Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The road I should have traveled (a warning for other wayward pilgrims)

This post is my gift of experience to my few readers to show to the young, foolish people in their lives.

I didn't go to college. I regret that. It's been on my mind for some time.

I'd like to justify my poor decision by saying that I could have gone if I wished to do so, that I could have gotten scholarships to pursue my chosen career path, but that means so little since I didn't even try.

The whole regimen of school made me nervous, gave me chronic anxiety on weeknights for years. Tests, especially standard performance tests, flipped me out, and I had to steal mantras from Beatles songs, writing them over and over on scraps of paper, to shore myself up in the face of possible failure. I hated school. Oh, I had friends, and I made consistently very good grades. There was no reason for my hatred other than my own character flaws: my love of the home environment, my lack of drive to pursue the extraordinary, my strong dislike of any regimen that stole me from my family and my own quiet pursuits and interests.

I remember once in my senior year, the guidance counselor wanted to see me, and I avoided his office like the plague until my friend Sarah dragged me down the hall toward it, my shoes leaving scuff marks. I thought he was going to inquire about my grades, college plans and the steps I was taking, and I acted like a child and created a spectacle in my fear at encountering his queries. You see, at that point I had already decided that I was not going to college. I was going to write novels, and novelists didn't need to go to college; they needed to write. But I felt certain he would pressure me about furthering my education in light of my school record. Turns out, he only wished to see me about some petty issue. Perhaps he had given up on me. I wish he had pressured me, told me emphatically that a writer should go to college, if for no other reason than to learn basic marketing, design and computer skills in case she or he ever became a weblogger.

You can call me lazy, but I am intelligent enough and talented enough - just not educated enough.

It is very ironic that I knew what I wanted to do very young. I knew I wanted to be a writer at age nine. Now I write, but I am not really a writer, not a professional writer. I'm a blogger, heaven help me, in a sea of bloggers, and within that sea of bloggers there are many who never dreamed to be writers who have found great success and quickly. The majority of them went to college and worked at other careers, gaining valuable skills. Some of them are far better writers than I am. Ironic.

Many times, tottering on the edge of dejection, I have said to my husband, "I should have gone to college and gotten a journalism degree, and then I would already be doing what I love and getting paid for it."

Should have, would have, could have. Now it seems silly to spend a fortune on my higher education when our four children will be pursuing theirs quite soon. Sure, an investment, a good example - but a really expensive one. At any rate, whatever I decide, my children are not blind to my regrets, I am certain.

What was it that Mark Twain said? If you write for three years and no one is willing to pay you for it, it's time to try something else...?

Here I do what I love, and freely, but it is not looking like I will ever find "success", may never even be paid for it. I do not call myself a failure. My humor pieces have been published elsewhere, but no one has offered me even a piddly check. Still, I write, because if I didn't, the depression and regret would be worse - a basic mental, emotional and spiritual need unfulfilled. And I have an audience. Just to know that several people, mostly my family and close friends, read my words consistently is something, better than writing for nobody at all, stacking lifeless paper in a desk drawer to be recycled on my passing.

But most great writers graduate college. They love academia as they love words. Many are professors. I should have gotten a college degree. I could be writing for one of those old-fashioned circulars called newspapers.

A good friend told me once that I was lucky that I knew what I wanted to do with my life creatively and professionally, because many people never do. How much better would it have been for me if, knowing the road I wished to travel, I had been wise and lucky.


  1. Dear friend, I felt compelled to respond. I have a couple of points:

    1. Guess what? It isn't too late to get that college degree.

    2. Guess what else? You don't owe a college education to your children, especially at the sacrifice of your own dreams. It is actually character building to pay your own way through college--I know because I did it.

    3. (And final point) Please do NOT fall prey to the little voice that says you are probably a failure just because you haven't yet hit the big time with your writing. This is one of the hardest things for most of us who pursue the creative arts to accept. Why do you write? Hopefully, because you feel there is something you are impelled to say through your writing. Therefore, even if NO ONE else reads it or rhapsodizes over it, it is a work of art and you are an artist.

    You should read a biography (I can't remember the name of the one I read many years ago!) about Robert Schumann, a brilliant German composer. He lived at a time of a great flowering in German music and was surrounded by, even friends with, many highly talented musicians. He agonized over every piece that he composed and often felt that he was a failure. He also suffered from OCD and actually died in an asylum. In some ways he had a sad life, but what a loss to the music world if he had just given up

    SO, I encourage you to write, write, write!!! And go get that college degree if you still want it. Lecture over. ; )

    love, Camille

    1. Camille, thank you for encouraging me. That is all I can say. I'm glad you wrote that here, and that others who feel as I do may see it and keep creating.

      Love, Hillary


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