For my undergraduate degree, I attended a small liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia, called Washington and Lee University. A highly conservative school with 97% of the students going Greek, it was not exactly somewhere that I fit in. I didn’t drink, I wasn’t wealthy, I didn’t dress up, I wasn’t a redneck, and I didn’t like Dave Matthews.
When it came time to choose a major, I was torn. I knew that I wanted to go to law school, but I had no interest in political science or business or any of the other typical pre-law majors. They all bored me to death. I hated my politics class so much and skipped so many classes that on my final exam, the professor wrote a question like this: “Congressman Adam Avitable is absent from 40 out of the 75 scheduled votes in a session. What is this called?” As you can imagine, I had no fucking idea what the answer was.
I took advantage of the fact that I was in a liberal arts college and took classes in religion, gender studies (which just means womyn studies, and I found that to be obnoxious), art, and Japanese. It was in my Japanese class, taught by Professors Ann Rogers and Ken Ujie, that I started to find a place where I fit in. Our classes took place in a tiny ramshackle house on campus that was falling apart at the seams. The other languages were all taught in state-of-the-art classrooms in austere buildings that were part of the Colonnade that graces every photo taken of our school. Japanese and Chinese classes were not where the normal, traditional students were. This was the place of the outcast, the non-Stepford wife in training, the reject, the independent thinker.
Throughout the four years I was there, I expanded my classes to include Japanese language, culture, art, history, and religion. I eschewed other classes in favor of creating independent studies where I could study the films of Kurosawa or curate a museum showing of priceless East Asian artifacts. I didn’t have the money to go to Japan, but I desperately wanted to. I didn’t care about my core classes – I skipped as many as I could, barely paid attention in class, and passed by the skin of my teeth. But when it came to East Asian studies, I focused. I studied the language and practiced my calligraphy. We learned to cook traditional food and eat with chopsticks. I convinced the teaching assistant, who was fresh from Japan, to teach us profanity even though it made her blush. And when it came time to graduate, I may have only had a 2.8 cumulative GPA, but in my major, I had a 3.7, and that’s all I cared about. My major – East Asian Studies.
Do you know what you do with a BA in East Asian Studies? You work at McDonald’s, or you get a job as an assistant, or you keep going to school until you get a degree that actually counts! And so I went to law school, got a Juris Doctorate, which I proceeded to waste miserably by never practicing a single day of law.
What’s the moral of the story? Your degree sucks. Mine sucks, too. In fact, most people have a completely worthless and useless degree. It doesn’t matter, though. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you need to do to move forward. Go back to school and get a graduate degree. Start your own business and build a pedigree that way. Work for a company at the bottom and work your ass off until you reach the top. But realize that it’s not your degree that’s holding you back. It’s you.