Tag Archives: College

An Associates Degree Is Useless

One of my goals during my vacation was to seriously explore other jobs. I currently work a part-time union job at UPS which I honestly feel is below my capabilities. I do think I’m intelligent and clever and working at UPS shipping packages seems so anticlimactic to what I think — and somehow know — my real potential is. The entire issue for me is how to realize this potential which I seem totally unable to do through insecurities or indecisiveness. I think my life can mean more than working a part-time job at UPS and I’m trying to find out what that more actually is.

(Big NOTE here on how I seem to be defining my self-worth based on what job I work. I know if you take this too far it’s dangerous — we’re all more than our jobs — but if you don’t take it far enough you’d be making the opposite mistake. There is no way I can be working at UPS in 20 years and feel happy about it. I just can’t. It’s inevitable that I’d feel like I squandered my life. If you are happy working whatever shitty job you have, great, I’m actually jealous of people that can do this. I think I’m hopelessly not one of these people.)

I started looking for piloting jobs to no avail. I have a commercial pilot’s license which means theoretically I can get paid to fly, but it doesn’t really work out that way in the real world. I can’t be an airline pilot (they require 1,500 hours) and I can’t fly a multi-engine airplane. Those alone cut me out of like 97% of all jobs. Did I find anything I could do? No. They all require things slightly above my current experience, like 1,000 hours, 2,000, or whatever. I have a commercial pilot’s license but can’t do a damn thing with it realistically. Luckily I knew this when I got the license; the commercial license is basically useless unless you know someone to hook you up with a job and mostly serves as a stepping stone to other certifications.

I checked out a few other places. Jobs at the local Amazon facility; maybe I could be a delivery driver or something? No. Nothing. The only positions opened were entry level grunt work warehouse bullshit (that I’m unwilling to settle for, especially since I worked there five years ago) or mid/upper management work that I’m nowhere near qualified for. There was nothing for me, me being the sort of not-a-high-school-kid but also not 40-with-a college-degree-and-work-experience. I’m someone caught between being a high school graduate and a college graduate.

Because I have an Associates Degree in Science. Yay?!

I checked a few other random places like Thermo Fisher Scientific. They had some more entry level positions (‘Associate Manufacturing Technician’) and some upper-level positions, but once again nothing that fit my shitty mid‐tier associate degree of science. Once again, I don’t want to work a job that someone with a high school diploma or a GED could do but wasn’t qualified to do any of the higher-level work such as what an ‘Organic Synthesis Chemist’ would do.

And onto fucking SpaceX if you can believe it. Why the hell not? Let’s see what jobs they offer. Once again there was the same split between entry-level work and expert work. Most of the jobs required a Bachelor’s or higher while a few remaining jobs only required a high school diploma with nothing in between. I could be a SpaceX ‘Barista’ but couldn’t be a ‘GNC Satellite Attitude Determination & Control Engineer’. I couldn’t find a single job mentioning an associate degree and felt trapped between the poles of being under qualified and overqualified for anything. 

Granted I only looked at a handful of jobs, but I feel this could confirm what my cynical friend has said about his own associates degrees: they’re glorified high school diplomas. They offer nothing in the way of benefits and only serve as a stepping stone to higher degrees. An associates degree is apparently only useful if you grab it on your way to a bachelor’s degree. And I don’t know how I feel about this.

I went back to school around the age of 27 or so after dropping out of college around 20. I wanted to say that I went back to college and actually did something with my life. And I did. I got my damn degree in the mail one day without the fluff and bullshit of a graduation ceremony. All that mattered to me was the degree and I didn’t feel the need to share the success with my friends and family. Who cares? It’s not a big deal really. I showed up, did the work, and got my degree. But when I found it in the mail one day I did feel something. The final realization that “I did it? I did it.” That I finally accomplished something in life after slacking for a decade. I didn’t know what I’d do with it at the time but surely I’d figure it out.

Cut to today. 34 years old and checking out random jobs and realizing my associates degree is totally useless. All that matters is the Bachelor’s and higher. I’m basically a glorified high school student with no practical life benefits to having obtained this degree. It’s not a good feeling to know what you’ve accomplished isn’t enough and there’s always more to do. Countless other people that are more accomplished than you that have life seemingly more figure out than you and get actually get through life. And here I am writing some shitty blog complaining about it all. Should I work towards a bachelor’s degree in whatever or keep trying to bullshit some piloting job? With no clear way forward, what do you choose? As always if someone has answers to these questions, please fill me in because I’m fucking clueless.

And if you found a good job with an associates degree, what the hell was it?

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Planting Grass on Graduation Day and “What do I want to do in life?” Sucks

I planted grass the day I graduated high school. This isn’t metaphorical wordplay either: I literally planted grass. No grand statement about sowing seeds for the future or dreams of a career in horticulture or anything. Just planting grass for the sake of planting grass.

My grandfather passed away about a year and a half earlier and he was an avid gardener. He planted about five acres of land by hand as a hobby and sold the produce at his roadside vegetable stand. He then took the money from that and funded next years crops. He’d work at least 12 hours a day during the spring, summer, and fall. I didn’t know it at the time but he was a fucking madman.

One little area he planted was right next to their house, just a tiny 20-by-15 foot rectangle that he sometimes let me plant things in. There’d usually be sunflowers, tomatoes, and strawberries, and I don’t recall what else was usually grown there. Anyways, he passed away and his tiny garden turned to grass and weeds, still mowable because it was such a small area, but the rectangle looked awful in the rest of yard. Wild grasses and weeds growing in a box in the middle of grass (he rented the rest of the fields so those growing up in weeds didn’t matter). This is why I planted grass that day. I was doing my grandma a favor by making that hideous rectangular section of yard actually look nice.

I only mention this story because it seems like the perfect example for my indecision and indifference to my future. I was equally skeptical of the “importance” of graduation because, after all, it was just another day, right? Graduating high school wasn’t that big of a deal to me. I did my school work, got decent grades, and then I graduated. It’s almost like it was an accident, not my personal achievement but something that happened to me (yes, I’ve been reading up on Imposter Syndrome). But I also realized the importance of the day. We go to school nearly every day for most of our formative years. People usually don’t remember their lives before school, so school is just the thing we do for our entire lives growing up. It’s always there. And standing there planting grass I couldn’t help but realize that I was done. There was no more school. The past 14 years of nearly nonstop schooling was finished. 14 years?! I was now an adult, a real adult that wasn’t in school anymore. My life was in front of me. What would I do? What adventures would I go on? What greatness would I achieve?

Planting grass was the ellipsis at the end of my life story so far. ‘Jeremy graduated high school today and then…‘ And ‘then what?’ indeed. Looking back it seems like such a strange but totally obvious thing I’d do as the conflicted individual that I was and still am. No party? No celebration? No deep reflecting? No college apps? No job hunting? No. Plant grass. This was/is my post-high school life: doing random shit with no overarching goal.

I never knew what I wanted to do with my life as a teenager. I assumed time would clear up my indifference and indecision. One idea I toyed with was to become an aerospace engineer; I could design airplane stuff and it seemed challenging enough but I wasn’t set on it as a career yet. I wasn’t set on anything. I had floated through life up until graduation and I’d float through life just a little longer until I found something I was passionate about. Until I found my calling.

Then off to community college which I dropped after three semesters. I was too drunk, high, and riddled with substance/relationship-induced depression that I couldn’t drag myself through school anymore. I didn’t care. Once again, I was sure time would remove the fog, but just a little longer of indecision was perfectly fine, thank you.

About five fucking years later (or so) I stumbled back into college to finally knock out the Associate’s degree that I was about halfway through. A few years later: mission accomplished. A job well done. And now that I had a nearly-useless Associate’s degree the same question came up as it always does: now what? I still didn’t have any plan for what I actually wanted to do. By this time I was 28 or 29 and the ‘just a little more time until I figure things out’ idea was starting to freak me out. Ten years after high school and I was still as indifferent as I was when I was planting grass. So when was time going to clear things up for me?

I’m 33 and still have no idea what I want to do. I’ve basically given up hope that time will clear things up for me because it sure hasn’t even though I’m nearly double the age I was when I graduated. Maybe this is what they call ‘wisdom’? If it is it sure doesn’t seem very useful.

Stuck in my head like I always am, I assumed nearly everyone felt this indecision in life. No, not everyone it seems. A friend at work has recently started taking classes to major in biodegradable plastics. Fuck. That is so stupidly specific I’m assuming she knows exactly how passionate she is about it and went all in. There’s another girl that is taking a two year course to be a respiratory care nurse or something; once again she has all the confidence in the world and is fully committed to her plan. Sleepless nights, endless homework, no free time, and she loves the struggle of it all. Part of me wonders if they’re really that committed to their plans or if there is some denial about how quickly someone can change their minds or find it unfulfilling. I don’t know. And another friend recently obtained a Master’s degree in business and is now questioning everything about his life and the choices he’s made. He’s in his mid-thirties currently struggling through a blatant mid-life crisis where nothing is certain to him anymore. Years ago he was the most confident and driven person that I ever knew and admired his dedicated drive. How can anyone be this certain about what they want to do? I’d ask myself. But even people who seem self-confident in their goals can fall from grace given the bullshit that is life and the human mind. Is this terrifying or comforting? Probably a little bit of both.

Luckily I know of a few people just as lost and as clueless as I am. One friend is nearly in the same position I was in a few years ago, although much younger. She’s on the verge of getting an associates degree at the same community college I attended and also has zero idea of what she wants to do afterwards. I really hope she figures it out because I think it really helps a person achieve their potential if they have a clear direction to move towards, but it’s also comforting to know that I’m not alone with my struggles. I’m constantly trying to stress that I used to see time as a cure-all for indecision, and that I pissed away too much of it by doing so. That you might never know what you “really want to do” but time keeps ticking so you can’t sit around forever waiting. You have to make progress and do something, anything. Just trying to make my mistakes clear to others so they at least have the ability to learn if they feel the urge to do so.

This indecisiveness isn’t a thing that time clears up, that is certain. In fact it seems to be an individual trait and not some universal thing we all constantly share, although I’m positive most people feel hints of it here or there and simply deal with doubt better than I do. That’s just who I am: indifferent and too terrified to pick a singular thing and run with it. And fuck am I envious of those confident people that somehow know exactly what their calling in life is. Those that can sit down, get to work, and make progress towards their dreams while disregarding all the distractions on the journey. And even if you do feel like a lost, hopeless, and confused human being, others certainly feel the same way you do. We’re never alone, we just need to find others that share our flaws.