The Associate’s

You only have an Associate’s degree?

I always thought that the educational cycle was a given. You finish high school. You go to college or university. You get a job. The end. You’re done. You’re set. You’re an adult now and can contribute to society, and change the world!

Obviously, those thoughts were the reflection of an idealistic, naive, and simplistic 18 year-old’s outlook on life. I hadn’t lived life. I was a little kid who just did what the adults told me to. I didn’t know anything other than the clear instructions that dictated my actions. Find the value of X in this example. Type up your essay in 12pt Times New Roman font. Make sure to double-space and cite your sources. I lived to study for the next test, submit the next essay, and achieve good grades. Why get good grades? To get into a good college. Why get into a good college? So you can get a good job. What was the point of all this?

I didn’t fit that typical cycle that I envisioned. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do at 18 years-old. One day I wanted to study Horticulture. The other day Culinary Arts looked good. I went to community college for a year, then transferred to a private college, then dropped out after two years, then went back to community college to finish my Associate’s degree, then somehow worked my way up to a comfortable, salaried job.

It wasn’t an easy path, for sure. It still feels like everything and everyone is trying to work against you. Sometimes you’re tossed all the way back to the starting line and have to make that journey all over again.

I always told myself, “I’ll get my Bachelor’s once I’m financially stable.” I thought it was still important to “finish” school. I only kinda sorta went through the cycle that the rest of my peers went through. Was I missing out? Does it mean I’m stupid and unintelligent?

The answer for me is, “No.”

I do have a clear disadvantage in the eyes of a disapproving society. I’ve felt it in interviews through the tone of the voice to the tone of the eyes. “So you completed your Associate’s degree in Information Technology?” My reply is always a short, “Yes. That is correct.”

What do they expect me to say? “Nah, I lied. Ya got me!” Do they want me to make excuses for my apparent underachievement? I came here for a job and do work for your company. I feel that I am qualified based on what you posted in your job description. I’m not here to disclose my personal life to you to gain sympathy or pity. Honestly, I feel if there were any gaps in my knowledge that not having a Bachelor’s degree caused, I can easily remedy it by learning on my own. I’ve always been open to learning, and learning fast.

As a result of my job hunting journey, I’ve become keenly aware of how to write a good resume and scan through the sea of job listings. I learned quickly and adapted quickly. If something was working, I stuck with it and worked it. If it wasn’t, I trashed it. I can pick up on the tone of the interviewer and know right away whether this is going in the direction I want it to go. I’m confident that I could teach a class job hunting (of course, I don’t even qualify on paper. I’d be the only professor with just an Associate’s degree).

I don’t plan on getting my Bachelor’s anymore. It’s too damn expensive to get a piece of paper that I feel is just for bragging rights. There’s no guarantee this piece of paper will give you all the knowledge you need to succeed at your next job. Thanks to the Internet, knowledge is freely available online… specialized knowledge that’s cheaper and consumable on your own time. It’s simply up to you to filter out the bad from the good and think critically about how to apply this information.

At this point of my life, I am comfortable. I am proud of who I am and how far I’ve come. I earn more than some of my peers who do have Bachelor’s degrees. I will always strive to challenge myself and achieve as much as I can out of any situation. I am tenacious and determined, and I will make the situation work for me.

And I’m proud of my little Associate’s degree. It may not mean much to society, but it holds a lot of meaning for me. I’ve learned that I am smarter and stronger than I ever thought I was.

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