So, I listened. I spent my college years studying what I enjoyed semester to semester--a little Spanish literature here, a little psychology there, a little marketing in between. Before I could blink, I was building enough credits for a Spanish major, so I went with it. After all, it was pretty cool to be able to read books in two languages. At some point, I had enough credits for a Business minor, so I got one. I even applied to graduate schools for full fellowships in Spanish, initially because I wanted to see if I could actually snatch one.
It was all part of a journey. The problem was that I wasn't thinking about where I wanted that journey to wind up. The truth was that I didn't want a career in the conventional business world. I didn't even want a career where I'd be speaking two languages; learning Spanish was far too romantic for me to ruin it with practical application.
So, what happened?
I graduated college valedictorian, got an M.A. from Columbia University in Spanish literature at the age of twenty-two, and still couldn't answer the question "What do you want to do with your life?" I also had no idea how my degrees would--if ever--translate into a salary, a career, a forward vision. And, to be honest, I didn't even know if I wanted them to.
Looking back, part of the problem was that my high-school curriculum didn't allow for much personal exploration. I couldn't take Ceramics or Photography or Clothing Design because those classes didn't exist. Instead, the program was academically rigorous and aimed to create tough intellectuals. I'm not knocking rigorous academics, but what the program forgot was the importance of encouraging kids to discover who they were and what they loved. Years later, as a teacher, adviser, and dean, I never forgot that. It made all the difference in the way I looked at high school curriculums and the suggestions I made.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the college journey I took. Those four years taught me more about love, friendship, and myself than I could convey. But if I had to do things again, I'd be less afraid to embrace what I loved, even if it meant narrowing my vision. I'd be less concerned with the conventionality of a well-rounded, four-year degree and more concerned with discovering my passion and mapping out what it would look like in real life.
So, I commend Sarah Palin for addressing this very important issue and for her willingness to think outside the box. In the world of education, I wish more people would. And I commend Willow for taking the time to discover her interest in hair and skin, enrolling in a specialized school, and combining passion with practicality to hopefully yield success.
My advice to young people everywhere: Choose schools that encourage self-discovery early on. Don't be afraid to buck convention. And when someone asks you what you want to do with the rest of your life, take the time to really think about it.
Jedediah Bila is an author, columnist, TV and radio personality, public speaker, and Fox News Contributor. Her book, OUTNUMBERED: Chronicles of a Manhattan Conservative, was published in May of 2011. Her columns have been published in/at Human Events, The Daily Caller, Newsmax, FoxNews.com, Breitbart.com, The Blaze, and AMAC's newsletter. Jedediah is a former high-school academic dean and adviser, and has taught at the middle school, high school, and college levels.
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