You Only Live Once, This Is How I'm Doing It!

Stupid piece of paper

Today I was asked by no less than three people where I went to school. I don’t remember how it came up in any of these conversations. The only thing I know is the conversations continued like this:

Them – “So, where did you go to school?

Me – “Uh, well… um, I didn’t…

Then comes the nervous ramblings:

I graduated high school then I moved to Europe for awhile to be an au pair then moved back because, ya know, I fell in love ::giggle:: then I became a flight attendant and traveled all over the world and then uh… stupid economy… and now I’m here. A barista… slash waitress. And, yeah…

Them – ::blank stare:: “Oh. That’s. Nice.” ::backs away::

And they walk away probably wondering what the heck they asked exactly and I’m left feeling an inch tall.

There’s a sinking feeling in my chest whenever I think about it. About how I judged I feel. About how stupid and backwards and behind and lame and worthless they must think I am.

Then, not much later one of the askers made a comment about me not even having been to college. It was a negative comment. I can’t remember the wording exactly…

Because I was so shocked and had to fight the urge to burst into tears. Or run away and hide in a hole.

I’m not stupid.

I’m not.

And I could have that stupid piece of paper. I’m smart enough. I was a straight A student for goodness sake. I love school.

It’s the idea of taking on ten of thousands of dollars in debt that terrifies me. Especially because that dumb piece of paper is no guarantee that I’ll have any better job than I do right now. But people would think better of me. They wouldn’t think I’m stupid.

Because maybe some of them don’t. I might be paranoid.

But I know some of them do. The comments prove that to me.

The “Oh but you’re… smart.”You seem like such a smart girl.”A degree isn’t everything.”

And I smile and laugh and agree while wishing the ground would open up and swallow me whole.

I want to scream going to college doesn’t make you better than me! I’m smart dammit!


The thing is, I love my life. I’m so happy with my life, I wouldn’t change anything. There’s no point in my life experience that I can imagine changing. I’ve had an amazing life. I’ve done more in 24 years than some people do in a lifetime. There’s so much more I have left to do and I expect it’s all going to be just as amazing.

So yeah, I didn’t go to college. I want to. I will.

But in the meantime… could you please just not ask?


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  1. I think it's amazing the life that you have. I would give *anything* to trade my degree in for a year or two in Europe and to travel the world… and get paid for it. The people that you are talking to do not realize at all how lucky you are – and how sheltered their lives have become if they react like that.

    • I agree. And my embarrassed ramblings don't help that. If only they knew how truly amazing my life is. I guess that's why judging is so bad, you just never really know what's inside a person.

  2. Damn, some people just HAVE to judge, don't they?

    I wish they would learn to stuff it. Plenty of brilliant people didn't go to college, and I know lots of people who DID go to college around whom you can think and write in circles.

    • Thank you. I *know* all this. But in that moment? My words get all tangled in my mouth and all I want to do is make them see how amazing my life is. That inevitably turns into an over share which does nothing for making me look smarter or more put together.

      The biggest irony? I found out later that the person who made a negative comment about me never having been to college dropped out of college themselves. Yeah.

  3. Reed

    I know it's hard, but don't let people get to you just because you don't have a degree. Hell, I have a degree and I'm still working a shitty job and people still look at me like I'm dumb. People will always belittle others =/

    • Thank you. I keep telling myself this. If I had a degree I would probably still be in the place I am now with the way everything is. And honestly I love my job. Just not the being judged part.

  4. I know exactly how you feel. :/ I feel like people look down on me for not having a degree, even though I'm exponentially more intelligent than a lot of college grads I know. I didn't finish school and I don't regret it one bit-it's not what I wanted to do with my life.

  5. sudriveraine

    You know, I did get a (rather pointless) degree. I have a job that has nothing to do with it, and I'm still paying student loans. So basically, while I think college can be great (I had lots of fun there and everything, don't get me wrong) and can be a good "I'll get there someday" goal, I say don't sweat about it. From the looks of it you have a quite interesting life (I would l-o-v-e to travel as much as you do and live overseas), and though I don't know you personnally you sure seem very smart. Keep enjoying life, what you get out of it has nothing to do with how many letters come after your name.

  6. I know how that piece of paper can make you feel. See, I went to college for 4.5 years. At the end? I was one class shy of a degree, due to a mixup/miscommunication. I went on to a job and it haunted me. For years. I "finished" school in December of 2003. I didn't go back until Fall 2008. I had almost 5 years of that feeling of inadequacy (even thought I wasn't actually inadequate) even though the class was a stupid general ed class. I had finished my major, yet I was working at the front desk of a hotel, being talked down to day after day by people who I assumed I was too stupid to get a "real job". Even after I finished the class, it took another year for me to finish the paperwork, because life was busy, and there was a part of my deep seated self conscious that was afraid what would happen when things changed. 18 days before my daughter was born I received a package in the mail. It was that piece of paper. Guess how much it changed things?


  7. I have a degree, but it's "just" an associate's and lately, while I've been job hunting, SO many people have asked me why I don't go back to school for a "better degree". Why would I? That is a lot of money and time invested in something that I have no desire in doing currently… I get along just fine without a Masters, Bachelors, or whatever! 🙂

  8. strawbrykiwi

    You ARE smart and the people who think degrees are everything are full of crap. Heck, I don't have a big ol' fancy degree! Just certificates.


    You are awesome!! 🙂

  9. I agree completely! At my school, my teachers looked at me as if I had some kind of disease when I said I didn't want to go to university. The head of sixth form even told me I would never get a job if I didn't have a degree. Guess what? I got a job at a pharmacy, and am now studying at college (which is different to uni in England – it's generally from 16-18 not 18+) and am getting paid. Everyone I've told at work has said I should go back and tell him I've got a great job and I'm being paid to learn.

    It annoys me how much people pride themselves on wasting 3 years of their life at uni and then getting a minimum wage job, or not getting a job at all, when I'm already earning and will have accomplished much more in 3 years than my friends will. Fair enough if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, or something that requires a degree, but going to study a 'Mickey Mouse' course like Media Studies? You'd be better off getting a job with the BBC.

  10. Anyway, I'll repeat my starting point. I agree 100%. Degrees aren't everything. Uni isn't everything. People need to consider that people who don't go to Uni and don't have degrees can be just as good, or even better, than those who do. Tell those people to stop being so small-minded. And don't get upset. It's not worth it. If you want to go to uni eventually, you'll have saved money and not be in debt. And if you don't? Well, who cares anyway – degrees aren't a proof of worth!

    Sorry for the novel length split-in two comment 🙂 it just annoys me

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