Upon my return to the United States I was introduced to the HBO Show ‘Girls’ by my older sister. I watched the pilot episode without high expectations based on my sister’s brief review, but it hit so close to home that I power-watched the entire first season in one night. Since that night I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the message of the show and how it relates to my life.
Having effectively moved out of my parents’ houses and, for the most part, budgets at the age of 18, I naively considered myself an adult. At one point I had a boyfriend of 3 years that I thought I would eventually marry and I was on track to finish my Bachelors degree. There was a mini plan of a career and babies forming in my head.
THE break up happened, I graduated with a BFA, and moved across country to spend a year and a half living with (amazing) relatives. At the age of 24, I was again on track to enter the adult world of salary and health insurance in lieu of parental insurance and multiple part-time jobs to pay the bills. Had that train kept going, I think my life would be a little more miserable than it is right now. I purposely, if unknowingly, derailed that particular train by going back to school for my Masters degree half a world away from all friends and family.
Having finished that over a year ago now, I realized that those early twenties were anything but adulthood. Growing up in 2013 was a rough transition. I got my first exempt salaried position with my very own health insurance, which is alarmingly expensive. I have life insurance and a retirement account which are both very foreign concepts that I don’t fully understand yet. I bought a brand new car and car insurance for the first time and I’m still not entirely sure if I got a good deal or was taken advantage of. I found an adult relationship with someone that is reaching the six month mark as of publishing and I understand now that all the relationships I had before weren’t healthy or even close to being ‘adult’.
Now I am contemplating changing fields (as I do not work in the field I spent all that time being educated to work in) and have no clue where to start. Where was the class on how to change careers in all of my high school college prep, BFA and MA programs? How did I miss the day they taught all of these essential life skills? Truth is, the educational systems we have in place in the Western World are not teaching us how to live in society. They are teaching us how to fill a role in society: teacher, doctor, lawyer. These cookie cutter jobs do not list ‘must know how to buy a car’ or ‘must understand health insurance’ as necessary so those essential life skills get skipped over in the education system.
In high school I had to class called ‘Planning Your Future’ that I assume was suppose to teach me about these things. Yes, we ‘learned’ how to do our taxes by hand and what a 1040EZ looks like and that it would probably be the form we would need for the foreseeable future after high school. At no time did I, a pretty decent student (#25 in my graduating class) learn that getting a ton of money back as a tax return was a bad thing. Someone from a young professionals group I belong to now told me that getting a $4500 refund means that the government took more money from your paycheck than they really needed to and didn’t tell you for a whole year, essentially borrowing your $4500 interest free for a whole year and then they turn around and are like, “Oh yeah, here you go, you can have your own money back.” While they charge me an arm and a leg in interest on the loans they gave me for this education that apparently taught me a whole lot of nothing. This was a life changing revelation for me! I had been complaining that my return was only $250 for three weeks as I was counting on a larger return to pay down some credit cards no one taught me how to use properly. That three minute conversation altered my perspective on the whole educational system and is the reason for this pensive post. We didn’t learn how Worker’s Unions operated from watching the Stallone film ‘Fist.’ We didn’t learn how to budget when we ‘married’ one of our classmates and drew salaries and numbers of children out of a hat. My ‘husband’ and I got the two highest paying jobs in the hat and blew off the assignment because we could afford everything we could have ever wanted or needed. Who is responsible for teaching us these things? Should I blame my parents for not teaching me some of these things? Is the fault of the education system? Is it my own fault for not seeking the knowledge before I needed to use it? If you’ve made it this far with me I would like to know what you think about all this in the comments below. If you don’t feel like commenting, I hope I’ve at least made you think.