Don’t Define Yourself by Your Schooling

Written by on March 17, 2009 in Basics Of Self Education, The Great Books - 1 Comment

Fine Arts, UMBC
The first step on the road to self-education is accepting responsibility for your own learning. Unfortunately, too many people hide behind school in order to avoid actual education. Instead of being a writer, a programmer, or a carpenter, they define themselves as a “student.”

Being a student isn’t a bad thing by any means. However, real learners don’t define themselves by the schools they attend. They recognize their passions and pursue their own dreams. School can be a way to get started, but it isn’t an all encompassing way to see yourself.

One of the best explanations of this topic is Paul Graham’s essay What You’ll Wish You’d Known. Although his words are directed at high schoolers, they apply to college students and anyone who defines themselves by their alma mater:

“If you’d asked me in high school what the difference was between high school kids and adults, I’d have said it was that adults had to earn a living. Wrong. It’s that adults take responsibility for themselves. Making a living is only a small part of it. Far more important is to take intellectual responsibility for oneself.

If I had to go through high school again, I’d treat it like a day job. I don’t mean that I’d slack in school. Working at something as a day job doesn’t mean doing it badly. It means not being defined by it. I mean I wouldn’t think of myself as a high school student, just as a musician with a day job as a waiter doesn’t think of himself as a waiter. And when I wasn’t working at my day job I’d start trying to do real work.”

If you haven’t read Graham’s classic essay, take a look. Then start thinking about how you see yourself. When people ask what you do, do you say you’re a student / employee? Or do you start discussing your passions? Become an active learner instead of a member of an institution.

Creative Commons License photo credit: sidewalk flying

See Also:

Two Stumbling Blocks to Independent Learning

One Comment on "Don’t Define Yourself by Your Schooling"

  1. Savant March 18, 2009 at 10:53 pm · Reply

    Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.. It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities. We have to be the change we want to see in this world.

Leave a Comment