“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you want to do yet, just go to college and start knocking out your Gen Eds,” I was told by one of my high school teachers. To a lost and confused teenager, this was absolutely terrible advice.
It was true that, as a high school student, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. But when I was told to go to college, it seemed to make sense. After all, everyone else was going.
But going to college without any semblance of a plan landed me thousands of dollars in debt and even more lost and confused. I hated the college scene, but what else could I do? No alternatives were ever presented to me. I dropped out of my classes and felt like a miserable failure. I didn’t even have a job because I gave it up to attend college. What a miserable mess I was in.
Happily, things quickly changed for the better. I began to do the only thing I really knew how to do–work. Practically every waking moment was spent working some kind of job and earning some kind of income. I still had no long term plan for my life, but boy did it feel good to be so occupied with worthwhile endeavors.
After only a few short months of working my brains out, I began to date my future wife. This proved to be the best possible impetus for establishing a solid career plan. How could I have a wife and family if I couldn’t afford to feed them? By divine intervention, and with the help of my soon-to-be wife, I stumbled across what was to become my career. Now I had a plan.
I went back to college with this very definite plan set in place, and I toiled my way to a college degree. The rest is history, but a very important lesson was learned along the way.
Don’t go to college unless you have a plan.
2 thoughts on “The Worst Advice”
I had a plan going into college, but it still turned out to be a huge mistake.
I graduated community college with an associate’s degree in philosophy and was accepted into a prominent Jesuit university. There I took theology as a second major. My plan from the beginning was to continue onto graduate school and become a professor, which all of my teachers agreed I would be able to do. However, I dropped out with about a year to go, and now I’m saddled with upwards of $150,000 in student loans with no means of repaying them.
What went wrong? It was not for a lack of interest, ability, or determination that I stopped my studies. I actually spent an extra year at this university because of hardships in my personal life that forced a leave of absence, but did not deter me from pursuing my goal. I was inducted into the national undergraduate honor societies for both of my majors and earned an academic scholarship in recognition of the quality of my work. It was a time of great intellectual flowering and personal growth for me. What then finally convinced me to call it quits so close to earning my baccalaureate?
It was because, as a student of philosophy, I considered it my duty and ambition to discover the truth. And by the grace of God, I did discover it. The philosophic truth that I discovered was and is the classical realism of Aristotle and the medieval scholastics.
Classical realism provided me with the context to properly understand the proofs for the existence of God, which I then had no choice but to accept, and I began to convert — I began praying for light during my studies, and soon God chose to endow me with the true faith. I began to participate in campus ministry, attending Mass every morning and singing in the choir. The plan changed. Rather than become a professor of philosophy, I would apply to the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., and earn a Pontifical degree in Sacred Theology.
However, that never happened. What did happen was a combination of things. First, I discovered the SSPX web site — the old one, with the lengthy FAQs that put the offending passages of the documents of Vatican II side by side with canons and decrees from the Council of Trent and passages from the Summa. Second, I took a course in Reformation Texts and saw for myself the similarities and differences between the recent Catholic theology I had been reading outside of class, and the blasphemies of Luther. Third, I began to ask uncomfortable questions of my friends, teachers, and confessors. My spiritual director, a retired Jesuit priest, actually got angry at me and refused to talk to me any longer simply for asking; the rest acted as though they did not know what I was talking about.
Fourth, I left Campus Ministry after one of my friends who was in it began publically advocating for “marriage equality,” and my awkward attempt at fraternal correction destroyed the friendship. Around the same time, I concluded that my duty as a Catholic was to adhere to tradition, and from then on I assisted exclusively at the Traditional Latin Mass, eventually finding a SSPV chapel within driving distance. This led to the loss of the rest of my friends. One of them, a pious and earnest individual for whom I still have great respect, spent months looking for the right explanation, and failing to find it finally wrote to me merely stating that the changes in the Church were necessary because opinions change, for example, we don’t accept the Aristotelian physics anymore. That person now teaches theology at Notre Dame.
It wasn’t long after my departure that the director of Campus Ministry, a priest who had heard my confessions and always sounded quite conservative from the pulpit, took the stage with the chair of the theology department, a notorious sodomite, to publically advocate for “gay rights” on campus in the name of God. That was the last straw. The day after the event was announced, I left the university.
The short version of this story, which I give at job interviews to account for my time, is that I attended Fordham University but at length found that I would be unable to pursue a career in the field that I had chosen. That much is true: there are no more Pontifical schools of Sacred Theology in existence, and the philosophy departments of the world have lost all interest in the truth or anyone who would profess it.
However, the true motive for aborting my academic career was the overwhelming sense of betrayal that I continue to feel. I forgive my teachers for misleading me and my friends for abandoning me, but how can I study under men who have destroyed my trust in them by their words and actions? And so it would be at any other school, because the subversion of the Church was systematic and began in the schools, and it extended not only to Catholic schools but to all institutions of higher learning whether public or private.
I have never met another traditional Catholic interested in college to pursue learning for its own sake, since presumably they all know better than did I, the weakest and stupidest of all. But anyway, the moral of the story is not to bother, if that’s your interest. Instead, skip the debt, get a day job working with your hands, and relax by night with good books.
What a fascinating story, Daniel. I’ve read and re-read this all several times now. How good God has been to reward your love of Truth by gifting you the true faith. I wouldn’t call you stupid or weak at all–especially considering the fact that you didn’t have the true faith to guide you when making your initial college decisions. It takes a special kind of person to see through all of the lies you have encountered. I hope to meet you someday because something tells me I could learn a lot.
As far as college, yes, I believe most everyone should avoid it. There do seem to be some circumstances, however, when it is a necessity. Personally, I felt an absolutely unmistakable calling to be a sign language interpreter. In my state, an associate’s degree is a pre-requisite to entering the field. I didn’t have any money, but I worked a full-time day job which enabled me to cash-flow part-time night classes. It was a terrible amount of work, but I had a very definite plan which certainly paid off. I graduated without owing a penny to anyone, and I was able to dive right into my chosen profession while earning a rather handsome starting salary. For me, college worked out. But for most, it doesn’t.