A Life Experience Missed

You know, I can’t remember ever being asked if I regretted not going to college. I appreciate that.

It’s hard to answer. It just wasn’t in the cards for me. That sounds like such a cop out, doesn’t it? My only defense is I was trying to survive on my own.

I don’t feel great about being in a demographic referred to as “uneducated.” But really, does it matter? Just labelling. It offends.

Surely there were other words that could have been chosen. Even “collegeless” has a better ring to it. Not having a college degree sits in a corner in the recesses of my mind.

It makes me feel inferior when I let it. Add low self-esteem and things don’t feel so hot. I compensate a little by telling myself I married a good man with a college degree, and this helps, barely.

I have friends who didn’t go — to some it matters, to others it doesn’t. It’s no longer a thing I think about much. After all these years though, it hovers.

I don’t call it regret. I refer to it as having missed a life experience — teeny amount of regret, possibly, not sure.

After all, if I had attended college, I wouldn’t be the person I am today — just think I could be a better person!! What a large thought!

I am glad and happy these days. However, if I had had the opportunity to go, you can bet your bottom dollar, I would have.

When I first moved to Atlanta, I considered goIng to Georgia State at night. The hiccup was I didn’t have a SAT score. In school in Florida, I took the ACT.

I ended up taking a bookkeeping class at a community college. I didn’t finish even this class. My car was stolen and brought on a bunch of headache. I dropped the class.

At the same time, I was taking a photography class at the High Museum of Art. Bye-bye to that as well.

When my mother became a single parent, lots of things changed. Money was tight and she had the burden of having me around.

For whatever reason, she did not file for child support. My dad didn’t provide a nickel.

College was never mentioned. Our household talk didn’t ever include ”aspire,” ”success,” thinking about a career, which schools interested me. College wasn’t encouraged.

Mother’s intent was for me to be well-educated in high school so I could get a job and move on. She said she wasn’t going to go into debt.

I would have liked to study journalism and English. I just loved diagramming sentences!

pxhere.com

High School

I hated high school. I’m pretty sure I hated my life, too. I couldn’t wait to graduate.

My sophomore and junior years were regular classes. My senior year I was a Cooperative Business Education student. CBE placed students in office jobs.

I went to school in the mornings. In the afternoons, I worked. My focus was secretarial science. Later, I attended community college for less than a year.

I ended up working general office for a family-owned and operated commercial printing company. I continued working there after graduation. I made minimum wage of $1.60.

This was okay while I was living at home, but it was lean when I was on my own, even with a roommate in a furnished apartment. Maybe I got a small increase, but I don’t remember. It would have been change, not dollars.

For a few months at some point, I worked for an insurance company at night. Christmas was coming so I needed a little extra.

I was an okay student, although my mother was unconvinced. I got my first C in typing my sophomore or junior year. Mother was mad as usual, “Well, anybody can type. How could you get a C?”

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the next semester I got my first and only D in American History. Happily, I don’t remember the fallout from that.

The counselors tried to explain to my mother I was having a hard time adjusting because my parents were separated and would divorce. I also had the trauma of having left Eminence a few years earlier.

I didn’t feel particularly good about those grades myself.

I graduated with honors and was a member of National Honor Society. The Beta Club was but a dream — definitely didn’t have that in me!

Collage. There’s an error in it. If you see it, let me know. I don’t like doing things to trick or deceive. I’ll call this a tiny brain teaser.

Community college

I had left the printing company when I decided to take classes at the community college in the evenings. My goal was an associate degree as a legal secretary.

Here’s a doesn’t-make-me-feel-good memory. One of the required classes was advanced shorthand. I took regular shorthand in high school and couldn’t stand it. It was terrible. I don’t like being rushed — funny since I have immediacy issues!

It was exam time in shorthand class and there were two tests. I think the goal was to take down 120 wpm. I passed with no problem on the first test.

Time arrives for the second test. I’ve already had a day of work. It’s raining, thundering, quite stormy really. I decided I was going to skip the test. I took a nap on the couch.

The phone rings. It’s my teacher. She’s asking where am I. She pleads with me to come in to take the test. She expresses how important it is. I didn’t go. Such an ingrate and stubborn, and let’s just go ahead and call it what it was – stupid.

I have thought about her off and on through the years. What a good soul she was. She cared enough about a student to help and encourage them on their path. I wish I were that selfless.

I was surprised when my report card displayed an ”I,” incomplete. Since I had done reasonably well on the first test, I thought that would be enough. It’s obvious I didn’t understand how grading worked!

Photo – ys

After CC

My job after the printing company was working for the Division of Florida Land Sales. It was a state government agency.

My boss at the time, Mrs. Baldwin, was ahead of her time. She ran the show. Right-hand woman to the Director. She had been to the printing company office a couple of times.

One day she walks in and says, “Would you like to work for me? When can you start?” That was that. I don’t remember an interview.

I started out as receptionist, then promoted to what was basically the complaint department. Next, I ended up working for the general counsel.

Mrs. Baldwin was responsible for the promotions. She messed up a bit, as far as I was concerned, when she put me in the legal secretary position. I was ill-prepared and boy did I struggle. I was still going to CC.

The attorney dictated a lot. My shorthand was severely lacking. I just couldn’t keep up when he was dictating. It wasn’t uncommon for me to go back and clarify what he had said or intended. Yes, this was embarrassing.

I totally don’t know how I survived that — but now I could call myself a legal secretary. This opened a few doors. Later, I started working in law firms — mostly positions that didn’t require shorthand.

It is thanks to the ever ambitious, driven, and vivacious Velma Baldwin that I became a legal secretary. I didn’t end up suffering through two years of night classes at the CC or incur the expense.

However, it would have been a nice touch if I had that associate degree piece of paper. That would be something at least.

I don’t believe the field of law was a good fit for me mentally, but it paid the bills. I wasn’t comfortable in what I perceived as a subservient role. Thanks to my mother, I already had trouble with authority. With time and working for the right people, this improved.

There were college-educated women who were legal secretaries. I kept this in mind. I didn’t feel like I was not up to snuff for the jobs, but I did feel I was not in the same league.

And so …

One morning recently, Paul and I were discussing this post. He said, “You know what is sad is you would have been good.” (We love Paul.)

I’m pretty comfy doing what I do these days. Life is good. I’m not the type of person who is inclined to go to college at this age. Hats off to those who are.

Joan Didion said, ”I don’t know what I think until I write about it.” It’s amazing how true this is. So I have written about a missed life experience. I might have a tendency to say I have ”just an itsy bitsy amount of regret.”

I so want to say ”no regrets.” The reason I want to say that is because I want to leave this world having no regrets. I have been given a good life with wonderful people in it so who am I to complain about it?

After all, there are so many other things for which to be thankful. Not attending college is no longer important. I would have loved to have given it a whirl though.

Namaste 🙏

Fiddle Faddle

Did you know?

About 88% of boomers graduated high school and 28% hold a Bachelor’s Degree or higher; 58% of boomers have at least some college experience. http://www.siit.net

As always, thank you so much for reading. Comments are always appreciated and welcome.

13 comments

  1. You and I are so similar! I went to college for 2 1/2 years, dropped out because kept changing my major and falling behind. I also partied too much my sophomore year which didn’t help. I was paying my own way and working also while in college. Left and went back working for state of Kentucky as secretary to commissioner of agriculture in 1975. In 1976 got married to a funeral director and moved to Illinois. 45 years in the funeral business. I would never have used a college degree after all, so I don’t regret, but do wish I had continued my education. I know so many people then and today who graduated college but aren’t in the field they chose in college. I always worked as a secretary too which has continued to this day. Hated shorthand too. It stressed me greatly! Luckily, in one job I had, reporters would be at our meeting and report in the next day newspaper the news of our meeting. This saved my butt because I wasn’t good at shorthand and couldn’t read my notes! I was so grateful when recording the meetings began! I have some life regrets, but these regrets made me stronger in pushing forward. College isn’t for everyone, and for me, it just wasn’t my time. I know I would be a much better student today. ❤️

    1. Gosh, Judy, it just gets better and better reconnecting with you. Thank you for telling your story. I love learning your history. Impressive that you were working while going to college and paying your own way. Not easy. Congratulations on your successful business. You know, I might not have worked in the field of a major I chose. That seems to happen a lot. Not going to college at the time I graduated was nothing I was concerned with too much. It was later in life when I felt a lot of people around me had a degree. I felt I was lacking and not good enough to mingle with college-educated people. As I say in the post, it’s no longer important. Just sometimes my mind wanders to “what if’s.” Thank you Judy for being a loyal reader. I always enjoy reading your informative comments. 💜💚❤️

  2. Dear friend. Let’s have a diagramming contest when we next lunch. I adored diagramming and it was so drilled in my 6th grade class ( our teacher had us by an English grammar book used in freshman English at Emory University. We did it for an entire year. Xoxox.

    1. Hey Beverly, great story about your 6th Grade diagramming. Afraid I would lose a diagramming contest since you were I educated using an Emory college book. I am most embarrassed that I misspelled “diagramming.” Thank you for spelling it correctly — it keeps my ego in check. Thank you for being a loyal reader. Your comments are always enjoyed. ❤️

  3. Anyone who can quote Joan Didion, diagram sentences, think as rationally and critically as you can has no need to regret missing out on college. College does enlarge one’s worldview, but as the decades pass, the ability to be introspective — like you are — is equally necessary. You inspire me — someone who frittered away her first three years of college. Life is the best university if you live it to the max of your ability, as you do. Power on, girlfriend!

    1. Dear Judy, I am humbled by your words. So very well written and expressed. I like your comment that Life is the best university if you live it to the max of your ability. Knowing your intellectual capacity, I really don’t see three years of college frittered away by you. I love spending time with you because you teach me so much. Thank you for that. Thank you for being a valued reader. I always enjoy your comments. Your support and encouragement is always appreciated. So glad we are friends! Much 💟☮️

  4. I can’t figure out the brain teaser!! You’ll have to show me the answer tomorrow. ☺️ Love learning more about your past! Always so interesting.❤️~Lisa

  5. First the brain teaser. Is it the good Rx in the cat painting?

    I got my degree in education from UGA, did my student teaching and then never became a teacher. Not sure if I wasn’t fully educated/trained or if I realized I followed in my older sister’s footsteps because I didn’t know what to do. Hmmm.

    And I do love me some diagramming. Don’t know why people think it’s so difficult. And it helps us understand when to say “she did it well” instead of “she did it good.” And numerous other things. Don’t get me started!!
    Lastly, as your readers pointed out, life is the best teacher. Not necessarily what we learned to spit back into a blue test booklet.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Harriet, much appreciated. Nice to know you enjoyed your college experience. I guess one never knows what’s going to happen once diploma is in hand. A friend emailed a comment and said “Life makes you the person you are.” I like that kind of thinking and it takes the pressure off. Thank you for being a valued reader. 💟☮️

  6. I think that there are many kinds of intelligence. My parents had book smarts (college) and common sense smarts. Both are good to have. I went to college from 1980-1987 and grad school from 1987-1989. I remember being so impressed by people who had a “real job” out in the real world. My father told me that a college degree might get me a good job interview. The rest was up to me. I never really used any college class knowledge in life/career. I used the personal life skills I learned during those years. A college degree just shows that someone had the opportunity and discipline to attend classes in a structured learning environment. It in no way reflects a person’s individual intelligence. Some of the smartest people I know never went to college. The love of learning is probably an excellent path to a rich life experience.

    1. Thank you for sharing your college and life experiences. Jimmy and Evelyn were proud of you. I love what you said, “The love of learning is probably an excellent path to a rich life experience. Congratulations on your grad school achievement. I happen to know you are one smart cookie. Thank you for reading and I always enjoy your informative comments. Much ❤️

  7. Hi: Your youthful heart whispered Journalism and English to you. Now you are a journalist, in the 21st century, sharing your inspirational blog. The heart never lies. Persistence never fails. Talent always shines.

    1. Oh, Cheryl, how beautifully expressed and written. It speaks to my heart and my eyes become tearful. You have no idea how much your support and encouragement mean to me. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your thoughts. Thank you. Thank you so much for reading and for leaving such a heartfelt comment. With love, Yvonne

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