Be Yourself – But Please Conform

Even as someone who was homeschooled my entire life, I still get at least the backlash of this contradictory 21st century message.  It’s rather bothersome, and I can only imagine that it is worse for those who have met with it face-to-face for most of their lives.

Society claims to teach individuality.  When you’re young, you are told you can be anything when you grow up.  I took that message very seriously, I don’t know about you guys.  That was for the first 15 years… then, they change it around.  “Well, you can be whatever you want, but right now we have to focus on getting into college.  And, by the way, whatever you want to be when you grow up, you have to find a college that has that major and study the dickens out of it.  And if they don’t have your interest as a major, forget about it.  Pick another major.  And, by the way, if you don’t know what you want to do… go to college anyway.  You won’t be wasting your time, and surely you will figure it out eventually.”

In college, they are very big on you grasping these great and foreign concepts of “creativity” and “critical thinking.”  They even have classes on it.  My homeschooled friend took one, and actually it sounds like fun, but that is beside the point.  I thought creativity and critical thinking were things you picked up just from existing in real life.

So what is wrong that colleges feel like they have to teach something natural to people 18+?  Or IS there something wrong?

I suppose that is a little off track.  The point of that is, I think somewhere along the way we must (or must be assumed to) have lost creativity and critical thinking skills to the point that they must be emphatically re-taught in college.

Anyway.  So our dear society teaches us to be individuals for a while, and then it changes around (right at the time of the teenage identity crises) and says you must fit in a box with everyone else.  Suddenly, dreams are forgotten and replaced with an artificial motivation to get into college and study something that “probably sounds good… I guess, anyway…”

I do not in any way claim that this is what always happens to every person, or even that it is oh-so-very-bad.  It’s just not in any way ideal.  If you ask me, I would much rather go to college with a purpose.  My purpose that I have decided for myself.  And I may, one day.

I would like everyone to go to college with a purpose.  That is, everyone who chooses to go to college.  Hence, this blog.

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7 responses to “Be Yourself – But Please Conform

  1. My 14 yo son is already getting the college question, and the school-at-home crowd just letting us know that he could take college classes this year, now that he’s officially high school age! Fercryin’outloud, he’s 14!! Give it a rest!

  2. They stomp the creativity and critical thinking out of you so that you won’t find ways around their rules and won’t question authority when you’re growing up so that when you’re a big teen they can still control you. Then, when they realize you’ll need a bit of that freedom back in order to think up great new ways to make/save money, they feed little bits of it back to you. Yes. It’s not quite right 🙂

  3. Good post-double messages confuse us all. It’s like the message we get that it is okay to be home-educated if you proof to be a prodigy-but you get slack for following this educational strategy if you’re ‘just ordinary.’

  4. awesome post. coming from China, i have to say the message here is “please conform – ALWAYS”, but i attended college in the US and there i definitely experienced the “be yourself! do what you love!” thing right up until i graduated. then it immediately switched to “be yourself!… as long as it makes money and is socially acceptable enough to get you hired.” i wish i had been told that more in college instead of being lead to have false expectations.

    one criticism: with regards to critical thinking, i think colleges provide a space where you can really focus on honing it. as for creativity, i think going to college actually makes you less creative rather than more.

  5. Thanks, and thank you for such a unique perspective, Lem!

  6. O-M-G! You totally typed out the words that I’ve been wanting to say for so long! College isn’t a must, but rather a choice and even though I’m not a pro-college person, I still respect and admire people who chose to go to one just because they know it’s a stepping stone to their dreams.

  7. Yeah, I totally agree.

    It’s like there’s some switch that turns on in parents’ heads between the ages of 13-15.

    Going from “You’re mommy’s precious little angel” to “you will suffer, well, and work until you’re 65 in a job, collect a pension/401k, retire, die, and like it”.

    Basically, we have a system that teaches young people to depend on someone else to provide for them.

    Year after year, employees are required to do more and more for diminishing returns. I understand that some of this is the reality of business in the 21st century, but a lot of it is outdated thinking from the 19th.

    (Not saying everyone can or should be self-employed/entrepreneur, but a lot of people can be.)

    When did this become the only path in life unless you were going to inherit money?

    It’s wonderful when parents support their kids, but a lot of parents believe in the propaganda that their children will work at McDonald’s their whole life or something, so “that’s nice dear, but you’re not Steve Jobs”(insert name of famous “uneducated” person who succeeded here) is often the message.

    I wonder how many bright young people are destroyed by this?

    I dealt with a ton of issues through high school, so I didn’t do very well, and was told outright that I was not college material. Which is incredibly devastating and painful in a world where a bachelor’s degree is now considered a magical pass to middle class success.

    Took a little a under a year of courses at a community college (most of my peers were attending highly regarded schools), and dropped out because I was learning things on my own far more easily.

    Did some traveling, worked a few different jobs, but the stigma of “you’re worthless, lazy, and stupid because you don’t have a BA” got in the way for quite awhile.

    it wasn’t until the age of 25 that I got over it and began to start valuing myself.

    Turned 30 in September.

    Pursuing my interest in music, and find novel ways of using it other than doing what so many (not just creative types) do, and wait to be “discovered”.

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