Mountain Mayhem: Navigating life’s winding road of growing older | AspenTimes.com

Mountain Mayhem: Navigating life’s winding road of growing older

Barbara Platts

We all know the drill: Graduate from high school, go to a good college, then find a phenomenally fantastic job that fully embodies everything about you and makes you feel like you’re not even working because you love it so dang much. Next comes marriage, the baby carriage and a romantic stroll off into the sunset as you and your family live happily ever after. It’s as simple as that.

Any questions?

Well, I can’t speak for the rest of you, but frankly, I have several – mainly: Where? How? And, most importantly, why?

The process of growing up has been on my mind a lot lately. Actually, I’m not sure it’s ever far from my mind. However, it returned to the forefront when I was surfing the web for millennial-related stories, as I often do for column fodder. A survey of 600 millennials conducted recently in the journal Transforming Education Through Technology showed that there is a growing disinterest among millennials in higher education. That we think there are a “lack of pathways to productive outcomes from innovative ideas,” essentially meaning we don’t think higher education is particularly beneficial. The study was geared toward millennials working in higher educational institutions as opposed to attending, but it does give intriguing insight into how we look at a very traditional system such as education.

If we millennials don’t want to work in higher education, because we think the system is outdated, does that mean we also don’t want to participate in it much past receiving a bachelor’s degree? There doesn’t seem to be too much data yet on this subject. The main stat I could find on this topic is from the U.S. Census Bureau. It showed that, of the millennials who graduate from college, 27 percent have gone on to seek master’s degrees. This is about the same percentage as the baby boomers. So, while the number has not decreased, it also hasn’t gone up, despite a weak economy.

OK, I’ll stop boring you with numbers and stats. What I mean to get at by listing these is to see if education still fits into our vision for a good life. Is it still an integral part of the recipe to overall happiness?

Millennials are often referred to as the most educated generation, but with that title comes a whole lot of student debt. And we have a limited number of jobs to help relieve us of this debt. I certainly wouldn’t blame any of my peers for opting to stay out of the educational system, particularly past undergrad.

Still, despite the stagnant numbers of youth seeking a master’s degree, I have many close comrades who have taken that route. One of my best friends is about to start her second year of law school. She decided to attend after several years in the workforce as a reporter. I have another who went straight from undergrad to get his master’s for counseling psychology. Yet, another good friend is in medical school. When I ask them if they made the right decision, each is positive they did.

In contrast, a couple of my good college buddies opted to leave school early. They both found jobs in their fields — journalism and film — before they even grasped a diploma. Today, I would say they are two of my most successful friends. Did they do it wrong because they didn’t finish college? They sure don’t think so.

Perhaps there isn’t a right and a wrong way to grow up, as many of us, myself included, have been taught to think. Maybe the process isn’t a straight path, but a curvy rough one with loads of surprises around every corner. If the path does not include getting a bachelor’s and master’s degree, that doesn’t mean a happily ever after is out of reach.

My questions still are unanswered and ever-present. But, perhaps that’s OK. Finding the answers would spoil the journey.

Barbara Platts has always had ambitions for graduate school but has absolutely zero interest in the math section of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Arithmetic just isn’t part of “her path.” Reach her at bplatts.000@gmail.com or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.


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