Jul 7, 2022·edited Jul 7, 2022Liked by Michelle Bi

Be very, very careful with how you spend your time and money, Michelle. I'm pushing 50, and this is the first time in my life people have started to acknowledge that maybe not all higher education is a great idea. You all will be much better off if you take those warnings to heart.

I have no idea whether "neuroscience" is worth it. But I can say a couple of things:

1. Almost nobody really likes their job. Probably the best you can do is not hate your job. If you don't like physical labor, make sure you get a degree in something employable. If sitting behind a desk sounds nightmarish, for God's sake don't apply to a corporation. You'll never get out. If you're searching for passion and meaning in your work, make sure you have a wealthy grandfather and no siblings to split the inheritance.

2. Your hypothetical student with an interest in medieval literature must, must keep that as a passionate hobby in order to be happy. The degree is utterly useless, including for people who love medieval literature. I shiver when I think of how close I came to being your hypothetical. On the upside: having an interest in medieval literature is fucking cool, and will bring him a lot of joy so long as he keeps it strictly as a hobby.

3. TIME MATTERS. Student debt is not your only concern. Years spent at university are years not spent building something else.

4. Don't be fooled by a cultural push for prestige, or by the idea that if you just spend the time on certain degrees you'll eventually reduce the risk of not-being-poor or will automatically get lucrative jobs that don't require lots of hard work (this is kind of tied to #4 above). I did my undergrad, worked for a few years in a mailroom (turns out "English major" doesn't get you shit), went to law school, and have had well-compensated jobs since. My story is kind of the definition of "success" until you look more closely. I spent seven years - seven! - earning nothing and spending a ton. My friends who became cops, or teachers, or opened their own businesses are making more or less the same money I am (OK, maybe they make less annually, but above a certain threshold that doesn't matter as mucha s you'd think), work fewer hours, and often have lovely pensions waiting for them in a few years while I will need to work into my 70s. Don't be fooled by promised prestige.

5. Start making money now, start your family now, for any definition of "now". Fine, I'll modify that somewhat: take a Rumspringa for a year, 18 months. Screw and drug your way across Canada if that's what floats your boat in your 20s. But that's it. Get your life moving afterwards. It's not a vacation if you don't go home.

And good luck. This sounds like doom and gloom, but it really isn't - just be careful, and don't automatically drift with the current. Think things through and it will work out.

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Hello, thank you for sharing your own journey and taking the time to write such a thoughtful response. It's great to hear the perspective of someone who has actually gone through this.

Points 1&2: Quite sad, but true

3&4: I appreciate you brought up the point of time, because it actually didn't occur to me while I was writing this piece. I guess I'm still stuck in the mentality of "there's still plenty of time for me", but as you mentioned, the amount of time trying to figure out what to do can add up to a lot.

I'll make sure to keep your advice in mind as I move forward!

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