The Best Advice

Today’s prompt for the My 500 Words challenge is to share your best advice with the world. Something you wish someone would have told you ten, or five, or even one year ago.

The thing is, sometimes the best advice you get is the advice you don’t listen to, the advice you have to figure out on your own. Stay in school — everybody told me to stay in school. But I knew better. And now I’m kicking myself. Back then I felt like “that little piece of paper” they give you at the end of your four (or more) year stint at college was utter BS. And truthfully, it is. I’ve learned a great deal through life and working and figuring things out on my own. But at the same time, I also feel like not having that little piece of paper has held me back in so many ways. So I tell all of my young friends, “Stay in school.”

Maybe the true advice is, “Don’t turn down a free ticket.” When I was in school, my parents were paying for my education. I didn’t understand the value of it. Nobody could convince me of the value of it — and believe me they tried. Many people tried. But I couldn’t see it, and I wasn’t working for it — I had a free ride. So I didn’t understand how much it cost and the sacrifices my parents made to give me that free ride, and that once I was out on my own, I’d never get another free ride again. Now, what I’m kicking myself for is not just that I didn’t stick it out and get that little piece of paper, but that I didn’t do it while it was free for the taking.

Now that I’m doing it on my own time, it’s taking me years — too many years. I’ve learned the value of it the hard way. I’ve seen how many potential employers overlooked me because I didn’t have that little piece of paper. I’ve seen how hard it is to carve out the time, between work, raising a family, and staying on top of things like groceries and bills and appointments. I’ve seen how hard it is to save the money to afford tuition and books. And I see what a big difference it can make it what I can earn. It’s a huge difference.

My nineteen year old self was indignant at the unfairness of it. And it is unfair. I was turned down for jobs I knew how to do, jobs I was driven to do well, jobs I know I could have excelled at — all because I didn’t have that one little piece of paper. I’m currently earning very little more now than I was when I first got married twenty-some years ago. Between switching careers, moving around, taking time off to freelance, and working part time so that I could be a full-time parent, I’ve been spinning my wheels economically for twenty years. Oh yes, and there’s also the politics of gender involved there, but that’s for another rant.

Nobody could convince me of this when I needed to be convinced though. I had to learn on my own. And sometimes that’s what people have to do. Sometimes the best advice you get is what you learn on your own.