Monday, June 20, 2011

Taking Risks After Community College

I love listening to stories; it would be my ultimate dream to travel around to listen and learn about how people’s lives unfold, how they made decisions, and where those decisions led (see my new favorite book What Should I Do with My Life by Po Bronson). 

As thrilling as it is to hear other people’s stories, there is something really unique about hearing them from your family – especially your parents and grandparents. Because selfishly, their stories led to yours, so they keep you a bit more rapt – you realize one small move, one tiny decision, could mean you would not even exist.

I’d always heard the contexts of my parents’ stories, but rarely their mentalities, their motivations, their desires, their fears, their risks.

This fathers-day weekend in particular I was inspired my Dad’s own community college and post-college experience.
My dad. Gotta love the 70's.

My dad got an associate degree from a community college in Staten Island, NY in business and accounting. He said he chose that because he had no idea what he wanted to do. He deeply wished someone had talked to him about who he was, what he wanted, and how that fit into his degree and career goals. Instead, he chose something that made sense, finished his 2 years, and went straight to work at an accounting office, traveling 2 hours walking, riding the ferry, the bus, and the subway to get to work.

One day while walking along the street to work, seeing many blank, hurried faces in suits, he realized he hated his job and couldn’t do this the rest of his life. So 10 months into his new job he took his week vacation and he and his best friend flew to Miami, FL to explore.

Aimlessly wandering through Miami, Ft.Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, my dad fell in love with Florida. They finished their last four days of the trip at my dad’s aunts house and while there he contemplated moving to Florida. He told his aunt he would go back to New York for a while, get things together, and then return.

His aunt said, “if you go back to New York you’ll never come back.”

And he knew she was right.

So my dad did something kinda crazy. He stayed in Florida. He told his friend he wasn’t coming back.

His friend was angry. His family was angry. No one understood. But my dad knew it was something he had to do. He took the risk. UPS brought all the belongings of his NY life to Florida. And he never left.

Typically these stories end here, and if you’re like me you think, wow that is awesome I want to just go somewhere, leave everything behind and do something crazy, because that is how I’ll find myself. But of course, there is reality to content with.

My dad lived with his cousin and worked a variety of jobs – a collections agent, a pick-up/drop-off man for an appliance rental company, a UPS man, a waiter at an elderly home (his favorite). It wasn’t easy. But he didn’t regret it.

That is what inspired me most, and reminded me of college. Going away, taking risks, trying something new, and leaving behind something you know isn’t for you is hard. But it’s worth it.

Similarly, college students – especially those from low-income families – tend to fear the idea of going out of state for college.

Community college students typically hop over to the local university after their 2-years to continue their degree. There is nothing wrong with this and it’s often a great option for many.

However, I talk to students daily who articulate their dreams, know what they want to do, know the best program is farther upstate or sometimes across the country, but they put it out of their mind because it seems so out of their reach. Often the biggest fear is money.

Community college saves you so much money and is an excellent choice. But it doesn’t mean the lack of money or the desire to save money should guide every decision. Because it may limit you.

It’s easy to think that because we don’t have the money we can’t make big jumps in our lives. It’s not that we need/should make big jumps simply to get the high of jumping. But sometimes, you know you need to jump and you don’t.

If you decide you want to transfer out-of-state for college, or you want to study abroad for a semester, or even a year, but don’t think you have the money – just put that out of your mind. Tell yourself the money exists for you; you just have to find it.

(for more helpful tips on how to find money for your college adventure just type your e-mail into the free gift blue box with the light bulb in the top right-hand corner for the tips that helped me get paid to go to college and a go on free trips to Nashville, New Orleans, and England).

Don’t be afraid to jump, to go, even if everyone else around you wonders what the heck you are doing. Because sometimes it’s those decisions you look back on and think, wow that really was crazy, that tend to be the best.

*Do you have a story of college risk or adventure? E-mail it to And your success story may appear on the blog or Facebook.

*OR are you thinking of taking a risk but still pretty afraid? I’d be happy to help – just send me your situation at

1 comment:

  1. You're right! College is the best time to risk it all! After all, you're never so free again as you are during your college years - it's best to take advantage of it!


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