Just a Piece of Paper
I have just completed a bachelor of contemporary arts at an accredited
university. As a graduate I have
encountered the perception from some people that my three years of hard work
have rewarded me with nothing more than a “piece of paper”. These fools believe
that the reason behind my undertaking this degree was to simply receive that piece
of paper and that my experiences and education account for absolutely nothing.
I noticed this for the first time on my graduation day.
After attending the ceremony I did what any self respecting art graduate would
do and made a beeline for the bar. While celebrating our achievement with my
colleagues, people in the bar (complete strangers) kept asking us why we
bothered to go to university at all. Why had we happily squandered their tax
dollars for three years, simply to spend 90 minutes fannying around in robes at
the end of it all? “All that fuss for just a piece of paper”. I will explain,
for the hard of understanding, why this degree is not about “a piece of paper”,
why I did it in the first place, and why, most of all, these questions shit me
At university my education was multi-layered. There was
the very 'Meat and Potatoes' kind of learning: formal writing, presentation of
work and the other curriculum based stuff. Then there was the bit where I
learned how to ask for help, how to help others, basic comprehension of
information and how to scrutinize everything that came my way. I learned the
value of understanding the basic psychology of the people and the institution I
was working with. Probably the most important thing I learned was that you get
out what you put in. How the hell can a piece of paper ever represent that?
While not everyone needs to go to university to have this
kind of education, I figured that for me it was a good place to start. The
degree was simply a step toward a lifelong career of growth and learning. As a
mature student, university was a daunting notion to me and I had to make a
pretty big decision with my life. Even before starting my education I had to
let go of a lot of insecurities, I had to lose many preconceptions about the
world and most importantly I needed to get some serious motivation.
For all of this though, it appears that I now deserve less
respect than someone who simply accepts what life throws at them without ever
questioning it. Why the hell are my choices stupidly questioned, when it seems
that complete morons, without the faintest suspicion that there is more to life
than 9 to 5 and happy hour, are perfectly ok?
I have noticed that these people will bring up my “piece of paper” and
in the same breath whine about how “hard done by” they are. They moan about how
they failed at life because everyone else let them down and bitch about not
following their dreams because they got married and had kids. It's as if all of their shortcomings are
someone else's fault.
This “piece of paper” issue is
not confined to bars. Recently, relatives of mine were asking the same thing.
Why would I go and disrupt my entire life for a piece of paper? As if it were
more noble to be content with the status quo. For fuck’s sake, while you lot
have invested the past three years in the house, the car and the latest shiny
gadget, I have chosen to spend my time learning and growing. I went to
university because I wanted my life be as different from yours as possible. I
don't want to hang around, filling my time with meaningless jobs and hollow
activities. I am not satisfied with
things that are made in China and come in a box. I want to succeed at what I do, or at least have the guts to
accept that I can only blame my failure on myself.
For me, making the decision to study and get a degree, meant
accepting responsibility for my actions and creating change. It was about
taking a step back and critically looking at who I was and what I intended to
do on this planet, besides squander time and resources. University for me was
the boot to the head that I needed to get off my fucking hands and knees and
make life work for me! Education of any kind is not about the piece of paper,
it’s about taking control of your LIFE! It’s about doing something positive;
getting what you want and making a contribution to the world. While you wallow
in what could have been, some of us decided to get off our fat, beer guzzling,
material-driven arses and improve ourselves. I will not suffer stupid people
who, in their ignorance, try to reduce my hard-earned education to a piece of