Derek Johnson Muses

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What I Wish I Had Known 10 Years Ago in College

I planned for a year and a half that I would go to Concordia University-St. Paul after I graduated high school. I came into that freshmen year very gun-ho, going to learn and get stuff done, a typical attitude for a homeschooled person. Three years and one transfer later, I graduated college feeling burnt out and bottoming into several years of not doing a lot with my life beyond moping. So every now and then, I wonder, what I have learned in the last ten years that would have helped me back then

Change is going to be harder when you get older-After a year at CSP, I transferred to Concordia-Wisconsin, which, while not the worst decision I ever made, did take some uprooting. When I graduated college, I went home and thought I’d do exactly what I wanted to do. Instead, I spent way too many days and nights play video games and thinking of what I would do. Since graduating, I have thought many times about moving, but the thought of how hard it usually gets in the way now.

Do something every day and stick with it-This factor is complicated for me because, I was studying to become a pastor and bailed out on that at last minute; if I had a better inventory of my skill set at the time, I would have taken more English course with writing emphasis, along with a core of theology, history, and languages, and pursued a career in writing.

Instead, I was on track to go to seminary, but pulled out at the last minute. The thing I regret most about that wasn’t quitting (although I don’t think that was where God wanted me at the time), but that I had no plan when I left college. I wish I had stuck with the plan I was on, and figure out how to adapt my gifts later. I ended up spending nearly three years waiting around until I started working for my dad.

Sometimes, what you do doesn’t matter. What matters is if you are sold out to what you do. When you are in college, you have a lot of resources around you-professors, counselors (free, even), different people, plus various recruiters are coming to seek you out. Those winnow pretty quickly when you move on with your life.

Don’t let little things bother you, and you’ll run into difficult people in work and life-I left after two semesters, after putting myself in courses that were too advanced and ignoring the people I disagreed with theologically. The first job I had out of college, I quit quickly when I didn’t get a management position at the end of training. You don’t really appreciate work until you have too many long days to yourself.

You’re going to have bad bosses and have to deal with people who treat you poorly in life. Don’t take personally when someone else blows up at you, or things don’t go your way all of the time. (Great bosses are mean at times because it’s what makes them great.) Not that you won’t walk into bad situations where you do need to leave, but there are many times where you would be better off sticking out and gaining some resilience than just bailing. The greatest sense of achievement you’ll get in life is when you stick with something for several years, and it works out.

People are limited and aren’t going to automatically to fulfill your every need-When I first arrived on the scene at CUW, I thought everyone I met would end up being my best friend. I ended up in some very one-sided friendships and didn’t do as well socially as I hoped. (If any of my former classmates are reading this and have active grievances, I’m sorry.)

The vast majority of us have limits, and we don’t find each other that interesting. Listen to other people talk about what they love about themselves and what interests them, and if repertoire doesn’t develop between the two of you, it’s okay. There are a lot of people out there to find. If you value what interests them, that’s the most you can do.

And sometimes, you have to recognize what a person can give you. If they can help you get through a rough patch great, but if you can tell early in a relationship that you’re not going to get what you need, it’s better to just move on.

Don’t buy into the cultural narcissism around you– Not that you are scum, but you are not as shiny as advertisers and recruiters tell you you are. Advertisers and TV executives are out there trying to get your money and attention, but they won’t offer you as much in return. The world, your peers, and maybe even your parents are showering you with massive amounts of attention without criticism. And by the way, it won’t make you happy in the long run.

You can do everything that makes you happy, buy everything you want, travel, but what really brings lasting enjoyment is sacrifice, commitment, and doing a couple things as well as you can. Don’t worry about having it all if you aren’t able to have it all. Have what your abilities will allow and be grateful.

Learn how to manage your time-This was one of the bad things that happens in prolonged unemployment, is that one turns things like cooking, laundry, and even watching TV into your job. Looking back on it, I wish I would have one of those college semesters where I took on way too many things and had to start using a day planner.

Figure out your limits and abilities-I still struggle with this one mightily. Part of this is knowing when to go to talk to someone about something that bothers me, part of it is knowing when I need either encouragement or tough love. There have been times in talking to others when I have expressed a situation I’m in, and I had no idea what kind of advice I needed or wanted.

Coming out of a wasteland of time, I still haven’t quite figured out what my plan for the next year is going to be, but I know that it had better be set by the time I start traveling this summer.

For those of you in college who are reading this, I hope you’ve read something that serves you on your journey through life. Don’t get down on yourself; life is what it is. Just control how you respond to it.

The dorm I lived four semesters in at CUW

The dorm I lived four semesters in at CUW

Valuing College Through My Experience

Recently, I’ve read and heard Peter Thiel and Mark Cuban saying that education isn’t as necessary, and that people with visions should just leave college to work on their visions, and the education bubble will eventually collapse like the housing bubble did. There is some validity to this, but what their perspective doesn’t address is why higher ed is now bloated. While I graduated college, I have an experience that deals with

Over seven years ago, I received my college degree from Concordia University Wisconsin. My life at the time felt like a vacuum. I had no goals or long-term plans. I had planned all through college that I would go to seminary after I graduated and become a pastor, but in February of my senior year, I abandoned those plans. Being a rebel, I didn’t want to know what I was going to do with the rest of my life

Unfortunately, my plan had two critical flaws. First, I excelled in a field (ancient languages) which doesn’t pay in the real world, and I did need the extra work to get a degree and then find some way to make my expertise relevant, whether it be teaching or something else. Two, I was bored in college because I was so bright. I did get that when I moved back to my parents’ house and started shuffling through temp jobs. Even if it wasn’t seminary, I should have chosen another form of graduate school.

But what I’ve learned is, no matter what my situation is, I have to make something out of it. I wrote a lot, actually, but I continue to search for  passions. Working under my father in a self-supervised environment has been a real boon for me in accumulating, and my photography and work at the gallery has given me more passions. This blog has also helped me develop my writing skills and given voice to my ideas. Every day I have a motto: do something that makes progress on a project, and make the people in your world better at what they do.

But I haven’t let the question of graduate degree go, at least not yet. The one thing I wish I would have known back when I was how much harder it is to make life-changes when you’re in your late twenties.

Where a lot of Thiel and Cuban’s criticism should be directed is toward the quality of higher education; with more people demanding it, professors simply have to make their course work easier to accommodate student’s extracurricular activities and generally low minds. And due to tenure, professors don’t face the reality of constantly having to adapt or loss their jobs if they don’t. So much of college is about being young and enjoying, not getting ready for the realities of a harsh world.

Wish someone would have told me that.

(More Experience)

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