, putting other things on hold—and ultimately it's your personal objectives that count (notice I said "personal" and not "career"). And if leaving school fits those objectives better for "you" (whoever "you" may be), you're not a quitter: whatever education you got, formally or otherwise, will never go to waste. Even if you never earn a dime because of it—just as there are many kinds of costs, there are many kinds of wealth as well, almost all of it worth more than money (just not in your landlord's opinion).
I dabbled in a lot of things myself, taking some classes for fun, etc., and felt like it was a lot of false starts, 'cause I had no idea what I wanted to do. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the meandering; my only regret (if you must call it that) is that I carried so much anxiety through it all. That's 'cause our culture pressures us to be goal-oriented, to what you want and to take it, and to measure your success by achievements that are valued by the market. But now I'm seeing all my "false starts" come together, much to my surprise! I never thought I'd be in grad school, either. But it fits my objectives as well as my learning style.
The important thing is to be a lifelong learner, whether that means reading, maintaining an interest in a variety of things, picking up new skills, making art, taking classes for fun at a local community college, deepening spiritual practices, getting involved in local politics and/or activism, engaging in intellectual discussion with friends—there are so many ways to educate yourself, and not just intellectually (we're so much more than just brains). None of it will ever go to waste, as long as it's done with an open heart.
Created: Nov 18, 2010sfdetroiter Document Media