We just got done with an awesome weekend with the whole family. Nothing big. Just some good food, some game time, and our favorite people. Three of The Rancher’s brothers are in college right now and coming home to the ranch is their quick breath of fresh air and their means for rejuvenation before the next week of school. I totally get the need to take a break and come up for air after so many deadlines nagging at you over and over again. Over the weekend we heard all sorts of “I gotta study for this big test…” or “I have this huge assignment coming up…” and it almost sorta, kinda took me back to the days that The Rancher and I were in school.
I had two different college experiences in the quest for my degree. The first was when I was single and living my own dream and all that was on my schedule was a little bit of school, a little bit of work, a little bit of homework, and a lot of sports games. That was my life. Oh, and trying to get into nursing school… Then I got married, moved and started a new university experience. I didn’t have an apartment of girls that I had to share the bathroom space with anymore, but I had a man that needed real food, that I had to negotiate who got the car with and that I was building a life and sharing a dream with.
It was awesome.
It was hard.
The Rancher is not a sit-down-read-the-text-book-to-learn kind of kid. There might have even been some classes that he didn’t even open his book up, let alone learn from it. He is hands on, learn as you go, trial and error kind of learning guy. He learns fast and can see so quickly how to get from A to B. But sitting in a classroom just drained the life out of him.
There were a lot of times that I heard people say, “Why is he going to school if he is just going back to the ranch? He isn’t even going to use his degree anyway. Its just a piece of paper.” And when I hear those words, my blood starts to boil.
Yes, my husband was very VERY lucky that he had a job waiting for him the day he finished college. The job he had dreamed of having his whole life. He didn’t have to do scores of applications and interviews. He was qualified for the job by his experience long before ever finishing his degree. But that doesn’t mean that his college experience wasn’t a valuable asset for him as he returned to the ranch.
When a grad walks away from college, we like to think it was only worthwhile if they got a job in their field or if they are able to make money using the skills and knowledge that they gained. If not then their experience was a total waste. In The Rancher’s case, it would seem that he already knew everything he would need to know to cowboy, so what was the sense in spending all that time and money on math classes and literature classes that he would never use anyway? And of course everything they would teach him in his ag classes were things that he should already know or he wouldn’t need to use. Right? It was just as wasteful as someone that went to a trade school or did an apprenticeship but changed course after getting done. Its wasted money and time if the girl that went to beauty school doesn’t open up a salon the week after she is certified or if the boy that went for diesel mechanics doesn’t end up working on trucks. Right?
I get that getting degrees and certificates and those kind of things cost money. I also get that we feel that there needs to be a return on that investment that is deemed worth such an investment. But the future potential income ISN’T the only returns from going to college.
There are so many life skills learned while going to college from the little things of doing laundry to learning how to problem solve from some crazy math (I will NEVER forgot the ah-ha moment I had mid-math class when I figured out the most complex problem… Never…) . Not to mention learning how to meet deadlines and pushing through to the end when you don’t want to.
You also gain an amazing network of friends and professionals in your area of study. They are the people you can work with, lean on and learn from. They push you to be better, help pick you up when you fall, and encourage you to try again. These people are so invaluable!
Taking time to step back from the ranch to learn from other people, their experiences and knowledge widens what can be a narrow view. You learn different ways, other ways, possibly better ways to work in the same industry.
If you ask The Rancher, a boy that spent all of his growing up time on the ranch, he will immediately tell you that he uses things that he learned from his classes. Especially his ag classes. Could he still ranch and cowboy without what he learned? Probably. Is he better at doing what he loves because of it? Absolutely.
The Rancher pushed through school because we both felt it was important to him. Not just for the things he learned, but for him to accomplish something that was hard, something that he thought he wasn’t made to do. We also thought it was important for the day that he may ever have to look for a job. Our dream was always to come back to the ranch, but what if that didn’t happen? What if it took years for that? What if at some point he had to look for other work? Having a degree made him marketable. It was a safety net that we needed for our family.
I am a big proponent of getting an education, ANY education you can. Because it is there that people gain valuable experience and confidence, gain life skills, net work, and find what they do and don’t want to do with their lives. You might think that this is an expensive cost to learn what they don’t want, but gaining an education is priceless. No matter what you are learning. It can be simply that you don’t ever want to be the prescribing rations of feed supplements. It could be that you learn how interested you are in genetics.
Not everyone is made for college or trade school or an apprenticeship. But everyone is made for learning. There is a whole world out there waiting to teach us is only we are ready to learn. So don’t ever think that because you or someone you know wants to cowboy or be a rancher that they don’t need to go to college or that they shouldn’t waste their time on college. Because it isn’t wasted time. Its invested time. Support them and their want to learn, their want to do something hard. They are probably going to complain or even regret it while in the thick of it all. But when it is all over, they will tell you it was worth it!