I’ve been part of the unschooling/uncollege community for years now, and I’ve tried hard to practice what I preach. I treat kids with dignity and respect, I recognize other people’s interests and passions as legitimate, and I do my best to accept other people for who they are. But I’m having one major problem: when it comes to my own education, I’m not feeling so good at this whole self-directed learning thing.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy learning! I love to learn new things, at least in theory. But in practice, I’ll sit down to read a book or watch a lecture, even one whose content I’m really interested in, and I get distracted almost immediately. I’d rather play a video game, I’d rather talk to a friend. I can’t get myself to create art or practice a musical instrument. Even writing doesn’t come naturally to me anymore. Anything that takes focus I just can’t seem to do. Sometimes I’ll decide I need more structure in my life, and start creating lists and schedules. But I stick to those for maybe a day and then I can’t stand it anymore.
And I’m not sure what it is, exactly, that I need. I worry that I might have undiagnosed ADD and need medication, but my psychiatrist seems doubtful. I wonder if I just lack self-discipline, but that conflicts with my belief that discipline shouldn’t be necessary for motivation. Is it just that I lack external motivation? Maybe I do need to be in school. Maybe I’ve been wrong all along and some people really do need formal education to get anything done. But that would fly in the face of the lived experience of so many terrific unschoolers I know, and it would mean the entire philosophy I’ve been living by is wrong. Maybe I’m just in a place in my life where I need other things more than I need education. But there’s still that looming fear that I’m doing everything wrong, especially when my other “self-directed” friends seem to be doing amazing things and I’m not.
And anyway, if I did go to college, what would I be going for? Not the right reasons, I can tell you that. The right reason to go to college, in my view, is because you’re passionate about the academics of a particular subject or you know you want a career that requires a particular degree. If I go back to college right now, it will be out of fear. Fear that I can’t do it on my own, fear of ending up poor forever. But then I know so many people with degrees who can barely find even a minimum-wage job, and they’ve got student loan debt to pay back.
I’ve talked before about going to a low-residency program, like Goddard, and that option is still on the table. But I worry that I’m going for the wrong reasons, and I worry more that there’s something wrong with me that would make the workload impossible.
I feel like I’m running out of time. I’m 27 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve got to figure something out soon.