Don’t Go to College

Image by Donkey Hotey



Well, wait. If you can AFFORD to, without loans, then go ahead. If you want to be something that ONE HUNDRED PERCENT NEEDS you to go to college or university, then go, but also be 100% sure, without a fraction of a doubt, that it is something you want to do for the rest of your life. If you do want to go, but aren’t sure what for – WAIT! Almost no one knows what they want to be when they finish high school, and if they do, they’re very lucky, and even then, a lot of those things do not need school. There are lots of ways to learn.

Necessary schooling + passion = fine, go.

Unnecessary schooling + passion + money = fine, go.

Unsure + unnecessary + loans = STOPPPPPPPPPP.

Unnecessary + loans = nooooooooooo.

Necessary + money – passion = no no no no no.

Unnecessary – money  + unsure = RUN FUCKING FAST

The majority of people going to school fall into the LAST equation. How do I know? I know lots of people! Including me! I was lucky enough that I chose short courses and that my parents helped pay my loans, which were diddly compared to what some people end up with. Basically everyone I know has massive debt, and basic jobs that don’t require their specific degree. For me, I have been to college twice and don’t do either of the things I went for.

The most valuable things I’ve learned have been from self study. Sure it might not get you a job easily, but it will allow you to LEARN FOR FREE. And it will make you use your imagination. It won’t force you to spend all your time on assignments and classes you don’t even want or need to take. You can learn at your OWN pace, and work at the same time! So many people get degrees and end up with ludicrous jobs anyway, because there is a million other grads just like them, scrounging for wages.

Spend your time doing what you love THE VERY MOST. The things you know you are meant to do.

I almost went back to school this year. I even registered, paid money, and all of it. I did this because I couldn’t find a job and figured having a degree would help me. Plus I hated regular work and wanted to just learn all day. However, with time and more thought, I knew it was a stupid idea. Especially since creative writing does not need to be learned in a school, nor does it guarantee a job. So instead of being $40,000+ in debt in 4  years, I lost like $150. Big whoop.

Part of what put me off is that even though I’d be a mature student, I would have to take a base year and a bunch of shit that had nothing to do with writing. Why the fuck do I have to take MATH to do a writing course? Or science?

There are a lot of jobs that require school, I know it, but unless you are completely dedicated, and know from the day you apply that it is what you want FOR SURE, and you will be able to get work or create work FOR SURE, that you LOVE…don’t. You will just end up a slave. To debt, to endless mediocre jobs, to a life you think you should be living.

Believe me, I would love to go back to school. I adore learning. I’d love to take creative writing. But at the expense of my life and freedom? No way. Debt is a death sentence. I want freedom. Freedom is my number one priority in life. Anything I choose to commit to, I CHOOSE 100%! Nothing is forcing me.

I can learn to write on my own, and if I really want help, I can hire a coach for way cheaper than going to school. I can read books.

When I did go to college, I ended up  not wanting to do what I took. I took a multimedia course (and should have stuck with graphic design, like I was drawn to) and after I finished the course I realized I didn’t want a job sitting at a computer all day.

I also took a vet assistant course, and while it was valuable to me in some ways, I could have learned it all by volunteering at a clinic.

I have considered library sciences, but there is no guarantee of work after completion, either, and that is like 6-8 years of school. I don’t even want to know how much that would be in terms of debt, especially going to a place like UBC. Insane.

Commit yourself to freedom, unless your lifelong dream has been to be a lawyer or a doctor or a scientist. If you’re going to school to “get an education” – just go to the library instead.

Only put your money towards your health and your most BURNING PASSIONS. That’s what it’s for.

If you have debt (of any amount!), get rid of it above ALL ELSE as soon as possible. Eliminate EVERYTHING non-essential. Everything. Debt will weigh you down and asphyxiate the life right out of you, and you only get ONE.

Recommended Reading:

Walden on Wheels (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – this post was inspired by reading this book)

The Teenage Liberation Handbook (I read this 15 years too late)

How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World

If You Want to Be Rich and Happy, Don’t Go to School?

Being Realistic – No Thanks

Image by Kylli Sparre

“Be Realistic.”

Is there anything worse for a creative person to hear?

A wild vixen, or a blitzkrieg dynamo does not want to know your opinion. They want you to say “Fuck yeah!” and pump them up (or just shut up).

You know all those people who you admire, idolize, admire? Why? Cuz they’re realistic and normal day-to-day humans who just settle and go for the easy way out? Nah, you really respect their tenacity and ability to dig deep and follow the path they know will make them happy.

Telling artistic or adventurous people to be realistic can be extremely damaging, especially if they are very young. Creative types are SENSITIVE and, unless they have an iron will, may be affected at a deep level, which might not even register. I am one of these people. My nerve and confidence were vandalized as a teenager, with lingering comments floating in my subconscious ever since.

Young people are the most susceptible, too, because youth is the time when confidence is most cultivated. Even as an adult, when we are more inclined to worry about things like money, if your confidence is limited, the chances of following your dreams are likely going to be crushed by that anvil of doubt. You probably won’t go for it.

It’s scarier not to.

Think about all the people you really think are The Shit. Are they realists, or did they take risks? They said “Fuck you!” to everyone who might try and talk them out of their wild fantasies.

People who chase dreams and do what they want are just as human as you. The difference is that they actually keep going, despite people who might try and tell them they’re not realistic or that they are crazy.


Can you imagine these situations?

“Hey JK Rowling! Just stay on welfare, no one makes money on fantasy books about wizards.”

“Hey Bethany Hamilton! No one can surf with one arm, just go work in an office or something.”

“HEY, Kurt Cobain, punk is dead, sit down.”

I could come up with a million of these, very famous or not. I know people personally who do what they want and make a living because they are determined. They aren’t rich – who said anything about rich? This is nothing to do with money. Everyone seems to equate realism with making money – you know, I am at a point where I would rather be living in my car or in a tent and living on potatoes and dandelions, doing what I want, than to be “realistic” and working in an office or bagging groceries.

The wild ones are the ones who make the world change. They are the ones who touch your hearts. They are the ones make the songs you listen to when you’re in love or in despair. They’re the ones who make the movies you watch to lift yourself up. They’re the ones who write the books that make you want to be a better person. They’re the ones who create the beautiful images that make your throat burn and your eyes water.

Why the FUCK would you want them to be realistic?!

The likely scenario is that the ones who are saying such things are jealous, or wish they had the balls to do it themselves. Why wouldn’t you want someone else to fucking try? The best people to look up to and to emulate are the people who are true to themselves and who don’t give a shit if people agree or not – they know who they are and what to do. That is a rare trait, and enviable. It doesn’t matter if they’re into painting, music, writing, or being an astronaut, they should all be supported to do what they’re passionate about.

What is reality anyway? Reality is what is happening, right now. Right now my reality is sitting on the couch with wet hair writing this because I am pissed someone told me to be realistic, someone 13 years younger than me who knows nothing about my life, someone who insinuated I do not use my head but only follow my heart. I do BOTH. Being realistic only means to be in the moment of what you are doing. I don’t know what is going to be my reality in several years. I don’t care. I care about now. I care about doing things I love to do. I care about myself, not what other people think, and so should you. If you have dependents, fine, but you can still make some income while doing what you love. You can give certain shit up that you don’t need. You don’t need to starve, there are WAYS.

I’d rather be hungry and happy than full and miserable.

Being “realistic” (in terms of “Get a normal job where you know you’ll make money”) may lead to a different reality than you may expect. Maybe you’ll do something like that and end up so depressed that you become a drug addict and end up in a gutter with a needle in your arm. Who KNOWS? I know that’s a crazy example, but there are no guarantees for ANYTHING, so you might as well do what you like.

You wanna end up dying (inevitable!) and being like “Daaaamn, I shoulda done that, I’m a stupid idiot.” Or do you wanna end up like “YEAH I fucking lived it up – I may have been broke but at least I’m ready to die!”

You get one life. ONE. Why waste it? You don’t get time to waste. There IS no time to waste. Don’t just exist, fuckin’ LIVE IT.

I’m Glad I Was Never Popular

Age 16, Vancouver, Dominatrix shirt.

Long before high school, there was the horror of grade four. And grade seven.

These two years traumatized me, especially the latter, for I was 11/12, gawky, completely defenseless, and therefore, the easiest target. I was also the youngest.

I had huge glasses, a weird scar, crooked teeth, frizzy hair that I never brushed, terrible make-up, pimples, and no style.

I was called a cacophony of names and whenever out of the classroom, it was an onslaught. I rode my bike to and from school, even at lunch time – I lived a block away. I wanted to get out of there as fast as humanly possible. My teachers always knew what was going on, and this is why during class was a fairly safe time.

The summer before grade 8, I went to summer camp with the only friend I had – and even though I was not bothered with the same bullshit as in school. I was still easy to corner and got teased incessantly for new reasons. I ended up loathing camp, refusing to ever return.

During that summer I buried myself in magazines for the first time. I actually learned some grooming skills. I started to care a little bit about how I looked and it progressed the more I read. Fashion magazine became an obsession, and as I got older, I got to buying about nine on a monthly basis.

In high school I started out well – it was daunting, but at first, things were calm. I attribute it to everyone just settling in, because after a few weeks, all the shit from elementary school followed me into a bigger, nastier crowd. It was also coming into the classroom with me – people never hesitated to harass me as I sat at my desk, and even though I was starting to look better, my sensitive nature was like a green light for jerks.

I was a good student. Once all the in-class bullying started, though, I began to skip class. A lot. I never got detention for it, either. I’m not sure how. My grades dropped – I didn’t care. I became  obsessed with music. In grade 8 I latched on to late 80s and early 90s gangsta rap, along with any sort of perverted hip hop I could find. You’d never have pegged me for being into it – I was never without my walkman and once when I had run out of batteries I skipped class to go get some. My mother was horrified at my musical choices and tried to confiscate my cassette tapes, but my absolute agony at having it taken away made her relent. Listening to some of those things now shocks me – however anything “bad” about it never affected me at age 12. I just found it amusing, and I liked the rhythm.

In grade 9 I changed completely. I got into Guns N’ Roses and quickly changed into an elitist about music. I thought if you used anything other than REAL instruments, it was sub par and not music! I started growing out my bangs and got a leather biker jacket. There was still another part of me that wanted to fit in, and I tried a little to conform based on what I looked at in magazines.

Those things were never what people in my school were doing much of (I grew up in a small town) and so any time I tried to emulate the beauty I saw in those pages, it looked ridiculous to people in my school. I quickly gave up. I think I tried for about a week to “fit in” by what I wore.

At least in high school I had some friends. Only one of them really had the same interests as me, but we had a falling out in grade 10 and she went to another school. People still harassed me, but not as much. I barely went to class and usually had my walkman on. I started to cultivate a hard stare, and if anyone did bother me, my defenses started to show.

All I cared about was music and boys. I would look at them all from a distance. No one in my grade was my type – I liked the metal-heads and the skater boys (especially them!) with the long hair. They were all oblivious to me (I think) and I had no courage to do anything about it.

When I skipped class, I read, quite a lot. I would go downtown to raid the indie music shop. I would draw, take photos, and write. Often I’d sneak into the computer lab and write stories. Sometimes I’d write my little ass off until 9pm when they closed the school.

Age 15, downtown Vancouver at Zulu Records.

I don’t know if it was just a build-up of rage, or if it was that combined with aspirations to be like the badass female musicians I looked up to – but around grade 10 was when I started to be a wolverine.

The first time I ever stuck up for myself was grade 7 when I screamed NOOO at someone egging me on to kiss some gross dude. The second time was grade 8 when I slapped the guy beside me in class as he was getting up to tell my guy friend I wanted to fuck him (a lie! I was 12!). I slapped someone else, too, for an unknown reason. I think I just did it to feel like I could. In my imagination, I would try to picture punching someone, and even in my head I failed. So when I finally knew I could, and I wouldn’t get laughed at, I think I just wanted to replicate my “beginner’s luck.”

That was the last time I was ever violent, though there was one time at the bus stop that I took something the wrong way and started making kicking motions and flipping out at this acquaintance of mine. Talk about spaz. This may have been the pinnacle moment of  I-Can’t-Take-it-Anymore! I dunno, but remembering that just now…it seems likely.

I started losing friends, too – maybe I said inappropriate things to make myself seem better than them – who knows. I was really meek inside, but strong, too. I am still that way – ultra sensitive but also rioting constantly. Endless internal warring – not just against myself, but society as a whole.

In grade 11, I really embraced being the outsider. I dyed my hair, wore all black, skulked around with a scowl. Once rumours spread that I had  secret piercings, people began to think I was crazy. They started to leave me alone. I finally knew that being “different” = “nuts” and that “nuts” = being left alone.

Age 17 with my friend Tami.

I reveled in being the outcast at this point. I was outwardly vocal about my strange preferences, and equally dismissive and mysterious about whether rumours regarding me were true or not. After the piercings thing, everything died down. I was as weird as I wanted to be with no one bothering me – THIS, in a small town high school, was amazing.

I enjoyed my solitude but I also was lonely. I eventually had a close friend in a grade below mine, and we went to concerts together and lusted after the same wild musicians. Ultimately, though, I was on my own. I spent so much time filling myself with the things I loved. The time I did not spend in class I spent learning the things that mattered to me. I barely attended school, but somehow I passed all but one course (math 10, which I promptly ruled over in summer school). I did go to the classes I enjoyed but they were all art-related. In grade 12, all of my electives were art or photography or graphics, except for Western Civilization (I’m still not sure why I took this as it bored me – I also took English Literature, the only class i ever dropped).

Also in the final year of school, people never provoked me. Despite that, I still carried my defenses. I do to this day (it’s not really an easy thing to let go of). I still feared it. I still do.

In my schools, there were popular people, but not really popular “cliques.” If there had been I would have been badgered much worse than I was, I’m sure. The hassle I got was from the general populace – it could have been from anyone.

There were definite groups, and I hung out with a bunch of people who didn’t really fit in with any of them – we weren’t nerds, or theatre geeks, or freaks – we were a weird mix. I’m surprised I didn’t jive with the people who got stoned and went to punk shows – I was the lone goth kid in school until I hit grade 12. I was never really drawn to druggies and slackers – I hated school but I loved to learn. I dealt with my angst by writing and drawing.

I’m glad I was never popular. I’m GLAD I got picked on. It made me withdraw, it made me see what most people are like. It made me want to get away from the mainstream bullcrap that most people end up doing.

Why? Even when people are not “popular” they just drift through school in a nonchalant way, they tend to buy into what they are told – go to school, college, get job, get married, get house, have kids, have debt, go insane, have crisis, get sick from bad lifestyle + stress, go into more debt, wither away, get degenerate disease, die.

It’s practically ingrained in us from day one – we watch our parents, we watch TV, we read magazines, we get taught a particular curriculum that teaches everyone the same thing, and we are all pushed in a similar direction – to be drones. To respect “authority” instead of becoming authority! Over ourselves!

I’m glad I was not popular – I am glad I was the outcast. I was able to start seeing the underlying threads. I’ve never been convinced of this so-called life – the one that most people seem to aspire to.

Shunning the majority of school made me smarter.

I had more time to pursue my real interests, and my natural curiosity and love of learning (we all have it!) came back x 10000.

Being bullied made me stronger + able to speak my mind, to defend myself, and to defend OTHER people (and animals).

Being an outcast made me enjoy my own company.

It also allowed me to observe how most of the world operates and why so many people are unhappy. When you move with the flock, you tend to do what they do. When you’re left on your own, you see all the alternatives.

Being a loner made me introspective.

I still got a little lost along the way. I still got into the whole “work force” as I did not know my real options, I had low self esteem and crippling depression and anxiety (from both an unhealthy diet + all the stuff I just mentioned) – also I was told most of my life to “be realistic” when it came to jobs, money, life – I still am told this now, but I don’t listen. I am finally at a point where I feel strong enough, whole enough, and complete enough to really go after anything I want.

You really have to believe in yourself (how fucking corny….) – but really. What is the other option? You gonna believe everyone that tells you that you have to be “realistic?” In who’s reality? Theirs? If you choose to believe them, then they are right. If you choose to believe yourself, you are also right – whether you say to yourself “I can’t” or “I can.” Personally I want to prove everyone wrong, and prove myself right.

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. Ayn Rand (not a Rand fan, but love this quote.)

School of Life: Autodidactism

I think eschewing school and learning stuff on your own is super impressive.

I am likely to want to listen MORE to someone who is self-taught – why? Because they did it out of pure love of their subject – they threw themselves into it, not taking the easy route, not paying for a piece of paper – they live it, love it, drink it, devour it. Whatever it is. Generally the work produced is highly original and innovative.

Not saying that having a coach, or a mentor is a bad thing – I’m just talking  typical school. It’s insane the amount of money people pay for schooling on things they could learn from BOOKS or VOLUNTEERING.

I took a vet assistant course a few years ago – six grand. Six months. Once I was working in a clinic I realized I could have learned everything I needed to know by volunteering at a clinic. Yeah I wouldn’t have made money volunteering, but I could have saved that six grand! I could have worked another job and lost nothing!

Obviously some things you have to go to school for – I wouldn’t trust a self-taught surgeon. But I’m not talking about those sorts of things. I also took a course in multimedia. What a rip-off. I could have learned all that stuff on my own, through tutorials, books, etc. That school doesn’t even exist anymore – if you’re going to go to school, be wary of where you go. If you really love the curriculum, go for it. I am not hating on all education, far from it, I just mean it is possible to do it yourself. Some people think if they have no money or privilege that they are screwed – wrong.

Another problem with typical school is the time-line, intense schedule, and disruption of other facets of life – so many people screw their health this way, do not sleep, are constantly anxious, worried about marks, and cramming info into their heads that they do not retain for more than 24 hours, just to pass. That is not good learning! Self-teaching means go at your own pace!

I know that teaching yourself still means learning from others – books are written by other people, but they are passing along knowledge – and if you have a library, you have access for free. If you are on the internet, almost anything can be found for free – not saying it’s right to pirate things, however, if you learn something from someone and then say, make a living out off what you learned – you can go back and pay that person, right?

Some of the most amazing people out there are/were completely self-taught. You don’t need a formal education and student loans that will take you decades to pay off (except for very specific things) – MOST things out there are doable on your own and that money you would have spent can go to better things like TRAVEL – which is the best education you can get.

Books are your friends, man. Get used to reading lots of them. Immerse yourself. If the books you want or need are not at your library, do inter-library loans – lifesavers. If you want to buy cheap, go to – amazon is good, too, but bookdepository is the bomb, and then you won’t be supporting anything other than bookselling (if you buy from amazon, they have some questionable products as well, as in the whole debacle recently getting them to stop selling whale meat, and they did).

Volunteer, read, and DO.

Just start something, who cares if you know how? I used to not do anything until I’d read enough – well, now I just start and learn as I go. Even if you do go to school, you don’t stop learning once you’re done (I hope). I used to think I had to know how to use wordpress or whatever to start a blog – I stopped thinking that way, fuukkit. Moved on, signed up, started writing. The fancy-pants stuff can be learned along the way.

Some people won’t do ANYthing unless they have the right gear, clothes, schooling – some people won’t even go to SCHOOL unless it’s the BEST one. Really? Okay, that’s a choice, but I don’t think it really matters unless it’s something super elite like being a surgeon or a lawyer. For real.

Some people won’t even start exercising unless they have the right shoes. Man, just go to the thrift store, or post on freecycle. Until you get a better shoe, go for a jog in your boots. Who cares? Excuses, excuses. I danced around my bedroom to some crazy tunes with a hulahoop for like 45 minutes today – the music was so good I couldn’t help myself. I am no expert with my hoop, and I don’t have much room for tricks, but that didn’t stop me, no way. I was too into it.

I see no problem taking classes – but this is a lot different than going to a long-term, very expensive university or college. With classes you can pick and choose your specific subjects. It blows my mind that some people go to university/college and don’t even know what they want to do with their lives!

Basically I think that if you are wildly passionate about something, you will learn by experimenting, putting yourself out there, and practice – these are generally free things – but if you are REALLY dedicated, you will be successful with or without schooling.