Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Miley Cyrus reminded me about college

As I've been starting to pack to move to a new place in a few weeks I stumbled across my senior thesis. The title? 

Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”: The Incongruous Juxtaposition of Girlhood and Womanhood in Mediated Portrayals of Britney Spears

I opened it up and this paragraph (written in 2008) caught my attention:

       As represented by Spears, when women try to perfect the incongruous standards of girlhood and womanhood, certain destruction follows. Yet these conflicting expectations are still being mediated, as represented by the slew of criticisms that follow new emerging starlets. 
        For example, many question if young pop star Miley Cyrus will go down the same destructive path as Spears (“Teen Stars”). Their shared Southern roots and claims to innocence make many believe Cyrus will also rebel with sexual promiscuity. Media outlets have been on the lookout for these instances, and are already beginning to criticize some of her outfits...
       Cyrus has become a symbolic replacement for Spears; it seems the public is anxious to see if she too will mismanage her transition from girlhood to womanhood.
(It turns out I can predict the future.)

After community college I transferred to Stetson University where we were required to write a senior thesis; the project took over a year and was one of the most intense experiences of my life.

And, looking back now, I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Reading it over four years later reminded me how wonderful the learning process of college really can be.

The rhetoric surrounding whether or not college is worth it today focuses heavily on numbers, career outcomes, and speed.

While I truly believe college should help many have access to a good career and be done efficiently, I think it's easy to forget the actual privilege of learning. 

Aside from a few professions, there will be no other time in your life where your sole goal is to learn. 

While there are times in college where you will dream about the day where your life isn't dedicated to learning, I daresay you might be surprised when you miss it.

I won't lie - I don't miss exams. 

But I do miss the life dedicated to nothing but your own learning and growth. It was such a beautiful, magnificent privilege.

And that is what we can't forget. College and learning are a privilege. Just ask the millions around the world who would love to be in your shoes right now. 

The best thing you can do to show your gratitude for this privilege is to take full advantage of it. Bask in the knowledge. Learn deeply about the world. Pursue classes that excite you. 

Many think what they learn in college isn't relevant to their futures. At first glance you may think mediated portrayals of Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus have nothing to do with my current career. But you would be mistaken. 

That research project was the foundation to everything I'm doing now. It taught me to think in a way I still think every single day. (Critical thinking: it's highly underrated.) 

It also taught me how to manage a big writing project (when people ask me how I was able to write a book at such a young age I usually point to this research project). 

And it also taught me to fall in love with learning for learning's sake. I chose to research this topic for no other reason than it fascinated me. I wasn't thinking about my future career. I wasn't thinking about what would be easy. I was thinking about what I wanted to learn more about. 

It paid off: I got a $2,000 research grant and was flown to New Orleans (beignets also changed my life) to present it at a national conference. 

Learning is wonderful. If you aren't in love with learning right now it might mean you're not pursuing something that fascinates you.

Learning what you love isn't easy, of course. A good college education is excruciatingly difficult. But it's the appreciation of what you are learning that makes the challenge fun. 

So when choosing the next topic for a project, or your major, go for something you want to know just for the sake of knowing it

I have learned that being curious, thinking critically, and pursuing knowledge that fascinates you lead to a tremendous career, even if at times you have no idea where it's going to go. 

The habit of learning is the best thing college can give you. But it's up to you to run with it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?