There were some other reasons I dropped out of college, besides the personal and familial instinct to do so. Even though I went to one of the most radical colleges in the country, Antioch, it still wasn’t radical enough for me. Older now, I realize that such a place still exists within the larger waters of our society and culture. Even though the campus was a seething hotbed of intellectual and cultural ferment, outside influences still broke through the circle to affect the experience of the people going there. My expectations were very high as was my idealism.
One of the biggest assets of a college like Antioch was the ability to have a self-designed major & curriculum within the overall structure of a liberal arts degree. However, if you were coming in at age nineteen or thereabouts, reeling and dealing with psychotropic experiences, alongside the new interpersonal freedoms and strangeness of life at a small college, it can be difficult to have the willpower and foresight to know which of the many paths available to take. For the somewhat socially awkward the challenges are even greater. You have to be a real go getter to make that system work for you. A big part of it is getting a good guidance counselor and feeling comfortable talking to her or him and them being able to work with you. You have to click. This wasn’t my experience.
Another assett is the schools work study program. “Antioch College is the only liberal arts institution in the nation to require a comprehensive off-campus cooperative work program for all of its students.” This is the area where I wish I’d been a little older and wiser in my choice for work-study. I stayed on campus and worked at the library there full time, itself a decision that pushed me in the direction of the field I am still in today. Mostly I didn’t want to work off campus that summer so I could still be with my then girlfriend. Another reason was because I had no clue as to what to do. Now, if I could time travel, I’d tell my younger self to go do something cool like work at Dreamtime Village for a few months, a center of permaculture, art & media in a town once abandoned, now reclaimed, in the Driftless region of Wisconsin. What else would I do for my co-op credits? Well, Ouroboros Press is now doing internships. Learning the art of fine bookmaking is something I’m definitely interested in. I may have also gone off to work somewhere in radio. But I didn’t.
At the time I was more concerned about being in a relationship, writing and making music. Practicing Thelemic Magick was also very important to me. Magic still is, but my horizons have been expanded beyond Thelema, even though I was initiated into that tradition when I was 18 (via the Marcela Motta line for anyone interested in lineage -though I no longer have any association with the particular order.)
In starting my second year I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a roommate. I needed space to set up my temple and a bit of regular to practice the magick. I put in an application to live at the Buddhist Zen Center on the campus, instead of in the traditional dorms. For some reason I was really surprised that they didn’t want a person practicing Ceremonial and Ritual Magick in that space. They might have even been turned off by all the stuff I wrote about Aleister Crowley in my letter to them, though I don’t know why.
The school itself relied on people like me who went for one year or one and a half years and then dropped out as a regular source of income. They expected it. The high tuition helped pay more for those who stuck it out. The freshman class was always larger than those above who stayed and graduated. This may be a general trend of many colleges in general, but Antioch seemed to have a very high turnover rate for their freshmen. It’s an intense school.
In the end I decided it would be better if I pursued my goals outside of college. Part of the reason was financial. I realized I could get a job back home, work, read, write and do The Work in my free time. That is the path I have been on since. I’ve also long since paid off the student loans, that if I had gone on to graduate, I’m not sure I would have paid off by now. Instead I have a house, and savings. And I do have a relationship. Marriage and home life are very important to me.
Sometimes I wonder, “Do I just have a large chip on my shoulder?”
I’ve been in an entry level position my whole library “career” and I’ve watched plenty of co-workers advance beyond me in those terms. On the other hand, my job is low stress, and it gives me the mental freedom necessary to dwell in an internal world while I work: the place where my Art comes from.
Yet at the same time I realize people often give up on their true dreams and follow a path that has been set out for them. In America that path often reads like this: graduate high school, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, etc. I know I did everything backwards having a daughter when I was sixteen. I know there were deeper things at work going on there, besides my teenage hormones.
And that is one of things I found so irritating about college. I had just gone through a huge personal initiation through “the veil of sorrow” in trying to cope with all that happened while my daughter was being carried by her mother and after she was born. To see so many kids when I was in school, and still now, write off all of their twenties as a time to fuck around and not really do anything with their lives is depressing. I know that is a generalization, but it is an attitude prevalent in our culture that many people succumb to. If the path you find yourself on isn’t one best reached by traditional means through higher education, maybe it isn’t worth the hefty price tag.
Another criticism I have of the college path is the way it tends to self-perpetuate academia. Young adults go to school, get a bachelors degree and then try to join the workforce only to learn that they can’t get much further along than an entry level position. So they go back to school and get their masters, perhaps in an area they have no real love for, but will earn them money, and go further into debt. When they get out they still may not have a job. The next choice seems to be going back to school again for a Ph. D. and then becoming a professor. I also see this process as a way that favors the specialist over the generalist. I like to wear many hats, to be a jack of all trades, to be a multidimensional artists. The full phrase after all is “Jack of all trades, master of none, certainly better than a master of one.”
I’ve seen this over and over again, school crippling the years that should be productive. I reckon that as the economy continues to worsen, as people struggle for finite resources on a finite planet, most degrees and the debt associated with them, will come to be viewed as a liability and not an asset.
There are other ways to achieve ones goals. I’ve learned it takes as much discipline to implement them outside of school as it would have in school. To me the rewards of self directed learning are greater, as is the freedom. In my next post I’ll be exploring some of the ways I’ve continued my education outside of academia. The experiences have been much more affordable and personally rewarding -all of which leads up to my own self-designed curriculum modeled on and taking into count the Seven Liberal Arts.