New Direction

A New Direction – Redefining Success

Okay folks – it’s time for the truth to come out.

New Direction

Disclaimer – these opinions are the opinions of the writer and even though she names certain names, she means nothing against these certain people and in fact is friends with some of them, she just wants to point out some stuff that these people don’t cover in their literature that is similar to College Rebellion.

So far the posts on College Rebellion have been focusing on inspiration and encouragement to pursue one’s own education insofar as one is able to in order to decide whether one’s path includes a college degree of some sort or not, and how to go about being autodidactic about one’s life regardless of college’s current involvement. We’ve also been making it a personal goal to find and report on resources for at-home and travel-related ways to get knowledge and experience in your chosen area(s) of study.

However, we’ve barely taken the tip off the ice berg here. Really, this is a confession – I have felt like something has been missing from College Rebellion for a long time and haven’t been able to put my finger on it up until recently. Actually, it’s something I feel very deeply that the entire “Uncollege Movement” is missing.

I was finally able to put my finger on what College Rebellion was missing when I ran across this article, “When ‘Life Hacking’ is Really White Privilege.” Just replace “Life Hacking” with “Hacking Your Education”, and you’ve got the theme of the rest of this article. By the way, read the original article too – it’s some good stuff.

Then everything clicked when an essay I wrote three years ago got recently published in Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko and Dr. Carlos Ricci’s book, Natural Born Learners: Unschooling and Autonomy in Education.  While the content of the essay is definitely more reflective of the Jessica of three years ago, the spirit of my message and the title of the essay are really what College Rebellion was ever all about: Redefining Success.

I want to get back to that as being the #1 intention here.

First of all I don’t want we, the “normal” people in this world, to feel victimized by our circumstances to the point where we can’t get out of the negative headspace to at least start seeing some aspect of our dreams come to life; however, I also feel like so far College Rebellion has been shallow and insensitive to those of us who are not and will not ever be able to live the epic, parentally subsidized travel, adventure, and entrepreneurship that so many of our peers effortlessly pursue.

I’ve been really upset for quite a while because try as I might, I can’t live up to all the “aim for your dreams!” mantra I preach on this website, because I feel like I have to as part of the Uncollege Movement. I say “those of us” because the person I’ve been trying to fit into the Epic Box the most is myself – I haven’t allowed myself to accept the fact that I want to live a normal life, that I feel my success depends neither on going to college nor not going to college, nor even what I do in or out specifically. I have dreams, yes: but I also have finally reached the point where I am confident that following certain Big Dreams is actually not the most important thing to me in life. Can you believe that?

My boyfriend suggested that I start a new website called “College Rebellion Rebellion.”

However, from here on out I’m going to refocus more, with emphasis still on helping everyone who comes to this website decide whether college is a wise choice for some point in the next stages of their life.

With College Rebellion and its predecessor Life Without College I’ve been trying to encompass the two other main lifestyles that not going to college often lends itself to: extensive travel (brought to you primarily by Blake Boles), and entrepreneurship (brought to you primarily by Dale Stephens). The thing is, those are only two facets of a very wide range of people who have decided to not go a completely traditional route.

I have traveled a bit, yes. I also have this little website. But what dropping out of college in 2008 has really sealed for me is that my true dream, the most important thing to me in life, is the simple stuff. Being able to have a job that pays enough so that I have the time and means to spend time with my boyfriend, my dog and cats, my friends, and my family back home. Time and money to garden, to take walks, to work on my little stories, to read books and learn new things.

And I know I’m not alone in valuing these far above being “epic.” It’s just not for everybody and you know what? Thinking that it was was causing me to sell myself short, which is the exact opposite from what I want College Rebellion to ultimately promote. I mentioned to a cohort of mine, Peter Kowalke of about Russell’s idea of “College Rebellion Rebellion” as I was detailing to him my also recent decision to soon begin pursuing a college education again. He made the suggestion of “College Sellout.” And while I didn’t want to run two opposing websites, I have decided to adopt that title for my personal blog. Please feel free to check it out – my “About” page details specifically why I have made this personal choice.

Anyway, I am just writing to include you all in my decision to turn College Rebellion in a slightly different, more real-life focused blog and website. I am currently on the lookout for more contributors of both information, opportunities, and personal anecdotes of the life and times of College Rebels and their Allies. We’re all on the same boat here, and I’m sure all of you would love to hear perspectives from other writers than just me all the time!

Stay tuned folks, and don’t forget I am always open to any sort of feedback you have in the comments below, and/or feel free to email me via the contact page with suggestions and proposals for guest articles. I am also taking submissions for a new “Your Story” forthcoming section of the website, so let me know if you’d like to see your story on College Rebellion! Thank you for all your support!! ~Jessica


A Year of Goals

how-to-set-goalsIn order for something to get accomplished, you must know exactly what the goal is.  Yes, if you don’t have specific goals, some things in life will happen on their own.  However, setting concrete goals are important for two main reasons.

First of all, when you write down your goals and have them in viewing distance constantly, it is easier to remember on a daily basis to work on them.  Put them on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on the steering wheel, set them as your desktop background, wherever you know you find yourself looking at often.  They will be a constant reminder to go about your day with intention.

Secondly, having written down your goals for any amount of time allows you to go back later and see how you’ve been growing and accomplishing things.  Once you see yourself making progress, accomplishing specific goals that you can check off or cross through, empowerment will seep into your body – you’ll be motivated to keep on, and to set even more goals for yourself, perhaps bigger ones you were scared to set before.

My challenge for you is to make a list of goals for the next fiscal year.   …you know, the next 12 months.  Don’t forget to avoid making ambiguous goals:

Ambiguous goal: learn blues guitar.

Concrete goal: learn 5 songs by Jimi Hendrix and 5 by John Lee Hooker on the electric guitar by January 1st.

If your goal is simply to learn blues guitar, you will waffle around for months, switching between messing around on your guitar and pacing your house wondering who in the world would ever want to teach an unmotivated person such as yourself blues guitar.  Yes, often you do need to brainstorm a list of more ambiguous items before narrowing them down to a final, concrete list.  So, the progression being, if you want to learn 10 blues guitar songs on the guitar by certain artists on a certain guitar by a certain time say, two months from today, then that allows you to set stepping stones along the way.  Two months, that’s about 8 weeks.  That means a little more than a song a week.  How about a new song every five days?

My friends Blake and Matt have been making their own goals lists: Matt’s is for this next year, Blake’s is an ongoing life list.  And now, here’s mine as of a couple of days ago – it still needs some narrowing down as far as concreteness goes, but it’s definitely workable from here:

Projects, General

– Work at least 20 hours a week on College Rebellion from now through July
– Dig 2-3 more terrace beds in the yard and ready for early spring planting
– Grow all vegetables needed with spring, summer, and fall plantings

Writing, General

– Write one letter a week
– Finish NaNoWriMo (write a 50,000+-word novel in 30 days) in November
– Write the second draft of my 2009 NaNoWriMo project


– Read 8-16 fiction books
– Read 3-10 nonfiction books
– Start a casual book-review blog in January

Academics, General

– Complete online college courses in: Animal Behavior, Kitchen Science, Neuro Science
– Re-work through All the Math You’ll Ever Need by the end of 2013
– Work through Maths from Scratch for Biologists by the end of April
– Apply to Mayland College / ace their entrance exams
– Begin pursuing the rest of my transfer diploma in science

Work and Money

– Continue to study and practice new ways of getting better at being a chef
– Continue picking up more supplementary house-sitting and gardening gigs
– Re-listen to the Dave Ramsey lectures on saving money
– Save every little extra bit of money a month and DON’T spend it all on books


The Internship is the Key

Firstly, in case you missed it, I was recently interviewed on The Sociable Homeschooler by the amazing Vivienne McNeny.  We talked about my new little book, “Dreaming YOUR Dream“, about my education growing up homeschoooled, and about my thoughts on college lately.  Check it out!

intern1-1024x645Some people think that internships are only for people in college. Those people are wrong. Internships are for whoever wants them badly enough. Sometimes internship-giving companies and organizations say they only want people who have or are pursuing a college degree. If this is the case, and you do not want to jump through such timely, expensive, and potentially boring hoops, then I have two other suggestions for you, which may spark other ideas.

But first, the general steps to acquiring The Internship:

  1. Find a company or organization – online, through word of mouth, etc.
  2. Research them, their purpose, and their mission thoroughly
  3. Arrange a tour and meeting with the company or organization (if this is somehow not feasible, perhaps you could find a Reliable Cohort to go in your place: though, if you are really serious about this internship, it’s best to find it within your own means)
  4. Take everything into consideration and apply with the company/organization’s best interests in mind, not yours. (i.e., what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.  See, “How NOT to Get Hired.”)
  5. They may want a resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation: unsure of how to get these together? E-mail me – I am working on a tutorial!

This is often enough for getting into the “entry-level” internships – the less picky ones.  Now we will cover what to do if the internship narrow-mindedly requires you to have sat in some relevant classes at some institution of higher education:

First of all, this is probably an “advanced internship”: prior experience required. A degree or degree-in-progress is the most recognizably concrete evidence of knowledge today.  However, it is not the only evidence.  What your future internship-givers really want is concrete evidence that you have a good amount of hands-on experience, relevant knowledge, and the drive and determination to be a great intern.

How do you get this?

  • “Entry-level” internships: 1-3 internships, ideally each building on one another in terms of duties, responsibility, learning experience, and skills developed.  Do not complete these internships without securing a letter of recommendation from at least one person overseeing your work – certificates of completion don’t hurt either.  Document your experience.
  • Volunteering – often volunteers have intern-like responsibilities. Always look for opportunities to volunteer, especially at relevant organizations.  Same goes for volunteering as does internships – try to leave with a voucher of how wonderful you are.  And don’t forget to document!
  • College students spend a lot of time in the books: it can’t hurt to do the same!  When you read a book (or article, or watch a movie, etc.) on your subject, write or film an essay or review on the book, and upload it to your blog or website. When you apply, you can send an e-mail with links to these reviews/essays.
  • Present your non-college case as earnestly and confidently as you possibly can when you apply. (If you are unsure of your speaking abilities, attend a local Toastmasters club for a bit; if your writing needs improving, a good word-wise friend can help).
  • In case I didn’t emphasize it enough before: document everything you do!  Pictures, blog posts, video, art, whatever!  Prove that you are learning and growing in these experiences – it is VITAL to showing you can be just as good as any old college student retaining what they learned in class just long enough to regurgitate it on the test the next day before moving on.

If you are dead gone on this particular Super Awesome Internship and want to go on and apply to them ASAP instead of in another year after building up your resume, keep in mind you may be aiming a bit to high just now. But if you’re going to do it anyway, please take heed to follow these steps:

  • Apply with the same amount of zeal and earnestness in both writing and speaking as I mentioned before, and present your less-experienced case as smartly as possible.  Perhaps spend a couple of nights studying salesmanship before filling out the application.
  • Emphasize and highlight any and all even moderately applicable experience, and please keep in mind what I said in the general guidelines: focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  • Beseech them in the application to, if they cannot accept you as-is, at least oblige you with suggestions/leads for ways that you could gain the experience that they are looking for in an intern at their company.

As a reminder, do not put all your eggs in one basket: apply to more than just one or two internships, just as you would apply to more than just one or two colleges.  And don’t sit on your rump all day waiting for a response – pursue more experience and knowledge in the field(s) of your choice every day.  Your dream is out there just waiting for you to live it!


That Green Grass is Talking: Being Realistic

green grass is talkingI very often feel like there is some unspoken unschooler competition to one-up each other in what amazing, epic adventures we all can have in as short amount of time as possible.  I am quite certain I am not the only one who feels this, but I could be wrong.

The thing that every human being has to come to terms with eventually, no matter their background, is that the grass is always greener.  That rings so true, and it hurts.  Imagine being some epic-looking person like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.  That must be the most amazing job in the world, right?  Well, actually… I can’t exactly speak for them, but I know just from spending over half of my life doing dance and theatre that it gets boring doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.  And Cirque du Soleil performances are 5 times a week at least, for a year or more (most shows running  now have been running for years, though I am sure that not all the performers stay in the shows their entire run considering things like getting old and whatnot).  They all probably wished they had an exciting office job.

The problem with the “Must do Epic Things at All Times” mentality is that, while it is good to realize you can do epic things with your life, it is impossible to be doing epic things all the time.  Dishes must be washed.  Laundry must be done.  Sanity must be kept up by taking time to relax and read a book, or go out for coffee with friends.  And, possibly most importantly, money must be made – even if the only way to do that is to spend 30-40 hours a week having your soul sucked out by the dementors of the corporate world.

Who is telling you that you must only do epic things all the time anyway??  That grass that looks greener is who.  Yes, it’s talking.  Kind of like Audrey II.  And, yes, it will eat you alive.

This is a tough, tough lesson to learn; at least, it has been for me.  It comes down to CMAWOT Syndrome: Caring Too Much About What Others Think.  (Pronounced “SEE-ma-what”.  Trust me on this. )  It lives in all of us, to an extent (there is a spectrum, you see.)  It starts about the “middle school” age, regardless whether you are homeschooled or not, and slowly eats up the part of our brains that allow us to think for ourselves.  It’s normally cured only by a painful slap in the face, unless counteracted early by rare personalities.  There has not yet been a test invented to find out who does and doesn’t have this Rare Personality at a young age.

Anyway, enough of that.

It’s true, though.  You’d better believe it.

Jessica’s Not Entirely Fool-Proof Method for Attempting to Get Over CMAWOT Syndrome to Some Extent or Another:

(Remember, I’m not a life coach.  I’m just attempting to put into steps some stuff I’ve had to do to myself recently.  Please berate me with incessant questions on what the heck I mean.)

You need to take some serious time alone, or time talking to one or two really, really good friends whom you know will be honest with you.  (I would have just suggested time alone, but then I remembered that I’m an introvert and I’d better attempt to come up with options for my extraverted readers.)  And really take the time.  Set aside a whole day, or even several days to a week.  Go somewhere you feel completely calm and comfortable, and where you feel you are able to think clearly.  This varies for each person, so I won’t tell you it’s definitely your house, or definitely the public gardens, or definitely across the country in a giant bookstore.  Just pick a place with the comfort of your soul in mind.  It’s pretty much very important.

When you are in this place, with yourself or with your friend (read extraverts: NOT YOUR ENTIRE POSSE), and you have calmed down your mind, begin to slowly think.  That’s right.  Slowly.  Think.  At the same time.  It’s hard.

Think back to when you were younger.  Say, between the ages of 8 and 11.  What did you do with yourself then?  How did you act?  Who were you, back in the day when you didn’t care what others thought?  What would you be doing now if suddenly God gave you magical powers to never ever care what people thought, or how what you’re doing looks?

That’s just the first step, and I do implore you now to ask yourself some questions of your own.  I can’t think of all the questions myself, unfortunately.

Next, start making logistical plans for ALL of the things you want to do, and balance that against realistic means for doing them.  Notice that it is really stupid do do all of those things.  Repent.

Okay, don’t repent.  Just cry a little and have a moment or two of utter humbleness.  It’s alright, you’ll feel better about things soon.

Okay, math time!  The next step is to divide step one (childhood loves and actions) into step two (logistical failure).  Or maybe it’s the other way around…. well, anyway, divide one into the other as you see fit.  The answer will be something like 2, remaining pi.

That is to say, you will have a couple of options to seriously look at, with the comfort of knowing that they are really what you want to do.

Make sense?

Dreams vs. Reality: Fearless Following

Dreams vs. Reality

“How hard would you work, and for how long, if you knew you could have your dream for sure?

My dad often asks me this, and I reply by sighing reluctantly and pretending to think, hoping that the subject will magically change. Time has always been so imminent for me. Patience is easy for me in traffic or while waiting for my turn to take a shower.

However, when it comes to the big stuff, like perhaps starting an organization to help mistreated pets – that would take years! Years of doing nothing else other than sitting around working on this one thing! I’ll never get to accomplish my other dream of going on safari in Africa if I’m attached to a big organization. Even if that organization is my ultimate dream. I’ll just put it off five more years, then see if it happens, maybe magically.

But – dreams are meant to be accomplished, not stewed in your brain while you go off and do lots of procrastinating, eventually leaving them rotting on the side of the road because they are “too big.”

The reason we do this is that we have to work for our dreams, and work really hard; oftentimes, we become afraid of that hard work.

Even though we really want roast chicken, rosemary potatoes, and baked asparagus for dinner, it’s hard work throwing that kind of meal together, and you are already hungry. So what are you going to do, eat more Kraft Dinner and put off the roast chicken for another night? If you keep doing that, your chicken is going to go bad.

But what if we were really willing to work for our dreams? Could we conceivably believe in ourselves? Or maybe we don’t actually. Maybe it’s just too hard, or the dreams too far out to actually come true. They are called dreams for a reason, right?

I don’t think so.

So how hard would you be willing to work? How far would you be willing to go? How high would you climb? How long would you take? What would you do if you knew you could have your dreams for sure?

This is a two-step process, the dreaming and the working for the dream. But you have to do the dreaming first, right? Right. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Make sure to dream big. Don’t limit yourself. If you have longed to be a famous author, singer, or movie star since you can remember, don’t hold back because of others’ predictions that you’ll fail. At the same time, don’t limit yourself in the opposite way – if you have always yearned to be a farmer, prep cook, or a ditch digger, don’t let anybody tell you those are simple, undignified dreams. Whatever YOUR dream is, dream it YOUR big and don’t let anybody else define it for you.

You’re never done – always doing. I believe it’s a common misconception that there is a point in our lives in which we “accomplish our life goal.” Yes, I suppose that applies if your one life goal is one very concrete and specific thing, such as skydiving with your true love over southern New Zealand; however, is that really the one and only thing that you have lived your entire life to do, and now you can live mundanely and be bored for the rest of your existence?

I am a “List of Life Goals” maker. Things to do are always popping up in my head, and I have to write them all down in order to keep track of them.

One thing that was on my list for basically my entire life was, “Be the one who holds the snake.” To me, this meant that I, for once, would be the person holding the snake and showing him to other people, namely kids, educating them on how amazing snakes are, and, best of all, letting them pet the snake. I had always wanted to do this because I was always that kid who got to pet the snake that the person was holding, but I couldn’t hold it myself/take care of it for legal reasons, of course. As I grew older, I became more and more discontent with my spectator role, and was determined that it shouldn’t be forever. It was a big, important goal of mine, which I recently got to accomplish while working at the wildlife center this spring.

After working my first festival (where I met many little Jessicas), I came home beaming, talked forever about it, and wrote a very long entry in my journal. And, while I felt very accomplished, it was then that I realized that this was not a finite point, or the end of this goal necessarily. It was just the kick-off. I wasn’t discontent; to the contrary, I felt amazing.

All of that to say, goals are very progressive, which is a little hard to see when just dreaming them up. Some people like to plan out their goals in steps of smaller goals; personally, I like to just set a goal and see what comes of it. “Live in a hostel” became a work-trade in the beautiful town of Ashland that planted the seed for an interest in the hospitality business. “Work at a summer camp” became a dishwashing position at one of the freest and most accepting summer camps outside of unschool camps which wants to hire me back on kitchen staff next year. “Travel to cool and interesting places” became an undying wanderlust, all because I finally decided that maybe if I actually went somewhere for a change, the concept would become a little more like second nature.

Doubt is inevitable. So, what are you going to do about it? Cures for doubt are not one-size-fits all: different people have different ways of dealing with different types of doubt for different things. But when it comes to dreams, doubt plays your biggest antagonist, so the first and best thing to do is nip it in the bud, and beware of it at all times, because like telemarketers and little siblings, it doesn’t just go away.

(On that note: also beware that occasionally, doubt often comes in the form of laziness. Don’t be fooled.)

Live in the moment, for the moment. I have to regularly remind myself to stay in the present. It is too easy for me to get caught up dreaming and planning and working out details that don’t need to be worked out for weeks, months, or even years. I get like Luke Skywalker: “Never his mind on where he was – what he was doing!” (saith Yoda.) It’s a horrible habit that I have to consciously work on. I’ve gotten a lot better, but I still need to be careful.

All in all, never forget that you only live on this earth once. The least you can do is not purposefully do something you would rather not do. Like I said, in my next entry I will talk more on the subject of being realistic. For now, just dream, for real.

Here’s an “assignment” (don’t cringe – this will be fun!): in May 2010 when I worked on the Homeschool Leadership Retreat, one day Blake had everyone, staff and campers, write down a list of 100 goals that we would like to accomplish in our lives. Believe it or not, it took me a good part of the day to think of 100 things, but I did it, and had lots of fun.

So here is what you should do RIGHT NOW, or over the next 24 hours or so as you have time: make your own list of 100 goals. No less, though more than 100 is certainly acceptable. And feel free to list some/most/all of them in the comments here if you’d like! I would love to see what y’all come up with.