No more college applications. No more high school essays or projects. I'm raising my face to the sky, watching the ashes of all my old school papers burn away into the blissful blue oblivion. So this is what it's like to be free, I think to myself, sipping a non-alcoholic beverage as the sky alights with jubilation.
Well, at least I'm free for a few months.
On my last day of high school earlier this month, a friend of mine pointed out in our Government class that it was the last day of our free education. This struck me pretty hard. What determined my admittance to school up till now hadn’t been grades or money. Now, going to university in the fall, each class will cost roughly $133 an hour and my education will be completely my own responsibility. Government obligations have ceased, and I’m sitting in the driver’s seat.
In a way, it’s been a long time coming. I’ll have the opportunity to choose whatever classes I want to fill my requirements, some of which will go towards my major in Creative Writing (aka a dream come true!). I’ve already started the process of picking out decorations for my dorm room and chatting with my roommate, who is coming from across the country to find her next step in education right here alongside me.
My entire life has been encompassed by the idea that college is the best choice for someone after high school, that getting good grades and getting accepted to a university somehow add value to one’s life. However, watching the reality of this ideal unfurl has taught me college isn’t always the best option for someone right away. Some people need time to figure out what they want to do or study in their life, maybe take some classes at a community college to get their General Education requirements out of the way.
I was lucky enough to get a scholarship from my chosen university this year, but I know that my reality would look different if I hadn’t gotten it, and that many other talented students like myself did not get this lucky. It’s no secret that college costs are too high for most students to afford without falling helplessly into debt; not only that, but once students get out of college it’s difficult to find employment in today’s world that is sufficient for the costs of living. The American Dream has skipped out on my generation, it seems.
So what’s the silver lining?
Learning and knowledge are the most powerful tools one can ever have, especially in America’s modern political environment where politicians rise to power on the ignorant backs of their constituency (I’m looking at you, Donald Trump). Education should not be a money-making machine, but a culture-changing machine; it's the asset to a functioning society and to the growth of a new, more affordable system in the future.
The truth is, we are the future of our country. We - the social media-loving, instantly gratified, and eternally stressed out youth population - are what's going to make the world a better place someday. And because we realize the injustice of our system now, we're already setting in motion the engine for change that will make affordable higher education and greater job opportunities a possibility for our own children, not to mention correct other injustices of past generations.
This is going to take awhile, and it'll be a lot of Cup-O'-Noodles and sleepless nights until our work is done. But for now I’ll leave it at this. Whatever path you decide to choose, the most important thing is always pursuing your goals and aspirations; the universe will find a way to make them happen. And the world will be watching when you finally succeed.
It's been real, Teen Years. Look out, Adulthood; here comes the class of 2020.
P.S. Happy Pride Month!