After talking to my 8th grade teacher about a nuclear fission paper I was working on, a friend I grew up with asked, “You really like learning don’t you?” It was as if the thought had never occurred to me before and I experienced a mix of curious unbelief at what I felt myself understanding.
Fast forward to public high school where as a junior I started taking college courses. It seemed to me that most of what I learned in that college was redundant to what I did in high school, which was just an expansion of middle school. Also interesting, was I completed four college courses before I graduated high school. Some of those classes should have been dual credit. I was in a glitchy video game that started over because it didn’t save my last checkpoint.
My girlfriend (now wife) was smart, her grades earned her two free years at a local college. I however, struggled to find scholarship opportunities; the process either didn’t support my needs or was not intuitive. Oral Roberts University sold me on their vision and pulled values out of me I didn’t recognize I had. I received some scholarship but still had to take out loans to attend.
As a freshman I took several engineering classes which didn’t formally support my media degree. Many people mess around in various interests trying to find their identities in high school but this self-discovery is only really supported in college. College is too long and expensive to “waste” time on unclear goals.
I started to re-align my class projects as a junior to be dual purpose. If the assignment only met the professors expectations it wasn’t enough, it also needed to prepare me for the real world. Some projects I would intentionally design around a concept I felt less comfortable with, in order to develop my professional skill set. I used other school projects to gain real world experience with outside clients and earn real world money to reinvest in my education. I even dropped other involvements from my schedule if they were not multi-purpose, and I practice this model even today.
When I graduated a semester early I had no job, a pile of debt, plans to continue my education and get married. These factors don’t quite add up, but fortunately my God is faithful. After a few months I was employed, married, and working toward a goal that becomes a little bit more clear each day.
I learned from my wife’s experience that having an institution sponsor your education makes much more sense then going to the bank. I learned from high school that work should have a dual purpose; and I learned in college that your dual purpose work should work together toward a goal.
I now work with a growth minded team designing and enriching online courses and certificates for the same university that pays for my graduate studies. Although I made some mistakes along the way, my wife and I currently pay about 40% of our income on student loans and will continue until we are debt free.
What I started to discover in 8th grade, I want to share with as many people as I can. Learning is truly the greatest joy in life. Whether that joy comes from learning about an exciting topic, learning about my wife, or learning about my faith, it is education that brings relationships closer together.