A few days ago, I got into a conversation with a friend about education. It started as most of our discussions do, complaining about our current job and how bleak our prospects are. Standard stuff, really. My lament was a reiteration of an old tirade. “I’ve got a masters, why is it that the best I can do is grunt work for grunt pay, fighting for forty hours a week and struggling to make ends meet?”

My friend chortled, “I make more than that, and I don’t even have a single degree.”

His response, though casual, cut me deep. He does make more than me and we work in similar positions. His is an advantage in years of experience.  Sure, I understand that his experience should afford him a larger paycheck, but it’s about more than the fact that he is making almost double what I make. It’s the fact he is further along in a potential “career” than I am and he’s younger than me.

I’m trying not to be jealous.

The idea that this situation exists angers me the most. I spent four years in undergrad and a year and a half in grad school, all funded by student loans, to make less than a guy who went straight into the workforce out of high school. Now, I’m not bad-mouthing my friend’s life decisions. We all have to make our own path. But when I compare us, I can’t help but ask, What’s the point?

If my education can’t grant me better job opportunities then why waste time with it? Why take out educational loans if that education doesn’t put me in a position to repay those loans? I find it difficult to argue in favor of education for education’s sake. Especially, when it feels like the return is so minuscule.

I keep thinking of the board game, Life. When you start the game, each player has an opportunity to go to “college” for the chance to earn a higher paying job or you could just move forward along the game board towards the end goal. You just wouldn’t make as much money on the “payday” squares. I always went through the extra space that made up “college.” I wanted to make more money and invariably the game would give me some bad card that would cost money.

I haven’t played Life in years but I’ve been thinking about it lately. Maybe the best way to play it is to forgo the education and just get right to work. Push straight through to the end goal.

But Life is a game, life isn’t.

I think education is of the utmost importance. It has allowed me to sharpen my analytical skills, my thinking, reasoning and ability to express myself. I wouldn’t be where I am now without an education. So, what’s the point? The point is, I’m not where I thought I would be or where I want to be, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t get there. And I know that my education will help.

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