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Just a Piece of Paper




I have just completed a bachelor of contemporary arts at an accredited university.  As a graduate I have encountered the perception from some people that my three years of hard work have rewarded me with nothing more than a “piece of paper”. These fools believe that the reason behind my undertaking this degree was to simply receive that piece of paper and that my experiences and education account for absolutely nothing.


I noticed this for the first time on my graduation day. After attending the ceremony I did what any self respecting art graduate would do and made a beeline for the bar. While celebrating our achievement with my colleagues, people in the bar (complete strangers) kept asking us why we bothered to go to university at all. Why had we happily squandered their tax dollars for three years, simply to spend 90 minutes fannying around in robes at the end of it all? “All that fuss for just a piece of paper”. I will explain, for the hard of understanding, why this degree is not about “a piece of paper”, why I did it in the first place, and why, most of all, these questions shit me to tears.


At university my education was multi-layered. There was the very 'Meat and Potatoes' kind of learning: formal writing, presentation of work and the other curriculum based stuff. Then there was the bit where I learned how to ask for help, how to help others, basic comprehension of information and how to scrutinize everything that came my way. I learned the value of understanding the basic psychology of the people and the institution I was working with. Probably the most important thing I learned was that you get out what you put in. How the hell can a piece of paper ever represent that?


While not everyone needs to go to university to have this kind of education, I figured that for me it was a good place to start. The degree was simply a step toward a lifelong career of growth and learning. As a mature student, university was a daunting notion to me and I had to make a pretty big decision with my life. Even before starting my education I had to let go of a lot of insecurities, I had to lose many preconceptions about the world and most importantly I needed to get some serious motivation.


For all of this though, it appears that I now deserve less respect than someone who simply accepts what life throws at them without ever questioning it. Why the hell are my choices stupidly questioned, when it seems that complete morons, without the faintest suspicion that there is more to life than 9 to 5 and happy hour, are perfectly ok?  I have noticed that these people will bring up my “piece of paper” and in the same breath whine about how “hard done by” they are. They moan about how they failed at life because everyone else let them down and bitch about not following their dreams because they got married and had kids.  It's as if all of their shortcomings are someone else's fault.


This “piece of paper” issue is not confined to bars. Recently, relatives of mine were asking the same thing. Why would I go and disrupt my entire life for a piece of paper? As if it were more noble to be content with the status quo. For fuck’s sake, while you lot have invested the past three years in the house, the car and the latest shiny gadget, I have chosen to spend my time learning and growing. I went to university because I wanted my life be as different from yours as possible. I don't want to hang around, filling my time with meaningless jobs and hollow activities.   I am not satisfied with things that are made in China and come in a box.  I want to succeed at what I do, or at least have the guts to accept that I can only blame my failure on myself.


For me, making the decision to study and get a degree, meant accepting responsibility for my actions and creating change. It was about taking a step back and critically looking at who I was and what I intended to do on this planet, besides squander time and resources. University for me was the boot to the head that I needed to get off my fucking hands and knees and make life work for me! Education of any kind is not about the piece of paper, it’s about taking control of your LIFE! It’s about doing something positive; getting what you want and making a contribution to the world. While you wallow in what could have been, some of us decided to get off our fat, beer guzzling, material-driven arses and improve ourselves. I will not suffer stupid people who, in their ignorance, try to reduce my hard-earned education to a piece of paper!



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