Earlier this year, I made what I thought was a bold move. I also thought it was the right one.
After my planned move to Thailand fell through at the eleventh hour, I decided to pursue a dream I’ve held since I’d finished my last degree and emerged from my awkward, post high school shyness by going back to university and doing it right.
Right being: Drinking lots, taking my education seriously, and meeting cool, new people.
I packed my life into a tiny dorm room, embraced the world of goon and cheap beer, and began to immerse myself in textbooks, tutorials, and late night movie marathons.
I was transported into a world both familiar and maddeningly unfamiliar. The teen drama that I had once been such a big part of was now a kind of farce played out before me.
The insistence on perfect Harvard referencing that had seemed so important when I finished my first degree now seemed arbitrary and nit-picky.
Buying ramen noodles in bulk after years of eating out seemed like lunacy.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a lot of fun. It was a fun little exercise in time travel to be a student again. To worry about essays and due dates, but not about paying electricity bills or preparing a lesson plan.
It was a special kind of pleasant to sleep until 2pm on a weekday and know that if I wrote a few hundred words on that essay I had due in a week’s time, I could play video games and watch movies until the wee hours.
Drink lots. Sleep in. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I can’t stress enough how much fun it has to be a part of that world again.
It’s going to be difficult to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made and leave behind my life in Coffs Harbour, no matter how brief it might have been.
While it has at times been frustrating to deal with fights between friends over absolutely nothing, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being the wise older observer. It’s been surreal to see scenes play out in front of me that I remember being involved in (or even instigating) first time around.
That kid crying out in the car park over a girl is me ten years ago.
Those friends feuding over a perceived slight? That’s my best friend and I.
The dizzying highs and crippling lows. The righteous indignation and the love that blossoms and fades.
It’s all so fascinating and, in a weird way, beautiful. It’s not that I’ve outgrown it or that I feel I have become superior to it.
It’s that I remember how it was to feel that deeply. I remember fondly the way my stomach would get butterflies at the merest glance from a pretty girl, and I miss that.
These days it takes a hell of a lot to make me feel much of anything, and while the loves I have known have been far deeper and more substantial to anything I felt as an awkward teen – they’ve never quite reached the dizzying, gotta have you heights of those days.
It’s all exacerbated by knowing what’s out there.
When I was in college the first time around, it was my world.
I had my friends and I had my social scene and I had my university requirements. I lived and died by that.
It’s been hard to force myself to sit at a desk and summarize a chapter on management styles when I know that I could be out there seeing the world. Friends and bloggers I admire are out having fascinating adventures and while I don’t envy them that, I found it hard to feel as invested in life at university when I know full well it’s not the be all and end all.
One of my most successful friends is the one who didn’t finish his degree. Meanwhile, I spent three years after I finished mine (with the offer to do Honours, no less) working retail and playing World of WarCraft.
The world doesn’t end at university, and doing well at it doesn’t necessarily put you in a better position to take on the world. Once you know that, it becomes bloody hard to take it all so seriously.
Learning for Learning’s Sake
My first semester studying Tourism Management comes to an end in a fortnight. I’m rocking a High Distinction average in Business Law, Management, and Tourism Theory and a frustrating Distinction in Communications. Academically, that’s better than anything I managed in my three years studying theatre. I’m rapt.
I’ve enjoyed studying something I’m passionate about and, more than that, I’ve enjoyed learning for the sake of learning. I focus on the elements of my courses that fascinate me, and those that don’t seem relevant to me are skimmed over.
Rather than agonizing over whether or not I understand this or that aspect of a given class, I instead ask myself what I’ll take away from it.
How will this knowledge benefit me in my life after I graduate?
If my answer is “It doesn’t”, then fuck it. Why am I wasting my time and stressing over something that doesn’t matter?
Once I adopted this view, stressing over due dates seemed foolish. If I was doing enough to pass, did it really matter what somebody else thought?
Isn’t the value of education what you take away from it?
I did well in my first degree, but I’m going to be brutally honest and say I remember next to nothing from my time there. Why would I? Theatre has not been a part of my life since the curtain fell on my last performance, and so it’s made room for more important things.
Who needs to be able to quote Othello when the conversion rate on the Chinese Yuan to the Australian dollar has more day to day relevance?
This all lead me to a decision: If I’m learning for my own benefit rather than the benefit (if any) I’ll get from a piece of paper, do I really need to be on campus? Can’t I take my books home and just learn in my own way?
And that’s what I did. I attended classes when the topics interested me, but for the most part I found I learned much more efficiently in my room with a textbook. If that’s the case, why am I pinning myself down to one spot on a map?
And, more importantly, why am I pinning myself to a place on the map that doesn’t energize and excite me?
This has all been a rather lengthy and elaborate way of saying that, as of two weeks from now, I’m going on the road again.
After my upcoming trip to China and East Africa, I’ll return home, pack my things, and start on that wonderful, dizzying, unknowable road that leads me to wherever the hell it wants.
I found somebody willing to take over my lease at college, I’ve switched my classes to external, and I’ll be continuing my education (and my adventures) from someplace far from here.
Maybe it will be China again. Lord knows, I’ve got a lot of that vast, fascinating country to explore.
Or maybe I’ll explore a different corner of Asia? Malaysia, Thailand, or Vietnam?
Maybe I’ll try my luck in the Middle East and renew my love affair with Dubai?
Do as I’ve been told countless times before and finally give Turkey a go?
All I know is that, as much as I love my friends and family in Australia, I don’t love living here.
I don’t like the person I feel I have to be to fit in here, and I don’t like that being here means leaving behind the best version of me.
I was born to be on the road and out of my element, even though I’m most ‘in my element’ when I’m out of it. Go figure.