“If you’re not building the future, you don’t believe there is a future.” – OITNB
I never planned for life after college. I loved being in school and spent a grand total of 30 years in the organizational silo that is the education system in this country. School was something I was good at; it was an escape from a shitty childhood that I honestly never thought I would survive. I never planned for life after college because I did not think I would live to see life after college.
After four degrees, I am officially done with school, and I have been enjoying my retirement these past few months working at a job I enjoy, and trying to figure out what to do with myself. I have not really had any distinct direction. This time has been perhaps the closest thing approximating a vacation I have ever experienced.
After what seemed like a lot of bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary aggravation, my diploma finally arrived today from my most recent and final degree. Not only do I feel a huge sense of relief, but I also have a sense of closure. I have never felt this sense of closure upon obtaining any of my other diplomas; that is partially how I know and am so sure that this is, in fact, the final degree. I have a sense of peace I have not had when completing any other degree.
While my formal education may be complete, I am now a student of the world and continue to learn from books, people, and experiences that surround me. I used my formal education to help me navigate the world of hard knocks and have lived to tell the tale. I quite literally have this great big world at my feet.
Everyone has been asking me about my plans. Thus far, I have had none. I have had ideas. I may teach. I do not feel like teaching right now. I enjoy my job and am enjoying the newfound freedom that I have now that I am not in school. I have joined both a book club and a writing club so that I am still engaged in intelligent conversation on a regular basis with people who are stimulating and authentic.
In addition to my vague notions of potentially teaching on the collegiate level sometime in the future, I also have dreams of travel. I have a passport that has never been stamped. I ran a marathon in Canada shortly after a passport was required for Canada, before the introduction of “enhanced driver’s licenses” for those residents in border states, yet Canada does not stamp the passport. I have a desire to see the world beyond my own country. We only get one life and it is very short. I want to make the most of it while I am here.
My dreams of travel have also been vague. I keep saying that I want to backpack through Europe. I do. It also seems unattainable to a small town girl who never thought to survive childhood and finish school.
I have decided to come up with a three-year plan and to choose a specific destination and start making plans for travel. I figure that if I can put my dreams down on paper and start crunching numbers, then I have a more concrete goal of the amount of money I need to save to fund my trip, as well as a destination, and an anticipated travel year.
I have chosen a three-year plan instead of a five-year plan because that is when I turn 40, and I want to do it big. I am starting to think of how I really want to retire in life in 30 or 40 years after I am done working and not just done being a college student. I am thinking of all the things that I want to see and do and trying to come up with a concrete way to make that happen. I am now planning for a future that I never thought I would have.
School may be done for me. I have finished all of my degrees. I will never stop learning. I love to learn and I know that travel will only help to broaden my horizons. While I look to and build the future, I am enjoying my present. I now have time to read all the books I wanted to read but did not have time to read when I was in school. I now have time to do all the things that I want to do and did not have time to do in school because I was always rushing from home to work to class and trying to fit in all my housework and other obligations between homework and paying bills.
School may be out forever, but I am now building a future. While I have a bunch of fancy degrees, perhaps the greatest thing I have learned in my 30 years of education is that I have a future and it is mine for the choosing. It seems like it took an awful lot of education to learn one simple thing, but I am grateful. I would not change a thing or want it any other way.