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Author Topic: I'm 19 years old and I'm not sure what to do with my life.
Ginol_Enam
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So, um, the subject is mostly correct. I have ideas, I have plans, I have hopes. Some of those things contradict each other. Some enhance each other. My problem, I guess, is trying to figure out which things are more important and what I'd be willing to sacrifice in order to reach them...

I guess I'm not making much sense, so I suppose I'll try to summarize my current situation in life...

Like the subject says, I'm 19. I turn 20 in November. I am not currently enrolled in college, and I don't plan on becoming so, at least not in a "normal" college. This is a decision I firmly stand by. I detest "general education," as it were, and I have no desire to go through it unless I have a very clearly defined goal of which I can only attain by going through general education.

I currently am an assistant manager a movie theatre; the best theatre in the state. I love movies, so I enjoy my job and wouldn't mind sticking with movie theatres if that's where my life headed, I suppose. In fact, I think if I wanted I could do really well in movie theatres. I do very well at my job, and my general manager has actually told me, to my face, that he "has plans" for me. I just got "promoted" to AM2 (which is more like a raise and an extension of my responsibilities rather than a full promotion, if that makes sense). I think I could rise pretty far.

What I really want to do, however, is make movies; act in them. I hope to begin working towards this by going to the New York Film Academy (NYFA). I want to take the two year acting school, $12,000 for semester, $48,000 total. They don't have any financial aid, so I plan on saving up as much as I can, and then get a student loan for the rest.

I also have a girlfriend, Angela. We've been together for three years in December. We're engaged, but it was more a realization that we wanted to get married than a "let's start planning it" kind of thing. She's in school. She has two or three more years.

If you asked me right now what I plan on doing for the next couple of years I'd tell you this:

I want to continue saving money until Angela gets out of college (theoretically $300 every paycheck). That should be a sizable portion of the tuition. I'd get a loan for the rest, as I said.

Once she graduates we'll get married (neither of us want super-lavish overblown wedding; more private) and then I'll enroll in NYFA and we'll move to New York. She'll work to pay the bills; I won't have time. NYFA is scheduled 6 days a week, almost all day. What we do once I graduate would largely depend on what happens in those two years.

So, there it is....

My biggest worries, I guess, would be moving to New York right after we got married. I don't think that kind of situation would be the best environment for a new marriage... You know?

I also think she wants to at least move in together relatively soon, but I figure if we're moving in we might as well get married, and I don't think either of us is entirely ready for either at the moment... I'm also scared that we'd become... "stuck." You know, we'd grow content that way and just live our lives without ever bothering about New York or trying to get into acting.

And then, of course, I start to think it wouldn't be so bad. The chances of my honestly succeeding at becoming a professional movie actor are so low... And as I said, I think I could rise up really far in movie theatres. We'd settle down and have kids and live the American Dream and it'd be fine, but...

We've talked about it, of course. She's supportive of going to NYC, but I'm not entirely sure she knows exactly what it'll be like.

Right now I'm just working on the assumption that we will be going to NYC. That way when the times we'll be set to head off, but I could always change my mind about it if something happens before then...

So...

I guess I'm not even sure what I'm asking here. I suppose I'm asking for suggestions on what to do. Go to NYC and risk everything? Stay at home and go the easier route?

Or maybe I'm looking reassurance that my plans are stable. That I really can make these kinds of decisions.

I don't know...

So, I guess if any of the above made sense, does anyone have any thoughts?

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pooka
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What famous actors have attended the NYFA? That tuition sounds pretty steep. I see from your link that some a list actors have sent their children there, but that still doesn't persuade me that it is productive, and further suggests it may be overpriced. Is going to the California branch a possibility, if you're worried about starting life in New York? I mean, Hollywood is weird and all that, both places are pretty expensive.
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AvidReader
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quote:
I'm not entirely sure she knows exactly what it'll be like.
That's the great thing about life. If we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into, we'd never have the strength of will to get off the couch. Being committed to dealing with whatever comes if far more valuable IMO than knowing what will happen.

On the bright side, my mom recently realized that a gal she went to high school with has made a steady living acting on and off Broadway. Between gigs, she runs acting workshops at the local college. I also remember hearing a morning show DJ mention that she had lived in Hollywood for a while as a minor actress and made a decent living at it.

My theory? Your chances of being the next big thing are really low, but your chances of paying the rent acting are pretty good.

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Christine
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If you never try, you'll always wonder what your life could have been.

If you try and fail, then you'll know it wasn't meant to be and hopefully you can find happiness another way.

I'm not sure about the film academy place. It sounds very expensive and living in New York isn't cheap, either. On the other hand. I don't see how learning to act could hurt your chances. You'll have to decide if the cost to reward ratio is right for you.

In the meantime, what are you doing *now* to follow your dream? Have you tried getting involved in community theater, for example? Small, local casting jobs? Commercials? Dress like a bear at a ball game? Basically, why don't you get your feet wet and see what you think?

There is a balance in life when it comes to our dreams. I have often heard well-meaning adults squashing children's dreams when those dreams wander into the realms of highly improbable -- athletics, acting, painting, novel writing -- but they're wrong. Just because something is unlikely doesn't mean you should give up. It means you should have a back up. But try. If you sit at home and dream, nobody's going to come knocking on your door with a movie contract.

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Sacrip
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I'm not sure how much of acting is natural talent and how much can be learned. Film seems like such a shallow industry that I wonder how often the best actors really get the best roles, and how much is just a big popularity contest.

As for the other side of the camera, that's something you don't have to wait for. Youtube and ifilm are filled with short films by non-professionals, quite a few of which are funny, poignant, and otherwise good. get thee a book on screenwriting (which OSC just happened to write one of) and borrow someones video camera. You can even practice your acting.

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pooka
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Another angle is to think of the actors you most admire (as actors) and look at their bios on IMDB to see how they got their training. You'll probably find there is a wide variety.

I made a list of actors I think are happy doing what they do, and then looked them up:
Sigourney Weaver
quote:
In 1969, Sigourney enrolled in Stanford University, majoring in English Literature. She also participated in school plays, especially Japanese Noh plays...After completing her studies in 1971, she applied for the Yale School of Drama in New York.
Sandra Bullock
quote:
She later enrolled in E. Carolina University in North Carolina, where she studied acting. Shortly afterward she moved to New York to pursue a career on the stage. This led to acting in television programs and then feature films.
Alan Rickman
quote:
He attended the Royal College of Art; he wanted to be a graphic artist. At age 26 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he spent 3 years.
Will Smith
quote:
Bright student Will also signed up with the high-status Julia Reynolds Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia and later turned down a scholarship for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after deciding to take his music career seriously.

Queen Latifah
quote:
The former Burger King employee maintained her early commitment to answer the misogynist armory of some of her male counterparts and, at the same time, imparted musical good times to all genders... One of the most prominent female hip-hop artists on the scene for over a decade, Queen Latifah has also made tremendous inroads in movies, television, and artist management
Okay, so my taste in actors apparently favors musicians heavily.

[ August 07, 2007, 08:49 AM: Message edited by: pooka ]

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Christine
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I also just wanted to add that if you are passionate about acting, then you can find ways to do it, even if you fall short of being a rich and famous movie star. You can do it your whole life in regional and local things and hey, maybe one day you'll be lucky.

I was thinking more about that school you wanted to attend and I'm wondering if there isn't another option that you could try...something that offers scholarships. I know you've turned your nose up at traditional colleges but many liberal arts schools have good drama departments and that can be a place to start. Also, they offer loans and scholarships. You could even go part time while you're working.

Just for the record, I don't know many 19-year-olds who know what they want to do with their lives. I sure didn't. Between the time I was 18 and 24, I changed majors 5 times and in the end, graduated from college with two degrees for no better reason than I couldn't figure out what I wanted. And now...I'm not using either degree! My husband is supporting me while I take care of my son and work on trying to make it in the world of novel publishing. But I wouldn't change a thing. It was life and I lived it. Now I have things to write about and you -- if you live life -- will have experience to draw from when acting.

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imogen
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I'm hoping you've talked all this through with your girlfriend?

Because otherwise, don't assume she will be happy to work for two years to pay the bills while you go to school. Not to say she won't be, but it's a big burden to place on any participant in a relationship.

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Ginol_Enam
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Lot of stuff to reply to...

I was really heavily involved in my drama program in high school; I received the Drama Excellence Award (basically the big giant award given to "best one") my senior year. I was complimented several times on my ability. My favorite compliment came from a teacher who prided himself on not just handing out compliments; if you asked him for a recommendation letter and he felt your were a slacker, he'd give you a letter that said you were a slacker. Anyway, he told me he thought I was excellent as Hawkeye in M*A*S*H my junior year.

I've also tried to join local theatre. Unfortunately there's not much. I did get a very very small role in one of our local Shakespeare in the Park productions, but it took too much time with too little effort for absolutely no reward, so I didn't go back (its a good story, actually...).

I keep an eye on craigslist for the rare casting call that a) isn't porn and b) doesn't make me feel scared for my life, but there's not much... I also keep an eye on the Oklahoma Film and Music Commission website, but the last thing I would be interested in was for extras for a small independent film (which I found out about too late [Frown] ).

So, I try... But it seems most everything local is a musical, and I can't sing or dance. At least not well enough to do it on stage.

And really all I'm aiming at is acting. I mean, if I saw an opportunity to help out on a movie set in some other way I was qualified for then, yeah, I'd jump at it, but that's not what I would want my career to be.

I must admit that a large part of the reason I want to go to NYFA is just because its in New York. Living in New York at least for just a little while has been a little pet dream of mine for a while, and I just stumbled across the NYFA website one day wondering how I could begin my way to being in movies and I was like, "Aha!" It was a cool moment.

My girlfriend and I have talked about all of this before, of course. I've even asked her if she'd be happier if I just stayed with movie theatres, but she said she supports me, so...

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

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Kwea
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Save the money, and see what happens. Worse case situation is that you still have a ton of cash stored up for whatever road you decide on taking later in life. [Smile]
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Shanna
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I agree that you should just keep researching and focus on saving up money. No matter what you decide, having a fat bank account is going be to be helpful if not crucial.

Not to say that you aren't committed to your dreams, but I can say that I'm 22 and my life has changed alot since I was 19. My life dreams for myself haven't changed, but my priorities and my timeline have. Getting married, moving, and going to school are all three huge life choices. It can sometimes be hard to make them all happen at once. But I will say that I can happen. I recently attended a wedding for some friends who moved north immediately after, and one has become her dream teaching job while the other is heading off for graduate school. However, they didn't move to NYC and the ability to cope will vary from couple to couple. Two different couple could give me your NYC/film/wedding gameplan and could imagine being 100% confident in the success of one and 100% confident in the failure of the other. Without knowing you, its hard to say. Its something you and your girlfriend will need to spend alot of time discussing. Personally, I know I couldn't handle it. Heck, I get nervous just thinking about moving an hour away from my parents into the city where my boyfriend currently lives. And that's without the pressures of school, finding a job, and paying crazy NYC rent.

I'd just take it one day at a time. If going to school for film or acting is your goal, I wouldn't make any decisions until you have the money. Plan and dream all you want, but be aware you may have to chose one thing over another for awhile.

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Blayne Bradley
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I would suggest writing down everything on paper and then create a kinda of flow chart figuring out how they interrelate to each other, this could help with organizational troubles and give you some short term goals in figuring all this out.
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Bob the Lawyer
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It sounds like you're entertaining ideas of doing something with your life other than acting. Do that. Don't go into acting unless there is literally nothing else in this world that you can see yourself doing. I really cannot impress on you enough just how hard it is. Forget about finding work, which is a nightmare, forget about the fact that even if you're a successful actor you will be poor compared to all your non actor friends, just think about how much your personal life will suffer. Especially while you're getting started and struggling to not bring the work home with you. Every person I've seen go through my school has had their relationship/marriage fail in their first year.

Please don't do this to yourself unless the rehearsal process is the only truly the only way you find real, honest fulfillment in your life. It's just not worth it otherwise.

But, man. There's just nothing like it.

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pooka
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So Bob the Lawyer is an actor? I men, I knew you weren't a lawyer, I just thought you were something else.
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scholar
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i'm 27 years old and I'm not sure what to do with my lfe. At 19, I knew exactly what I wanted to do though. Six years of grad school have taught me that I hate research and academia
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Bob the Lawyer
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Technically this summer I've been a waiter [Wink] When I started at Hatrack I was a biochemist focused on pharmacology, but it turns out I didn't know what my path was going to be at 19 either.
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Belle
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quote:
I am not currently enrolled in college, and I don't plan on becoming so, at least not in a "normal" college. This is a decision I firmly stand by. I detest "general education," as it were, and I have no desire to go through it unless I have a very clearly defined goal of which I can only attain by going through general education.

Are you sure that right now you're not just burned out on school and may reconsider? Lots of actors cut their teeth doing college productions, and while you can act in university productions and learn about the craft and enjoy yourself, you can be working toward a college degree in a field that will support you and your future wife comfortably.
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kmbboots
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Don't discount the advantage having a decent "general education" would give you as an actor. So much of acting depends on drawing upon experiences and knowledge that you have as a person.

Also, be aware that many American acting training courses are just a distorted version of the "method". While some of this is helpful, you should also get some technical training in voice and movement as well.

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MightyCow
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I second kmbbots. A good education is always valuable, and the more you know about different things, the larger variety of acting parts you'll be familiar with.

I also wouldn't worry too much about not knowing just what you want to do at 19. I think it's quite fun to be able to change what you want to do as you age. I'm past 30 now, and still haven't decided for sure [Smile]

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
quote:
I am not currently enrolled in college, and I don't plan on becoming so, at least not in a "normal" college. This is a decision I firmly stand by. I detest "general education," as it were, and I have no desire to go through it unless I have a very clearly defined goal of which I can only attain by going through general education.

Are you sure that right now you're not just burned out on school and may reconsider? Lots of actors cut their teeth doing college productions, and while you can act in university productions and learn about the craft and enjoy yourself, you can be working toward a college degree in a field that will support you and your future wife comfortably.
I totally agree -- especially since you're having trouble finding local productions to work on. It can't hurt you to get a college degree and it may open more doors.
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Belle
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I've just now settled down and focused on what I want to do and I'm over 35. I wound up going full circle and coming back to what I wanted to do when I was 19. [Wink]

However, I still want to be sure my degree is flexible enough that I can do other things, because. I don't anticipate having difficulty finiding a job teaching, but one never knows.

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Ginol_Enam
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College degrees sound dandy and fine, except I don't what degree I'd want or need. I certainly don't care about any of them right now. I'm not going to waste my time and money working for a degree that I don't really want and might possible never need or use, or even obtain. I don't mind learning things, I'd just rather do it on my terms.

And if I don't make it in acting, which I know is most likely, then I don't mind working in movie theatres. In fact, I'd prefer it to anything else I can come up with. No, its not glamorous, but I enjoy it and it keeps me close to the dream even though I won't have achieved it.

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scholar
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Would you want to actually run the movie theatre?
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Ginol_Enam
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Yes, eventually. Is this going to lead to you telling me I'll need a degree to do so? Because if it is you're wasting your time. I don't. At least not at Harkins Theatres.
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Christine
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What about a degree in theater?

Here's the thing. You've got a dream right now. Dreams don't open doors, though. If you want to have a chance to make that dream come true then you need some kind of plan. Your New York idea is one and if it works for you then I think it's great. I'm just a financially-minded person and that school is going to be VERY expensive. And it's not just the tuition. New York City is probably the most expensive place to live in the country. Three hundred dollars a month may not buy a parking space there. Regular colleges are expensive, too, but there are options.

I really hope you can find a way to make this work, one way or another, or that you can be happy running a theater. There's absolutely nothing wrong with running a theater, btw.

Aside from being financially sensible, I'm all about going after your dreams. After I got married and found someone willing to support me, I quit traditional work and started writing because that's what I love. (Actually, now that my first novel is coming out soon, I'm discovering there are aspects of the business side I don't love but oh well, it's all part of the game.) Just because things are a long shot doesn't mean they can't happen and it definitely doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

My book club was reading this book last month that I couldn't bring myself to finish called "The Feminine Mistake." It's about how all moms should work because the financial risk is too great if they don't. Well, yeah, but if you play things safe your whole life you might miss out on something great. You might fall on your ass, too, of course. In fact, with the acting thing it's very likely. [Smile] Still, you know what the safe route gets you. If you're reasonable, if you have a backup plan in case you fall, where does the road less traveled lead?

Guess I'm a hopeless dreamer. [Smile]

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Belle
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Christine, might need to go to another thread, but I'd love to hear about your novel that's coming out and what aspects of the business you don't care for.

I had some quick minor success in writing a few years back and decided to back off because I wasn't happy with where I was headed with it, and I just wondered what parts of the game you've run into that you don't love, as you say. Of course, I have this thing about coming full circle because I'm back writing again, albeit in a different genre.

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anti_maven
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OK, I'm going to sound like my Dad here but:

How about indulging your love of acting in your free time, while you pursue a career/college degree etc?

You could combine the two by choosing a course in a college with an active theatre group or in a city with a vibrant tradition of film or theatre.

Indeed, the more and varied experience you gain, the more you will have to draw on as an actor.

If the acting goes well, you can leave what you're doing to follow that star. If it all goes belly up, you at least have the career/education to fall back on.

It's easier to find a job when you're working, ask anyone who has been unemployed...

What ever you decide, and it will be tough, stick with it and good luck! If you are focused on what you want and work to get it, you can achieve anything.

As they say in Spain "Todo es ponerse" [Smile]

I envy you your possibilities!

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Belle
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The thing is, while today you say you would be content running a theater, you don't know how long that contentment will last.

And, you have no idea what direction the business will move into, either. Right now this theater group doesn't require degrees for manangement, but company policies change all the time. Or they could be bought out by a company that DOES require degrees. Or, you could decide that running a local branch is not challenging or lucrative enough and want to move further up the chain to district management or the executive level, and be hampered by your lack of a degree.

After you're married, your wife could be diagnosed with a devastating illness and you need a better paying job to care for her because she can no longer work. Or, you guys may give birth to a special needs child.

Point being, you just never know. And education, while it doesn't guarantee you'll find a great paying job, certainly does make you more marketable to future employers. Especially since what you really want to do is act, and colleges offer a myriad of opportunities to participate in theater and gain skills as an actor. You could pursue what you love while working toward an education that can help support your family in the future.

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Ginol_Enam
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Or I could become a famous actor, or the company I work for looks at experience and not a piece of paper (or I can find another company), or either nobody I know gets seriously ill or I have enough money to take care of it.

You're point was very valid. I don't know what life will bring. I'd rather not spend four years getting a degree just because it might be useful later on, only to get in a car wreck or get cancer or something, find myself on my death bed wishing I hadn't spent the last few years on earth effectively wasting my time.

I don't know what life will bring, but I do know a couple of things I want to get out of it, and possibly a few ways to get them. Might I fail? Sure. Might I later wish I had a degree? Possibly. I don't know, and so I'm not going to spend my time preparing for what might not ever come instead of what I hope will.

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AvidReader
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The great thing about school is that it will always be there later. It's a lot harder to go back later, but you're more likely to finish if you actually want to be there.
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Ginol_Enam:
Or I could become a famous actor, or the company I work for looks at experience and not a piece of paper (or I can find another company), or either nobody I know gets seriously ill or I have enough money to take care of it.

You're point was very valid. I don't know what life will bring. I'd rather not spend four years getting a degree just because it might be useful later on, only to get in a car wreck or get cancer or something, find myself on my death bed wishing I hadn't spent the last few years on earth effectively wasting my time.

I don't know what life will bring, but I do know a couple of things I want to get out of it, and possibly a few ways to get them. Might I fail? Sure. Might I later wish I had a degree? Possibly. I don't know, and so I'm not going to spend my time preparing for what might not ever come instead of what I hope will.

I don't think you understand college at all. I could die tomorrow, my degrees never used, and I still say college was one of the best things in my life. I couldn't give a damn about the classes or the homework. I mean, I did them, they were there. But college isn't about taking classes or taking tests. It's about discovering who you are and what you want to do. It's about making new friends and trying things you might not have tried before. It's about thinking in new ways about new things -- and sometimes about the same old things.

This doesn't mean you should go...just setting the record straight. [Smile]

[ August 10, 2007, 08:34 AM: Message edited by: Christine ]

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pH
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Ginol, I'm 22 and don't know what I'm going to do with my life. [Smile] I wouldn't worry too much about not having a plan right now.

-pH

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