I think that formal education (College, University, High School) is just about the most surefire way to suck the passion and enjoyment out of learning and doing things.
Maybe I’m just being dramatic but I can say from personal experience that it definitely happens. Not always I suppose but it happened to me with photography, and it happened to me with coding. What’s that you say? It’s just a personal problem and I should suck it up? You know, I thought about that as a possibility. Instead of going there, let’s talk about my love for photography.
I use to absolutely LOVE photography. I would go out on the weekends, on the weekdays, in the mornings, in the evenings, any time I could get out. If someone said they wanted me to take pictures for them I was like, SURE! I would LOVE to do that! and then I started my freshman year at Pacific University as a photography major. Suddenly, I was being forced to take pictures of things that didn’t inspire me. That I didn’t like or enjoy, and that had absolutely nothing to do with where I wanted to take my photography when I graduated. On top of that these unpleasant assignments had deadlines that pushed my ability to do things and take pictures of things that I enjoyed far far away from reality. I couldn’t even do it on the weekends because I was busy writing essays on ghosts or doing Discrete Mathematics that was assigned Friday and due on Monday. And I hope I didn’t forget to mention that I was working 40 hours a week to pay my tuition bills that going into debt didn’t cover. I had no time. None whatsoever.
And so my only experiences with photography for the next two years were both rushed (because I was so busy) and they were unenjoyable (because I was photographing not what I wanted to photograph but what I was assigned to photograph.) And again, I understand if you think that’s just “How Life is.” College is super busy and you get through it. If you don’t like it then drop out. And by the way, if you drop out, you suck.
I disagree. I think that’s a terrible way to look at it. I believe that college is kind of . . . wrong. The way that it is set up now. It’s a system that encourages stress, unhealthy eating and living practices, and doesn’t focus on the things that you really love and want to do.
Anyway,I stopped studying photography, because, while I had once been making a steady income from what I was doing and loving, I began to hate what I was doing and loving. For the next two years, I pretty much only took pictures out of obligation, somebody wanted me to, somebody needed me to. Somebody knew that I was, at one point, a pretty decent photographer and wanted me to shoot something for them. And I never said no because I knew that I could do it. I just didn’t want to. And I always hated my results. I hated what I came home with on my memory card at the end of the day. It was so bad that I couldn’t give myself permission to delete bad photos because I would literally delete them all. Instead I would have to just give the files to whoever wanted them and hope they saw a few they liked.
I went to china for two weeks last October and brought my Camera. I shot over 1,000 photos and almost deleted all but 5 of them. Instead of deleting all the ones I didn’t like however I simply extra saved the ones that I like. I made them desktop backgrounds on my computer, put them in different folders, and then hid everything else in some deep subdirectory of my computer’s harddrive. 6 months later, early April of 2013, I was able to look through the images again briefly for about 15 minutes during which I pulled out another 3 images that I actually really liked and then put the rest of them back in that same subdirectory.
And then something crazy happened. I picked up my camera a few weeks ago and realized that, I actually WANTED to take pictures again. The traumatic horror of two years ago had finally begun to wear off. It was that point, when i tried to really take pictures again, that I realized my camera needed some open heart surgery and I sent it in to the doctor. And since I’ve gotten it back, I’ve been taking it out almost every other day and truly enjoying photography again. Something that I honestly never thought would happen. Which really just goes to show that it was in fact the external stimuli that was driving me away from what I enjoyed doing.
After all, how CAN you enjoy something if you never have time or the ability to do the parts of it that you find enjoyable? But isn’t that how life is? Everything is just so busy rush rush that if you have spare time to be doing something that you truly love you must be doing it wrong? No. Surely that can’t be right. It just sounds wrong. It doesn’t resonate with any bone in my body. I just can’t handle that being the truth.
And yet a very similar thing happened to me this last year when doing computer science at the University of Idaho. I enjoyed using programming languages. Nothing but symbols on my keyboard to make beautiful things happen. I truly enjoyed that. And then two semesters and 4 classes later when I hadn’t actually made a single thing because
a) I was being assigned meaningless little tasks that in no way advanced towards an end goal or outcome outside of, can you use an “ifstream” properly,
and b) taking 18 credits and working 40+ hours a week left me no time to work on personal projects that would advance towards some sort of goal or outcome. It just wasn’t happening.
And if just about the only thing that I need to feel is that I am accomplishing things and creating things and making life happen, when I don’t get any of those things, I slowly start to evaporate into a puddle of terrible feelings and sad emotions. Because I am not being fulfilled.
But isn’t it the case that most if not all people need to feel like they are working towards a goal and making things happen? Not just sinking into an ever expanding pool of quicksand? I would think so.
And if that isn’t the case then I guess I really am the problem. But if it is the case. If the vast majority of people on this planet have a deep need to feel like they are accomplishing things and working towards goals, then our education system does absolutely nothing for the vast majority of people but make them be miserable for the first 20 or so years of their life. And that’s a loooong time to be miserable.
Thankfully next year I will be both working on my senior project and be firmly entrenched in our project management class, both of which should keep me from feeling as though I am not doing anything worthwhile. 🙂
Would you like to see a couple of the pictures that I took yesterday?