Scholarly Achievement

Sep 23, 2013 by

          My opinion on academia is straightforward: a university degree is useless unless one intends to enter a profession. (Some people don’t share my perspective. Let’s agree to disagree. It’s easier that way.) Given that I was naively convinced by high school teachers and society in general that a university degree is a prerequisite for success, I most definitely resent my education. It screwed me into thousands of dollars in debt without yielding a return on investment. I can’t even fondly look back on the years that I spent in post-secondary school and smile at the memories. I hated it. I wouldn’t redo those four years for millions of dollars. They were amongst the worst of my life, only to be beat by the two years following them that preceded The Happiness Experiment.

          Nevertheless, I can appreciate that academia is a passion of some, one being a friend of mine from high school. I can’t think of someone more enthusiastic about education. He loves the rhythm of the school year, wholeheartedly embraces student culture, and finds utmost joy in learning, hence why he’s planned to teach for as long as I’ve known him. Since beginning university, his goal of becoming a high school teacher grew into something more ambitious. Completely opposite of me, he enjoyed every aspect of university. Unrealistically wanting to be a post-secondary student forever, he’s on route to the next best thing: professorship. Currently working toward his Master of Arts (MA) in Sociology, his next step will be his doctorate. Though never overly impressed by anyone’s academic credentials or professional experience, I am always inspired by people who go after what they want. This friend, not even holding his MA degree yet, has himself set for admission into a doctoral program: he’s working his ass off to earn straight 90s, he’s recently been awarded a competitive government grant, and he’s about to be published with only a Bachelor’s degree to his name.

          On Friday night, when he told me that his research is going to be published, I was reminded of the Grade 12 version of him that thought he’d never make honour roll. I, who had the displeasure of my name consistently appearing on the honour roll list, couldn’t fathom why someone would want his average on public display. (I severely dislike the idea of students being congratulated for achieving a semester average of 85 percent or higher, their names adorning a wooden plaque like a status symbol, wrongfully implying that they are any smarter than those that did not wear the prestigious stamp. I believe that high grades are a better representation of hard work than intelligence. For me, personally, they were a reflection of the social life I unknowingly traded for my books during my first two years of high school. Thus, I preferred to keep my academic success private. I didn’t need to be reminded of what I had forgone in favour of expectations imposed on me as a student. My school begged to differ, posting my name at its front entrance, one semester after another until graduation. Thankfully, by Grade 11, I had happily bid farewell to that 97 percent Grade 10 midterm average for mid-80s to low 90s and a social life.) Regardless, I knew it was important to him. Always confident in his ability to apply himself, I knew that he could do it. Presently amused by the idea of him, a now thriving MA student, thinking he couldn’t get himself on a high school honour roll, I recalled the day he made the list.

          I was sitting in the backseat of my dad’s van, watching Bramalea Rd pass me by on the drive home from school when my phone rang. I flipped it open.

          “Tree, where the hell are you?” I heard from the other end before I could even say hello.

          “I’m on my way home from school. What’s up?” I wondered.

          “I’ve been running around the whole school looking for you!” the future MA student announced through the receiver.

          “Why? What’s wrong?” I asked in concern.

          “I made the honour roll!” he excitedly declared. “I’ve been trying to find you to tell you! I knew you’d be the only person who’d give a shit.”

          I shrieked, “That’s amazing! I told you that you could do it! I’m so proud of you! Congratulations!”

          Seven years following that phone call, I was radiating with as much pride when I found out that his work is to be published in a journal. Scholars will read his findings. Papers will reference his words. The guy whose goal was once as simple as achieving honour roll status is going to be published at only twenty-fucking-four years old! More than proud of my friend, I am moved by his determination. A flourishing academic career to him is what Europe is to me. I am sincerely happy for him.

          My dear readers, I present to you the accomplishment of yet another person who has chosen his path according to what makes him happy. I continue to encourage you to go after your own definition of happiness, whatever that may be. If you haven’t found it yet, start happiness experimenting already!

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