Ask Dr. Brilliant Cliche and the Granny Doctor: Freedom

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
After I dropped out of school I got caught for a petty crime — I shoplifted some CDs. Anyway, my parents got me intothis “rehab” program so I could minimize the impact of my pilfering. They feel like they’ve done their job, the state thinks I’m reforming and everyone’s happy. I’m supposed to go back to school and get my life on track.

Here’s the problem — I just don’t give a damn. I don’t give a crap about college. I just want to experience life before I lock myself into the prison I’ve watched my parents live in. I feel like this is all a lie and I just want to run away from it. Any reason I shouldn’t?
Jane Reb

Dear Jane,
Yes; you could go to prison for real. You may be right — your parents live in a box. We all do in one way or another. But I think you have the wrong idea about freedom. Freedom isn’t getting to do whatever you want whenever you want. That is just a state of limbo because life’s struggles are one of the things that define us. There is no meaning if you live just the moment. With that type of existence, it’s as if you are the wind and you are only defined by the damage you leave behind after you have blown through.

A more valuable freedom lies in choosing what defines you. There is freedom in choosing the path and the vocation that will support the walls of your individual box. Perhaps your parents chose their children to define them. They probably worked 9-5, paid the mortgage and provided your basic needs so that you had the opportunity to go to school, play and have a decent life. Those walls, although
invisible, provided the structure and consistency necessary to raise healthy children.

In rejecting any structure, you run the risk of having one imposed on you — for example, prison. You are not unique in your thinking. What people want is often determined by the culture they are trying to
escape from; thus when they get what they want it isn’t really what they need. A word of caution: You think you are making judgments on facts when you’re really making them purely on feelings. I suggest that you go see the play Pippin; it is about someone asking the same question that you are.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: If you want to experience life and you want it to be a good experience, you are going to need more than a collection of adventures. You are going to need to be able to take care of yourself in the long run.

Going to college right after high school is not necessarily for everyone. It’s not a bad idea to take some time and see the world; many kids waste their time in college because they don’t know what they want to do. They spend their time partying rather than learning. There is no virtue in being an aimless academic with a hangover.

Just keep this in mind — if you don’t get a college degree, or at least some solid vocational education, you are going to be at a disadvantage wherever you go. A lack of qualifications builds the walls to a box you may never get out of. You won’t be qualified for the rewarding, better paying jobs unless you happen to be extremely talented, well-connected AND lucky as hell. Oh, and have the ability to handle repeated rejection. Most people just can’t go this route.

Take some time off after high school if you want. Travel and get some practical experience. See what interests you, what you are drawn to. But don’t sell yourself short and try to wing it on your fabulous personality and youthful charm. If you get a degree and don’t want to use it, fine. But you will never regret earning one. That is a promise.

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