When I took that cab home mid-semester of my first year in undergrad, I did not have any intention of going back to school because I did not have an indication of how school would change if I returned. I learned of the negotiations that came with the term of being a “student;” the questions that alter students’ answers about why they are ‘really here’ and the challenges that demand experience in decision-making. These terms provided detail into the negotiation between going to school and having a job, as schooling supposedly answers to a pursuit of intelligence, however standardized, and a job answers to the longing desire of ‘real-world’ experiences that we all must encounter, regardless of levels of intelligence or desire. But it was not until I learned about compromise, instead of negotiation, that enabled me to achieve anything, personally and professionally.
Viewing life as negotiation does not appear to some of us until we have grown older than the terms of life we are attempting to negotiate because when we are young, we are eager over the mere possibility of making choices that we minimize the actual ability in exercising the choices we make, let alone the consequences. Not only that, but the negotiations that we are making are initially not our own, but that of the world’s. When you are young, the expectation is that you will attend school without questioning whether or not one actually likes school. Perhaps, a child just entering an elementary education simply does not have a choice in going to school because a 5 year old cannot yet conceptualize the idea of making choices in anything, even when they are actually making them. But as we physically develop into adults, however long it takes our psychological and emotional senses to recognize our growing age sometimes, we are thrown into negotiations that society has created surrounding such terms as age, as well as race, gender, and sexuality. An 18 year old then, along with the personal challenges of accepting puberty, must face professional challenges of accepting puberty within confines of what is viewed as acceptable for a man or woman “your age.” That operation forces an 18 year old to attend school, even when he/she simply does not want to, but because of expectations shadowing decision-making, an 18 year old can develop an inability to communicate that school is not in their life plans, let alone their desires beyond school; and this is the challenge that teachers and parents have yet to conceptualize because we have not compromised our questions for our young people as much as we have our answers.
Granted, one never prepares to be a parent or a teacher, especially of young people who come to learn that they are artistically inclined human beings, thus rebellious by spiritual nature. But in the same sense, children, especially those who have negotiated their beings under the term of being a “student,” cannot prepare for their experiences any more than teachers or parents can, for we have all been there. The unique thing about being a student, however, is that not everyone has been there academically, and this reveals a compromise between being an academic student and a so-called “student of life.” The learning process is one that does not discriminate between a choice of school or life; it is the learning process within the confines of school and outside of school that disregards a compromise between the two because we are lead to believe that a negotiation of one or the other will somehow define either.
Learning negotiation inevitably comes before compromise because we have to acknowledge the terms of what is necessary to reach a compromise, but what happens beyond negotiation? What is the difference between negotiation and compromise? Attending college alone cannot answer those life questions and choosing not to attend college alone does not answer those life questions, but viewing education as negotiation to compromise life is both a formal and informal life experience that cannot be determined by anyone or anything other than how an individual has pursued. Pursuit then, ultimately becomes our subject and standard and expectation for those in categories of student, parent, or teacher, which is an untimely theme in the land of opportunity.
Pursuit of happiness, education, and careers answer to results of choices we have made, but the desire to pursue answers to the choices we can make, regardless of the expected results that the world has negotiated. The desire to pursue is what has created my courage to not choose between obtaining a formal education and gaining ‘real-world’ life experience, but to view life and the education of my life both as ‘real-world’ experiences, in order to compromise my own desires formally and informally, essentially professionally and personally; it is the same desire which has created my confidence in wanting 9 to 5 jobs and needing 24 hour passions, instead of choosing one over the other, as societal terms and negotiations have sometimes forced me to attempt. As I pursue a return to school, my question is now not how school has changed since I’ve been gone, but how I have changed, with the challenge of negotiating my changes under terms that teachers and parents have already begun to help answer.