Sunday, November 28, 2021

Non-College Careers

You don't have to go to college to be successful in life.  But that doesn't mean you don't have to hump, though.

I have a number of friends who never went to college - or dropped out early on - who are now retired and living quite comfortably.  Turns out, the dire predictions of what life would be like without college were largely untrue.  Yes, backward-looking statistics from the 1960's and 1970's show that you will make more money with a college degree - back in the 1960's and 1970's.  Today?  Well, factoring in the staggering cost of college these days, it isn't always a value proposition.

Take Jeff, for example.  He didn't want to go to college, or at the very least, not at the college his parents wanted him to go to.  Like most parents, they wanted him to go to a big "name" school, even though his grades were mediocre and his SAT scores were lacking.  I ran into this same deal - my Mother wanted me to apply at Harvard, when I had not even a snowball's chance in hell of getting in.  I think she had a vague idea of bragging to her friends at cocktail parties about her son at Harvard.

And let's get that out of the way right there - many parents do odious things in the name of their own status.  They pressure their kids into career paths that don't interest them (and for which they have no innate talent) simply so they can have bragging rights on the cul-de-sac.  I know of a lot of doctors and lawyers who entered the field at the urging of their parents, not because they necessarily wanted to.

Anyway, Jeff ended up at a Forestry school, which if he had graduated, would have qualified him for a comfortable government job and a pension, after working 30 years in the middle of nowhere.  It was a career path, but not one he wanted.  Likely had he graduated, he would not have ended up as a forest ranger anyway, as the school graduates more people in the field than there are jobs.

So, after a half a semester at school, he dropped out and went to work.  He got some odd jobs at first, working at the bank.  But he eventually started his own business doing home appraisals and inspections and eventually getting his real estate license.  He also snapped up some distressed properties and fixed them up, using his handyman skills, and sold them for a profit.

He did very well for himself, and now owns a winter house and a summer home - he is hardly poor and destitute or working some minimum-wage job at McDonald's - the nightmare scenario his guidance counselor and parents instilled in him.  In fact, he never worked at such jobs.  In fact, such jobs are a dead-end and a waste of time.  Sure, they are a means of earning money while you apply for a better job.  But the idea of a "living wage" on a dead-end job is just stupid.  Who wants to retire from McDonald's?  Who ever does?  No one!

Fred never went to college.  After High School and the Army, he got a job in the trades and worked his way up to owning his own HVAC and industrial design company.  It wasn't easy, of course - it required a lot of hard work and some humping.  But by the time he retired, he owned a house in the country - on 100 acres, as well as a vacation home down South, as well as some investment properties.  He hardly is poor, and is better off than a lot of college-educated people at the same point in life.

What's the common denominator of success?  Well, having some native intelligence, some skills, and a motivation to succeed.  College is fine and all - I spent 14 years there.  But it is not a guarantee of success.  In fact, it may be the opposite, as we promise an entire generation (or two, or three) that "if only" they borrow staggering sums of money to go to college to study nonsense, they will have cushy jobs like on The Office, where no real work is done, other than office gossip and back-biting.  And kids dumb enough to fall for this lie probably get what they deserve.  Sadly, it is often the parents, as I noted before, that push them into this stupidity.

And let's face it, a lot of parents, in addition to status reasons, want their kids to go to college just to get them out of the house.  They don't want some gun-collecting and ninja-sword wielding "gamer" living in their basement and biding his time until the next school shooting.  They want the kid launched and college seems like an easy out.  It kicks the can down the road for another four years, at least.

The one other thing that my non-college friends seem to have in common is that they get touchy about the fact they never went to college.  I suppose if you never went, you might feel you missed out on something.  You didn't.  Just imagine high school with dormitories.  Same shit, different day.  Kids being stupid, boring studies that often have little to do with what is going on in the world.  And few kids studying anything "hard" - with most of their time taken up with social grooming.

But for some reason, my non-college friends have a chip on their shoulder about college.  And I am not sure why.  Some of my college-educated friends make a fetish about their alma mater 20 or 30 or even 40 years after graduation.  They fly the school flag and root for the home team, even though they live a half-dozen States away and none of the people they knew from "back then" are around.  I guess some people are desperate for an identity in life.

I wouldn't be jealous of that!