I was born in 1960. Both my parents were first-generation Americans, offspring of immigrants; my moms's side from Greece and my dad's side from Ireland via Canada. When I was growing up, the Kool-Aid was that you had to go college if you were going to be "somebody who mattered." My parents, both of the post-WWII Baby Boomer generation, totally drank that Kool-Aid and relentlessly bathed me in the College-Industrial complex propaganda:
"Go to college and you'll earn more money."
"Go to college to get a meaningful and interesting job."
"You can't be a complete person unless you've gone to college."
There was just one problem: I had absolutely no desire to go to college. I hated school. And by "school" I mean the government-funded warehouses most people park their kids in during the school year. In fact, I hated school so much that I quit in my junior year in high school. But, being a government-indoctrinated blood bag, what was my big idea? To go into the Navy and fix airplanes.
Actually, there was a bigger plan there. I wanted to learn a trade. The trade I had in mind was what I saw as an up and coming field: aircraft electronics technician.
I had a great job in the Navy repairing navigational radar equipment for Navy P3 anti-submarine squadrons. I can honestly say that it was the most challenging and interesting job I've ever had in my life, including my life as an engineer with not one but two college degrees-- more on that later.
So the end of my enlistment term rolls around and I opted to get Honorably discharged from Uncle Sam's Navy. While I loved the job, I hated all the micky mouse Navy shit: "Get a haircut, Brown." "Shine your shoes, Brown." "Quit smoking dope, Brown." Hey, I was still a teenager in the 70's - what do you expect?
Anyway, my enlistment term came to an end and me a buddy rode our motorcycles back home from Moffet Field, California-- my buddy to Texas and me to Georgia.
Once back home, the parental pressure resumed: go to college and make something of your train wreck of a life ("train wreck" because I had quit high school, shaming and embarrassing them to their corporate work-a-day friends).
I eventually succumbed to my parent's relentless pressure and guilt-trips. I had taken college courses while in the Navy and scored well enough on the SAT to get accepted into the University of Georgia. This isn't saying much as it was known as Budweiser U back in the 80's, before it somehow got a reputation as an academic hot spot in the South (which I still don't believe). I graduated in 1984 with a degree in Agricultural Engineering under the misguided vision that I would start one of the first legal marijuana farms in the country.
Well, that didn't work out so well.
So I worked for a year as a process engineer at Michelin Tire Corporation in Greenville, SC. That pretty much sucked. So after a year of sucking tire fumes, I was brain damaged enough to go BACK to college. This time for a Master's degree in Environmental Engineering so I could design hazardous waste treatment systems.
I think I reinvented the definition of "naively misguided." Now, when you look up "unbelievably naive" or "pretty fuckin' stupid," you'll see a picture of me.
I ended up with shitty jobs at consulting firms and corporations, primping around in suit and tie, learning to talk that fake professional talk in endless, pointless meetings with blow-hard lawyers, corporate apparatchiks, and hopelessly ignorant yet endlessly arrogant government regulators.
Then, one day, came my day of Epiphany.
I was at a job at a Tombstone pizza plant on an ammonia refrigeration system I had designed (it's a long story how I got into doing that, I'll tell that another time). I struck up a friendship with the head pipe fitter for the job, a union member.
The piping in ammonia refrigeration systems has to be steel because ammonia and copper hate each other. As my dear old dad, Grant Brown once told me, "Any asshole can work with copper; it takes a highly paid asshole to work with steel." And this guy was very highly paid, as I soon found out.
We compared work hours and salary/wages. Turns out he had more time off than me, made waaay more money than me, and enjoyed his job a lot more than me. So I then asked myself, I said, "Self, who got sold a bill of goods here?"
And that's when it hit me.
Most college degrees are about teaching you to become a corporate bureaucrat; to endure arbitrary deadlines and crank out work that has little personal meaning to you.
What you really want to is to be self-employed, not to work for some soul-sucking corporation. I discovered that the initial impulses of my youth were absolutely correct: avoid the college scam, learn a skill, and start your own business. Starting your own business is the essence of the American Dream because it is an expression of personal freedom and creativity.
The day I realized that, I quit my corporate job and began my adventure as an appliance repair tech. It's been much more interesting and challenging work than anything I did as an engineer.
Yanno, maybe back in the day, when getting a job with a Big Corporation meant employment for life, it might have made sense to go to college. But not these days. Nawsir, the name of the game today is to go your own way, make your own path. And starting your own appliance repair business is one of the best ways to do that today according to this report:Great News: Positive Job Outlook for Appliance Repair Techs!