By: T. Dylan jones
As a freshman in high school, I sat down at a baby grand piano and improvised a tune. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t studied. It wasn’t impressive. That’s what happens when high school saxophonists play piano as a secondary instrument. But it was sincere. As I played, a grandmotherly woman stopped by the piano and listened to me play. When I finished, she approached me and put her hand on my shoulder, her captivating brown eyes penetrating the naïve blue of mine. “You’ve found your calling in life. Don’t stop,” she said.
Later that night, I ate dinner with a fellow music student and her parents. The conversation turned to our futures, and her businessman father turned his obviously omniscient eyes to me. “What are you going to go to college for, Dylon?” he asked.
He frowned. “There’s no money in that.” Then he changed the topic of conversation.
I did go to college as music major, and I mentioned my full-tuition music scholarship to the businessman father of my former classmate. His reaction was expected; feigned praise covered his chagrin. Better to be right than for someone to prove you wrong with success.
I’m more of a writer than a musician, but the compliment I got at the piano six years ago still lingers. It’s a visceral kind of inspiration that continues to get me out of bed for my 8 a.m. class. Sometimes.
If you’ve navigated my personal narrative without dying of boredom, I hope it has left you with a strong message: do not be dissuaded. I got those condescending, dollar sign stares when I decided to become a writer. And you got them when you decided to be an artist, musician, teacher or whatever. Money isn’t overflowing in every field. But never be convinced that studying outside the Brandeis School of Law or the Speed School of Engineering makes you or your work unimportant. Dedicated, intelligent students work in those schools, but they don’t hold a monopoly on dedication or intelligence.
Yes, there are obvious monetary challenges in many professions. And yes, there is an enormous issue regarding the rising cost of education that warrants a quagmire of a discussion I won’t stumble into here. But if you’re only in college to make money, you came to U of L for the wrong reason. I don’t want a doctor that’s only poking at my brain for a paycheck, or an attorney that’s more concerned with my wallet than my relatively low tolerance for lethal injections. That’s not a joke; I’ll surely need neurological help before my inevitable murder trial.
The best students, the people deserving praise, aren’t just those in lucrative degree programs, but also those who are serious. If you’re studying for the money or with a pitiful plan for an easy education, you’re disrespecting your classmates, this university and a field of study. The writer Charles Bukowski said, “Find what you love and let it kill you.”
That sounds like a good death.
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