Hustle The Most Episode 17: Failing At College
Not too long after coming home from Europe I was about to move into my first apartment and start school at Eastern Michigan University. I’d spent the 2 years prior going to Mott Community College in Flint and trying to get all my basic classes out of the way. This was the plan that I had kind of proposed to my Dad a few years back. Community college was just highschool but not my highschool it was more like what we saw on TV shows where you rarely saw people in class but you would always see them sitting out in the quad. Of course since I went to school in Michigan and not California people were only hanging out on the quad about a quarter of the time. Community college was fun because there were a lot of high schools around town and if people went to community college then they probably went to Mott. The classes were good and I felt like I had a pretty firm grasp on what was going for and which classes I was taking and why. I was going to school for Marketing.
It’s funny I remember a few years back when I was in High School we had career day and it was ok. You basically went to the career lab and talked to this lady about your interests and told her what you were passion about and then you had to take a short quiz on the computer. I remember answering all the questions and then I clicked submit and it printed out my results. I imagine that some people got things like fire fighter, retail store manager or normal things. Me on the other hand, I could never get something normal. No police officer, magazine editor, designer, for me it was Acrobat. The machine told me that I should become an acrobat. Thinking back I don’t recall any questions on quiz like “Do you enjoy doing flips”, “Do you often tumble gracefully”, “Have you ever walked on a wire”. Nothing like that but somehow someway I get Acrobat. I remember the lady printing it out and just looking at it and then looking at me with this face of confusion mixed with disappointment. It was a pretty awful experience.
So I was taking classes in the marketing program which was like Marketing, Management, Advertising and stuff like that and it was awesome. I loved it and I was pretty good at it. It was community college so it was pretty easy. I think I learned a lot there but not really about marketing so much but more about navigating the system, balancing time and effort with my classes as well as working full time and playing in a band.
So after 2 years of going to Mott Community College I did the Euro tour then in the fall I headed off to Eastern Michigan University to live with Phil and finish up school. I think I have talked about this is some other episodes but Eastern is located in Ypsilanti MI which is right next to Ann Arbor where the University of Michigan is located. Eastern is a pretty typical University campus it had a lot of the same things that Mott had but it was way bigger and there were lots of dorms so everything seemed much farther away and parking was a total nightmare. I remember these commuters would show up in the parking lot like 3 hours before their class so that they could find a spot. They would just sit in their cars and read and study and wait for someone to pull out. I would call them hawks because they are just circling their prey and waiting for them to move to they could pounce on their spot.
So this was 1998 and the internet was a thing but nowhere near as versatile as it is today. Today when you go to register for your classes you go on to a website and add the class numbers or search for the classes and once you find the class there is all this information in the body talking about the class. Things like how many credits it is, the days and times that it’s offered, any prerequisites you may need to take and things like that. Eastern Michigan in 1998 and these giant phone books with all the classes in them and these rooms down in the registration area that were filled with phones and you had to register for your classes by looking up the class in the book then trying to register for the class by phone. It was a pretty antiquated system but it was the best they had and they had done it that way for years and years.
I remember I had no plan. I never met with a counselor. I just had this book and I was registering for classes under the marketing program. Looking back I am not sure why I did this. I remember I had some pretty bad social anxiety happening at the time and I remember asking people questions made me feel very awkward in my own skin. I would get sweaty and nervous and always felt like everyone knew everything that was going on except me. This was strange to because at Mott I had met with my counselor 4-5 times while I was there and he helped me plan every semester out. He knew every class that I needed to take while I was there and he made sure that I got into the class. I learned how this all worked at Mott and when I got to Eastern I completely abandoned the whole idea of meeting with a counselor and just did my own thing. It was a total bonehead move. Who does this. It’s like I went rogue. I guess I kind of compare to when you are a passenger in a car before you are able to drive and you think you know where you are going all the time but then once you start driving at first you forget how to get places. Like maybe you know the road or the end destination but the details on the turns are kind of fuzzy because now you aren’t just watching the roads you are concentrating on driving and trying to remember how to get to a place. I think my social anxiety got the best of me. At the time if I was in a store or something and had to use the bathroom I would’ve rather ran in any direction looking for a bathroom then ask someone where the bathroom was. It’s like I was nervous about everything. It was just normal to me because I lived with it everyday but looking back I probably should have tried to get some help to deal with it.
So I went to Eastern for about 2 years and it never really amounted to much. I don’t think I was ready for school. I didn’t really have much guidance or support from my dad mainly because he didn’t have any money to really help contribute so the way that he dealt with it was to kind of ignore it. I know tons of people that went straight from Highschool to a 4 year college and graduated and went off to join the work force. That was never me. There wasn’t one thing about my life that was “traditional” so I guess why would college experience be any different. Looking back I just wasn’t ready. I had too many other things in the fire that I was trying to succeed at. I was touring in my band, booking shows, designing record covers and working and really just trying to survive. I guess If I went to school and just worried about school and had a clear cut to path I probably could have gotten through it just like everyone else. I mean maybe. Or Maybe not.
But let’s talk about what did I really learn from all this
I learned that I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself by making assumptions. I would assume that by asking a question someone was going to judge me. They were going to think I was stupid or worse. The people are there and get asked questions all day. That’s their job, they are a resource for me and for us.
I talked earlier about how I learned to navigate the system when I was in community college. I learned who to talk to and where and I was comfortable with it. Once I got to a bigger school I felt a lot less comfortable with it and I lost all confidence in my abilities to navigate my education. So what I didn’t know then that I know now is to ask questions. Ask every question you can about anything and everything. Don’t fear being judged by anyone. Just ask more questions. Always
The last thing that I really learned looking back on this is that I was never going to be an acrobat. I like jumping on trampolines but I think if I did it for a job I would probably love it less. But really there is nothing wrong with being nontraditional in anything you may do. It’s not so much about the way that you do something but it’s about the fact that you Do Something. The path to your future it’s always as carved out as you would like it to be and you can’t always compare yourself to others. The amount of variables and barriers that you may have to overcome opposed to someone else are sometimes unmeasurable. Don’t be afraid to carve out that road and make it yours.