A Few Thoughts, vol. 1

Today, I’m taking a book out of Marielle’s book and writing a sort of summary of the blog posts I’d like to write, but can’t seem to put into words. These are post ideas I’ve had floating around my notebooks, Evernote, and WordPress drafts for months, but I can’t seem to write them out fully.

a few thoughts

Is College Worth It

It wasn’t until recently that I ever questioned the worth of my college education, or whether I’d change it if I could.  I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I’d be going to college one day, even though I’d be the first in my family.  All the money I knew I’d owe one day seemed somehow not quite real, and of course the things I’d learn would be worth it.  The importance of having a college degree seemed undeniable to be honest, so questioning its worth never even occurred to me.

That was, until last month when I received my first loan statement and realized that my monthly loan payments are more than I pay in rent each month (and I honestly wish that were an exaggeration.)  Staring down these last few weeks before I have to make that first payment, I’ve questioned more and more whether getting a college degree was worth it, and I know I’m not the only one.  Last month, Philadelphia Magazine thought it was a big enough question to warrant an entire issue dedicated to it, and more and more students are electing to go right from high-school graduation to working full-time.

I know that the four years I spent as a college student made me an entirely different person, and that the education I gained is worth more than words can say; to the point where, if I were to run into my 14-year-old self today I might hardly recognize her or the opinions she holds, and that’s something I wouldn’t give up for the world. But looking down the barrel of nearly $100,000 in debt, I wonder if I wouldn’t have experienced the same changes or become the same person without a university to guide me there.

But for all this doubt, it’s also undeniable that a college diploma garners you something. That 90 percent of my co-workers have college degrees, and even people with a diploma are having trouble finding a job today. Without a degree, even if I were the same person, where would I be? Would the lack of debt make it worth it?

What Do Rap Lyrics Even Mean?

But honestly though, I can’t remember very many rap songs where I thought “now that is a great message” or even, if not a great message, at least that there was one there (well, other than the not-so-subliminal message that being gay is the crime of the century, drugs are the best thing you could do with your life, and women exist solely for your sexual pleasure).  Over the last couple months, I’ve spent a few nights in the university’s art studio with my roommate, listening to the rap that a classmate of hers plays loudly and incessantly for hours at a time.

And do you know what I realized?  I could not tell you the “meaning” behind a single one of the songs that student played; and I think that’s my problem with rap.  I’ve always believed that music reflects us as human beings, and that there has never been a single moment in history that music did not permeate.  I believe that music is our way of thinking, of sharing, and of learning and that all good music has something to it, some meaning to be felt or new idea to be thought through.

I don’t know that I’d enjoy the style even if were a different topic being sung about, but my biggest problem is that there’s no point to rap; that is, unless your idea of a “point” is to encourage high-school guys to treat women like shit. Am I missing something, or is there really not a theme to any rap music?

On Confidence

Okay, let’s be honest: every single person in the world suffers with a lack of confidence in themselves. I can guarantee you that even President Obama and Beyonce have moments where they’re unsure, think they’re not good enough, or imagine that everyone they know can’t stand them.

Somehow though, for women a lack of confidence is an expectation and at the same time, something we are constantly telling little girls is “unattractive.”  We plaster the media with unachievable goals in the form of photoshopped models and insane success stories about that one 14-year-old in back-woods Ohio who started her own business without any sort of an education to help her along. We tell girls and women all the ridiculous pedestals they’re supposed to step up onto and, when they’re unsure of their ability to reach our expectations for them, we tell them that their lack of confidence in themselves is unattractive.  On the same token though, a woman who is confident in her abilities and her appearance is full of herself.

While a lack of confidence is something everyone in the world suffers from, boys and men are not expected to suffer from it.  A 24-year-old man who brags about his accomplishments is confident and enviable where a woman bragging of the same accomplishments is full of herself and vain.

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  • Jessica Marie

    I commuted, so I’m fortunate that I don’t owe much money. $80/month… I have $4000 left to go. However, I question the worth daily. I just can’t find a 2nd job here. I couldn’t find a job when trying to move. I know more of it is me (anxiety in the interview, if I get called to interview, the problem with another state was I’m just not local yet… they can get someone faster locally) and I know college isn’t job training (if it was, it’d be a technical school), so maybe I should just be frustrated with myself and the economy. There is one thing I’d change about college: switch to English sooner from history instead of waiting 2.5 years to switch after painfully realizing that history wasn’t for me and I would rather be a writer. Then spend 3 years working to be a writer for the total of 5.5 years in college. But, I met some wonderful people – both students and professors and they helped a lot. Even though at the end, I didn’t want to go back to WC after things, I still have some good memories of the town (Lincoln Tea Room! Roots Cafe!) and met wonderful town folk; that can never be taken away from me.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I couldn’t have commuted because I don’t drive, and my college was about an hour from my parent’s home, but it would have saved SO much money if I had.

      I’m glad to hear you did eventually find what you wanted to be doing, but it stinks that you wasted that time first. I switched my major around a couple times but thankfully, I was still able to finish in 4 years. I love this town, and I know I’m going to miss it when I move away but I’m so ready to move!

      • Jessica Marie

        Yeah, I don’t drive either, but I was so glad there was a bus to West Chester from King of Prussia. It was an hour commute each way, but I met a lot of riders along the way. Sometimes if I ride the 92 to Paoli or Malvern, a lot of the long time riders still remember me and we talk to catch up. Wherever I end up, I hope there are some nice bus riders.

        I think I might have been able to finish in 4.5, but I got sick and handling a chronic condition with two part time jobs, I just took 4 classes each semester to make it full time. Then I just worked in the summer.

  • Mollie

    I’m in the same boat when it comes to loans. While the experiences I had and the wisdom I gained during my time in college are invaluable, and I wouldn’t trade them for any amount of money, I now have both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s, and I can’t find a job. I am in the “sweet” spot of just underqualified for higher-level positions and drastically overqualified for entry-level position… which means I’m working retail/reception duty to pay back my higher education loans. Is the constant state of panic worth having gone to college? Is the feeling of ever-indebtedness worth it? I don’t know, but times are definitely not good right now.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      That’s such a crappy situation to be in! Thankfully, I was able to find a job – but it means a 2 hour both ways commute each day. And there just shouldn’t be anyone with a college and MASTERS degree struggling to find employment. College was, at least for me, framed as a guarantee. I’m sorry to hear about the position you’re in, and I really hope you find something soon!

  • http://mariellegreen.com/ Marielle

    Ugh, I’m with you on college. I don’t think the education part was really worth it – though a big part of that for me was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do at all and just flooped around. I really wish taking a gap year between high school and college was more of an accepted thing in America, because that would have made a HUGE difference for me. On one hand, I think it’s great that a college degree is the new high school diploma, because education is great. BUT it should be affordable, and just. . .not like high school. College should revolve more around practical experiences I think, instead of just delaying the real world more. I have a master’s now, and that straight up wasn’t worth it. Maybe if I were living in a bigger city or had the flexibility to job search around the country – but only a few jobs here actually fit my education field and expertise and it’s super hard to get interviews. I end up like Mollie, being just a bit underqualified and drastically overqualified for a lot of stuff. I’m sure you’ve looked into this but just throwing it out there – is changing your payment plan an option? I changed mine to adjust to current income. I’m basically just paying interest. In a few years, I’ll have the rent-like payments, but not now which is a relief.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I think a gap year would help so many people! How can a 17 or 18 year old know what they want to do for the rest of their lives with absolutely NO experience to go off of? And exactly – I love that more and more people are going to college but it shouldn’t be so impossible to afford. We shouldn’t be financially crippling the generation who would otherwise be spending the most.

      That’s so frustrating about your masters degree! I’m sorry that that’s something you’re struggling with. As for lowering my payment amounts, I was able to do that with my federal loans so it’s a huge help. But unfortunately, the bulk of my loans are private and when I called the bank to discuss paying less over a longer period of time, they flat out told me they don’t care about what my income is. They want their money, and they want it within a strict period of time, which means paying insane amounts of money each month.

  • http://www.chitsandgigglesblog.com/ Kristyn

    I actually don’t have very much student loan debt, but I do wonder if it was really worth it. I also changed as a person in college (and I think most people do since you are in your late teens/early 20s and discovering yourself). I learned valuable lessons in college, but not in the classroom. And my work that I do now doesn’t have anything to do with my degree. So that really is just a piece of paper.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      That’s another thing that concerns me about college – most of the jobs college-graduates find aren’t relevant to their degree. It’s one of the first questions I get asked now that I’ve graduated – “is your job relevant to your major?” More than anything, I think you’re right – employers just gravitate towards people with a degree. It’s a piece of paper and the degree itself doesn’t matter much.

  • http://cleartheway.net/ Kate Amunrud

    It’s very hard for women to balance the expectations and limits placed on them. As someone who has yet to complete her academic dreams, I’m practicing my confidence in applying myself to collegiate endeavors.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I think that’s a great thing to focus on!

  • http://www.thestyledunce.com/ Katie @ The Style Dunce

    Oh, I love these kinds of posts. College isn’t for everyone and I don’t think it needs to be the natural path after high school, but I agree–a college diploma does get you things. When we were job-hunting, I’m almost positive my boyfriend didn’t get a position with one good company he interviewed with simply because he didn’t have a college degree and most of the other applicants most likely did. At the same time, there are career paths that don’t require a degree, but when you just want a job (any job) a diploma is definitely helpful. Also, I’m a fan of Kanye West and Jay-Z–I think they both have plenty of songs with social messages. My boyfriend makes fun of me for liking them (in a snobbish, he’s got better taste in music way) and he listens to Deltron 3030 and Jurassic 5 and they are not about ‘hos’ or whatever.

    And finally, UGH–it’s endlessly tiring that a confident woman is arrogant but a confident man is attractive. It’s such BS.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      There are definitely paths out there that you don’t need a college degree for. Unfortunately, I think that the media and middle and high-school educators tend to focus on the careers that do need a degree. Which I absolutely understand – you want children to strive towards college. Unfortunately, I think it puts the idea out there that if you don’t go to college, you’re screwed; and for a lot of jobs, that’s becoming the case because there are so many people out there willing to take the job who DO have a degree, you know? It just doesn’t make sense to me to completely financially cripple the generation who otherwise would be spending the most money. That can’t be good for the economy.

      What I know of Kanye West is that he’s a pretty shitty person, so I stay away from his music when I can. I know I’ve heard that Jay-Z is a good person but I honestly couldn’t tell you his music from anyone else’s. For me, I think what I know of rap is what you hear in bars – and none of that is good. But I’ll have to see what I can find of Jay-Zs that I might like, on your recommendation.

  • http://simplicityrelished.com/ Daisy @ Simplicity Relished

    Nope pretty sure you’re not missing anything when it comes to the sick, dark and chauvinistic lyrics that compose a ton of rap music. And I’ve wrestled with the question of what college really means in this day and age, mostly because I want to be a teacher who encourages her students to thrive. What can we tell disadvantaged students about higher education that will help them stay motivated in school? What’s going to teach them to work hard if there isn’t a tangible goal to work towards? One article I read recently that helped me think further about this issue was Drew Faust’s thoughts on critical thinking vs information processing. I personally liked her a lot while I was in college and I think her points are well-taken. The world needs more critical thinkers– not just consumers– and I think college helps us learn to do that. The article’s here (just in case you want to read one more article on this topic!): http://hpacwwwpr-elasticl-jzf3jwq62lqc-199968513.us-east-1.elb.amazonaws.com/president/speech/2014/case-for-college
    I always love your thoughts, Kiersten!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      That’s such a good point! We talk about a college education as though without it, you’ll never have a “good job” – and that’s becoming more and more true. So what about the high-school children who know they’ll never be able to afford it, or be able to take out the loans to temporarily afford it? What do we tell them – we know that you’re in a crappy situation and we want you to get out of it, but you better figure it out on your own because we’re putting it completely out of reach?

      I loved college – and I absolutely agree that the skills it taught me, such as critical thinking, are some of the most valuable things I’ve ever learned. I just wish we didn’t make it so unattainable. Thanks for sharing the article – I’m going to go check it out!

  • http://yourstrulyjanette.blogspot.com Janette Garcia

    I’m in college right now and I can already see the damage college is doing to my future finances. It’s crazy how something that is considered to be necessary, is so expensive. It doesn’t make sense to need a college degree to have a “good” job but it’s so difficult to pay for school. I love the things I’m learning but the price is years and years of debt.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I know it’s been said a million times, but I just don’t understand how sending the next generation out into the world, already in thousands of dollars worth of debt, is good for the economy. All it means is that the generation who would otherwise be spending the most – buying homes, furniture, starting families, potentially starting businesses and travelling, etc. – aren’t able to because they’re crippled by their college education. Like you said – a college education is turning into what a high-school education was for our parents. Why should something that’s basically necessary be so expensive?

  • Cat

    RE: the rap lyrics, I totally used to be on your page (I used to say the only music I disliked was country and rap) until my BF and I started dating 6 years ago. He’s super into hip hop and caused me to realize that a lot of the popular rap is only skimming the surface of actual hip-hop music. A lot of it in particular is “party rap,” which is about drinking, women, etc. The good rap is closer to what you and I probably think of as poetry and a lot of it is actually super female positive. Listen to this Aesop Rock for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sClhmDN5Fcs
    Atmosphere is phenomenal, try this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpqOWO6ctsg
    As is Blackalicious, try this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdrossKXGb4
    Kid Cudi is fantastic too – this one is about partying, but I think it’s still got some great lyrics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xzU9Qqdqww&list=PLMOqpyVO0Oa2UXwhhTLqQOjePGoE4NTtf
    Atmosphere is a great place to start though, because he talks a lot and very positively about women and kind of has a storytelling style that feels a little less random. This one is a great example of that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SL4VsjickI

    Basically, I would recommend listening to them while looking at the lyrics, because to the untrained ear it is really easy to not pay attention to what they’re actually saying. These guys are SMART, though. You need to understand the rhyme schemes that they are creating are as complex as any renaissance poet. I think we often tend to write off rap, not realizing that many of these guys are probably some of the greatest writers of our generation.

    Cat
    http://oddlylovely.com