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January 20, 2009 / TildeWill

Today’s Hard Question

I got a call from a recruiter who had my resume in her hand. In our conversation she said something to the effect of “I see you were at Purdue from 1999 to 2004… a little over five years… was it a five year program?”

I didn’t say this, but no, it was a four year program. Yes, I did transfer after my first semester, but that doesn’t explain the other three semesters it took me to finish. I failed classes. I failed one class twice and only got through the third time with a C. I went to a graduation ceremony when I didn’t actually graduate because I failed that in my last semester but my grandmother was already coming to town to see me walk across the stage.

Yes, I was the president of one of the strongest fencing clubs in the Midwest, and the top club in the Rec Sports program at Purdue University. Yes, I also ran a fencing club on a college student’s income which included renting out a building and buying fencing equipment. Yes, I had a job, and yes I did freelance work. Yes, I played a lot of Spider Man instead of studying for my finals sometimes. Yes, I once wrote my name at the top of a final, stared blankly at it for 20 minutes, and handed it in without any more markings of any kind. No, I didn’t go on a co-op, or an internship, or anything else that would have delayed my graduation.

Yes, I wanted to quit after four and a half years, and not just because I missed the girl I loved. Life was calling me. I had employable skills, I was a likeable guy, I was ready to get the hell out of academia, because sitting in a class room wasn’t half as appealing as putting my hands in it and really understanding that which a professor could only explain via slide show.

Knowing what I know now, I might not have picked college again. I must confess, that all of the things outside of the class rooms at college are the things that I would pick again. If I hadn’t gone to college, I wouldn’t have fenced, I wouldn’t have led a club of 100+ members. I wouldn’t have started a business. I wouldn’t have had all of those [high paying] student jobs as a web developer. I wouldn’t have met Matt Dickerson or many of the other people who have gotten me through the last ten years. I wouldn’t have dated as much, and I wouldn’t know anywhere near as much about myself, who I am, what I like, as I do now.

And yet, five years later, I still get antsy when a stranger asks me why I took so long to graduate. I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t doing drugs. I was living. I am glad that I did graduate, because trying to talk my way through an unfinished degree would be the most excruciating process I can contrive. Be cool. Stay in school.

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