December 29, 2004 9:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 35 year old male and am smart, single and fit but find myself feeling like time is running out. Perhaps too smart; I have a high IQ, whatever that is worth, but am not a college graduate and I find I still have a bit of a complex about this despite having been gainfully white collar employed for most of my adult life. I never started college and wouldn't even know where to begin. I meet people easily and am told that I am good looking. I was 30 before I realized that I had coasted so far on charisma. With an opportunity to make a life change in the next year what should this American do? Long term and short term answers are all welcome and travel is a possibility if your answer deems it necessary.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (38 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Grr, wish this wasn't an anonymous post. I can't figure out what you're looking for, anonymous- an education? a love life? a better job? a smaller ego? I just don't know! I'll think on it and come back with advice.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:47 PM on December 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

College is for losers.

It's much cooler to be self-educated!

Cut out the inferiority complex, it does you no good. If I wasn't attached I'd hit on you (I have a thing for smart guys).
posted by u.n. owen at 10:20 PM on December 29, 2004

Go to college. College is not for losers. It's an efficient way to learn a variety of subjects rapidly and thoroughly.

With your intelligence, you can probably get a degree in two years. And with your experience, you can focus immediately on subjects that interest and benefit you.

You'll get a lot more out of college now than you would have 15 years ago. Do it.
posted by mono blanco at 10:39 PM on December 29, 2004

Yes, go to college. Yeah, it's just a symbol for a lot of people, but it's a mark of acceptance.

Just do it. Yes it'll take a while, and yes it will be expensive, but whatever. It's worth it.
posted by bshort at 10:54 PM on December 29, 2004

Most colleges today are made up of all ages. Go back.
posted by justgary at 11:08 PM on December 29, 2004

College is generally a waste of time and money for an intelligent 35-year-old, unless there's a particular topic you feel passionately about and can't (or don't have the motivation/organizational skills to) learn on your own. I'm thinking along the lines of hard sciences, music, art, languages. Most other subjects are easily self taught. So the only other reason to attend college would be social. Do you feel that your circle of friends or love life is lacking? Of course at the traditional American college you'll have more in common with the profs and grad students (who would likely be your TAs), unless you go to a school with a large "non-traditional" population.

I guess then, to reiterate ThePink, what do you feel is lacking in your life?
posted by damn yankee at 11:10 PM on December 29, 2004

Time is running out for what? There's not much you can do at 21 that you can't do at 35. People are less inclined to forgive you if you do something stupid, true, but you say you're smart, so that shouldn't be an issue.

You'll never be a proper college graduate, that's true; if you go to college now, you'll be quite able to finish, but you'll be someone who went to college late in life, and that's not going to allow you to join the club of people who sit around and reminisce about their college days. Only go if you know exactly what you want to get out of it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:21 PM on December 29, 2004

Go to university in another country - it gives you a chance for more education AND for a certain amount of re-invention. jettisonning that sense of inferiority might be easier once you're half a world away from the physical settings that accompanied its growth (if that makes sense). And you can never be too smart to get what you want out of life (unless, for some reason, you're not AT ALL funny).
I still can't really tell how time is running out for you, though. running out for you to get a university education? running out for you to meet someone who appreciates your good looks and charisma? to me, the things about going to college don't really seem to relate to the more "lonely-hearts" aspects of what you've written.
posted by bunglin jones at 11:23 PM on December 29, 2004

Holy shades of synchronicity batman! I've had this sort of question rumbling around in my head for the last two or three weeks. Well, the last three or four years actually, but I didn't have access to ask.metafilter during that time :-)

My situation isn't _exactly_ the same (of course). However I also feel that without a college education, I'm really lacking something... intangible. I think it might be a lack of having learned for the sake of enjoyment/passion in a subject area and also of being barred from seriously adding to the body of knowledge in the areas that I'm passionate about.

Right now, I too am dealing with overwhelming feelings of time running out (and I'm only 29). I may have an opportunity to go to reset my life by going to live and study in Europe (there's a very strong possibility that I was born with dual Canadian/German citizenship; should be confirmed by end of Jan.). But it would require massive change that scares the crap out of me. Just struggling to find an answer.

I wish I could actually add something to this thread, rather than just piggybacking... sorry. (but thanks for starting the thread).
posted by C.Batt at 11:34 PM on December 29, 2004

Heh, you're like a straight version of the anonymous below you.
posted by abcde at 11:49 PM on December 29, 2004

The recent wave of downsizing may be your friend. At a nearby university campus, the average student age is 34. This may result from people polishing their CVs and gaining new skills as they search for employment in different fields. Or just adding on to their AA degrees. Not all of them are post grad. What do you have to lose by taking a few classes, maybe at a Junior or Community College to test the waters?
Or jump right in to a four year program. In four years you will be 39 whether you have a degree or not. Your choice.
posted by Cranberry at 11:54 PM on December 29, 2004

You're 35, smart, healthy, and attractive? And you are feeling like you are missing out on something? I am going to give you some very serious advice that almost nobody ever heeds, but those who do (or, maybe, those who can) gain something more valuable than any single experience or acquisition can ever give them... Learn to enjoy/appreciate where you are when you are there. Seems simple, and platitudinous, but hardly anybody can do this. Most people are always looking forward to something they hope will happen, or recalling (either wistfully or regretfully) what happened in the past. Then 20 years later, they look back and say, "man, I was young and attractive and had the world in the palm of my hand, and I didn't even know it, and never had the chance to relish that experience." And do you know what this means? That these people are still doing the same thing - looking everywhere in their lives except where they are right now to find meaning.

Please don't misunderstand this advice though - I'm not saying "don't bother making a change, just try appreciating what you have". I'm saying that no single choice can ever really give you satisfaction, since making a choice at all means that you give up other options. It isn't the decision that matters as much as the way that you live it.

Things change - we know that this is the one immutable. Both the good things and the bad things pass, so savor what's sweet while it's still on your tongue. Do whatever you are moved to do - go to college, travel, pursue the career, build a log cabin... Whatever. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that you don't spend your time in college regretting that you didn't do a world tour instead, or vice versa. One can almost always change their situation, so the situation isn't really what makes you either happy or discontent - it's what's in your head that does that.

Or as Cab Calloway would say, "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it. (You can try hard - don't mean a thing; take it easy and then your jive will swing.)".
posted by taz at 12:11 AM on December 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

Well said, taz. I myself have been in college for the last 7 years, and with grad school starting in the fall, it looks like I'll be there for awhile yet. I would advise you to examine what you want to get from college. I don't mean to imply a discouraging tone here; rather I mean that I have found that, as a student, your school is a resource. What you take away is totally dependent on how you use that resource. For example, a common and, imho, valid reason for attending college is that the official certification of higher education carries with it opportunity. More and more careers require a certain type and level of certified higher education. If you want to get the cash, you gotta pay your dues. However, as you noted, you are gainfully employed, so this certification is unnecessary (unless, perhaps, you're looking for a career change). While valid, this is not the only reason to go to college.

What owen and yankee say above has truth to it: that most of the facts you work to learn in college are available for free at your local library. What isn't available there, however, is a chance to interact with other students and professors. Herein lies the true value of a college education, imho, as said interaction hones one's mind, offering broad and varied thoughtful perspectives and the reforging of one's worldview. Perhaps it is this type of personal growth that you are looking for. Perhaps not. If it is, I wouldn't hesitate to get into college. And, when you get there, seek out the people you can learn from, and use them! It sounds sleazy, but that's the job of a professor: to prostitute one's brain.
posted by The Horn at 1:04 AM on December 30, 2004

Great advice, taz.

As for college -- you're already too old to do the traditional college experience of boozing it up with frat brothers and having awkward sex with complete strangers.

Unless you're going for a specific reason (i.e., subject) that you wish to further explore, college will remove 4 years from your productive life and saddle you with a couple tens of thousands of dollars more in debt. And you don't even get to bang any stupid teenagers. So it's not worth it.

There is no better knowledge that direct experience. No book, no teacher, nothing. I recommend you go someplace foreign that's always excited your passion, but you've been too scared to try. There's nothing like the feeling of being in a completely new country--new smells, language, currency, etc.--to reinvigorate the senses. Everything is new once again. If you have the chance, you will not regret it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:07 AM on December 30, 2004

Like C.Batt, your story parallels mine eerily close with the exception that I am no longer white collar employed but have instead picked up and moved to China and am currently teaching English to high school students, (no degree required). It has been an amazingly wonderful experience that I am much richer for. I haven't a great plan for the future but like taz said I am living happily in the now.

Consider taking a time out from the comforts that have left you feeling this way. There is some great advice in this thread. If you are looking for encouragement to follow yourself I think you have it right here. Feel free to email with complete discretion given if you'd like. Since you are anonymous we might never know but good luck!

Very nice with the Cab Calloway, taz!
posted by geekyguy at 3:13 AM on December 30, 2004

geekyguy: No degree required? Are you doing it fully legit or in a kinda shady 'on the side' way? I looked into the whole TEFL thing and couldn't find any practical way to get into it without having a degree.
posted by wackybrit at 4:00 AM on December 30, 2004

i'd say go to college. you could probably get into quite a good one, because they tend to look favourably on mature students. not only will you get to spend several years studying whatever fascinates you, but it's also a great place to meet single people and generally have a good time. the deadlines for work - and doing something you love - will, hopefully, stop you coasting.
and if you were good at self-educating, you wouldn't be asking this question.
however, you really have to lose that complex, or you'll come of as an arsehole (when i was a kid, mature students were cool just because they were more clued up - that would be enough to get you laid, without the need for an attitude).
(one reservation - for me, college wasn't something that saddled me with debt for life - i got support from my government, my parents, and industry - so i may be underestimating the financial cost these days).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:10 AM on December 30, 2004

Going to a public university is one way to keep that debt low to nonexistent. If you just want to say you have that degree, start at a community college -- cheap, they are used to older students, the education is often much better than you would think (hint -- students there tend to be more motivated, which makes a big difference in the environment), and many of them have agreements with local universities for automatic transfer admission once you complete the AA.

But what I was really going to say is that a major benefit to college is that it forces you (ideally) to use your brains in ways you wouldn't, otherwise. The courses that were the most valuable to me, in retrospect, were courses I wouldn't have chosen to take on my own; I took them because I had to fulfill distribution requirements. If I was just self-taught, I wouldn't have studied logic, for example. I would have gone right to the fun topics. (Well, logic turned out to be fun, but I didn't know that before I took it.) Some courses I was dragged into, kicking and screaming, had the uncanny ability to highlight and clarify things I was learning in my more desired courses. So I truly believe that I came out of the experience having gained a lot that I wouldn't have gained by self-teaching.

In my case I went to the first couple of years of college right after high school, but finished the last two at the age of 29. I know it's not quite as old as the questioner, but I was older than those around me. And there were lots of older students around, as well. I was pretty comfortable there and everyone was pretty accepting of each other.

Now I'm 39 and in grad school. (I started when I was almost 37.) In a couple of years I'll either be 41 with a graduate degree, or 41 without. Either way I'll be 41. But by doing the grad school thing I am getting the chance to focus on learning that I wouldn't otherwise focus on, because real life tends to get in the way. (As does plain old procrastination.) For me, anyway -- YMMV.

So I say, go for college. Have fun. You have the advantage of knowing yourself better than the average 18 year old, so you can make better use of the time spent in school. And if your school offers programs that allow you to study in another country or something, by all means go for that. (My only regret is that I was never able to do so, for financial reasons.)
posted by litlnemo at 5:11 AM on December 30, 2004

If you want to learn about the world then go into the world. If you feel you've missed something, then start looking for it. Just going to college because you feel it's something you missed out on is a mistake. Personally, I feel college today is an enormous waste of time and resources. Of course, I say this as a college graduate--

For situations such as yours, I often recommend becoming a type of experimentalist. If you're serious about resolving your questions about yourself and the world then the scientific process provides all framework and structure you need. (This is why too many people end up in college: they're too undisciplined to brave inquiry on their own.) Approach life with a bit more scientific rigor, a bit more experimental daring. Be studious about it: write down your hypotheses, devise experiments, execute them, analyze the data and draw your own conclusions.

Lastly, change is always good. This is just the rule. If you're given a significant opportunity to make a change then the only question is what you wish to preserve through the change.
posted by nixerman at 6:13 AM on December 30, 2004

oh, that's just not true. change isn't always good and if you think so, you haven't experienced much of it, i suspect.
voluntary change, in moderation, when you have an escape route, can be pleasant. which is not the same thing at all.

posted by andrew cooke at 6:31 AM on December 30, 2004

It's not just about going to college; it's about having a goal. Develop a picture of what you want your life to have looked like; the accomplishments, travel, education, etc. that you want to be able to look back on.

The goal can change. If you have trouble defining the goal, pick something small, and work on defining what your goal(s) should be.

Being smart, you can go to college part time. You'll be able to get credit for work/life experience. It's do-able, and it's interesting. It's not just acquiring a degree; you can challenge your brain and develop new skills and ideas and adjust your mindset. Then you can go to grad school which is probably what you'd really enjoy.

You sound like you're a bit bored with your life. College, or any other large pursuit, should be challenging and stimulating, which is a good way to kill boredom. Good luck!
posted by theora55 at 6:32 AM on December 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

College is supposed to be a place where you figure out what life is all about and what you want out of it. That is the purpose (one of the purposes) of the liberal arts. Go to a community college or state university, take a few classes in topics that interest you and see what happens. It is also a great place to meet new people, intelligent and with similar life experiences and goals. Some of these people will be attractive and of the opposite sex--bonus! And college can bring opportunities to travel and study abroad, which can be far more enlightening than the hippie-with-a-backpack routine that so many of us followed in out twenties. And having a degree, any degree, is a litmus test for many opportunities later on.

I was a non-traditional student myself, and now I teach many such at a state college, feel free to contact me via the email in my profile if you like.
posted by LarryC at 6:55 AM on December 30, 2004

If you decide to go to college, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Most colleges and universities will have a program/office set up to handle a non-traditional student such as yourself. Go to or call your local institution and ask to be directed to an admissions counselor who handles non-traditional students.

2. During your conversation with said counselor, ask questions like
a) Do I need to take an entrance exam? If so, how do I make the necessary arrangements?
b) How do I find out about and apply for financial aid or scholarships for which I qualify?
c) Does this institution provide any "life experience" credits? (The college I worked for would administer a series of tests to a non-traditional student and then award class credits based on the results. This may greatly reduce the number of classes you need to take to get a degree. You can also ask to test out of classes you feel you can demonstrate a sound working knowledge of the topic.)

3. Know that admissions counselors are there to guide you through the process of applying and being admitted into college. They work from a premise in which they want you to succeed.

4. If you find, through experience and/or testing, that you have an academic weakness in a particular subject, spend time with whatever tutor service the institution provides.

5. Know that no matter what others may say, the academic staff of a higher educational institution really do want to see you succeed and stay with the institution until you graduate. The administrative staff will look at overall patterns of retention, etc. However, the profs, tutors, advisors, admissions staff, teaching assistants, etc. are valuable resources to guide you through.

6. Consider community colleges classes as a less expensive method to getting the basic classes covered. Points 1 - 5 apply to community colleges as well.

Finally, you never know what you will learn or who you will meet or what opportunities for enrichment you may encounter when you're affiliated with a college or university. Even for non-traditional students, there are lots of options for you to take advantage of while there.

posted by onhazier at 6:56 AM on December 30, 2004

The question is really, at base, "What should I do with my life," and man, no one can tell you the answer to that one.
posted by agregoli at 6:59 AM on December 30, 2004

I agree with those who have said, basically, that the real question is "what do I want out of life?"

But as for going back to college in your thirties...

You know, I did the conventional thing... college, and then on to grad school, following straight from high school. And while I don't regret doing it that way, I think that only now, in my late thirties, could I really do justice to a challenging undergrad program at a very good university.

The resources that are available to you at a top-notch college or university are considerable, and so are the opportunities. You will appreciate it all the more for having been "out in the world." If you think that you might like to go to college, apply to some really good schools and see what develops.
posted by enrevanche at 7:40 AM on December 30, 2004

When I turned 30, I found I had a huge chip on my shoulder about not having gone to college. I had to, as many others here said far more eloquently, let it go. This resentment colored my view of myself and everyone else—and it wasn't a pretty color. And truly, I had zero interest in going to college, accruing debt, and spending years in study, so why should I have cared? I'm so impressed by people who go to college as adults, and I think they rock, but it's so not for me and I'm happy with that now.

You tell us nothing about yourself, so I don't think we can really help you, honestly. But? There's something you want to do—we all have an itch to do something, whether it's code videogames or run MetaFilter (if you're a freak) or create exciting new fruit hybrids or flogging businessmen. Stop telling yourself no. And if you feel that mid-30s emptiness, start off by doing "charitable" work for other people—it's clarifying for the mind and attitude. There's really only so long we can obsess about ourselves without going nuts, and I'm afraid you might be on your way towards that.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:08 AM on December 30, 2004

I'm with you. Or, rather, was. I went to community college part-time for a few years to get the first 36 credits of my degree out of the way (where you'll get a much better education than at a university, for a fraction of the price), and then to a university for the rest. Because, like you, I'm an old (26) smart guy, I finished up last week after just 16 months.

All that I wanted out of it was a piece of paper. I've never been held back by a lack of a college (or high school, for that matter) diploma, but it was one of those things that appear in little biographical sketches of me in newspapers and magazines. ("Waldo Jaquith accomplished x, y, and z, and all without a high school or college diploma!") Fuck that. I don't need a diploma to make me smart, but that doesn't matter -- society expects me to have one, and so long as I'm going to live in this modern world, a diploma I need.

It'll run you about $20k, if you go to a state university and get your first 60 credits done at a decent community college. And that price is spread over 4-6 years.

Anyhow, mission accomplished. I recommend it.
posted by waldo at 8:08 AM on December 30, 2004

Be ambitious, if you are what you say you are the rest will fall into place.
posted by sled at 8:53 AM on December 30, 2004

While college is far from a quick and dirty process, I'm not sure it'll satisfy the "validation" you seek; Education is always good, but as others have suggested, perhaps something abroad would stimulate your brain and help to "rejuvenate" your soul / sense of purpose. FWIW I finished a BA & MA before I was 23 (I am 25), and I am still quite unsatisfied with my life.

Read: Education is extremely important / beneficial, but won't cure all the "crazy lizards" inside your brain.
posted by AllesKlar at 9:20 AM on December 30, 2004

I agree with what litlnemo and RJ Reynolds said.

I won't chime in about college, plenty has been said about that already, and I'm not sure that that's entirely what your question is about.

If you are looking for a relationship, and you fear that women choose not to date you because you don't have a degree, consider this; people will respect you if you respect yourself. If you describe yourself as "just" having a H.S. diploma, or "well, I never went to college" with some hint of despair, people will pick up on that negativity. If you describe yourself as being successful in your field, or never mention the fact that you didn't go to college, or when you are asked say "it just wasn't for me, I was too busy exploring other options" or in some such way make it known that it's not an issue for you, people will be okay with that, they will respect it.

Of course, that only works if you honestly determine that it isn't an issue for you.

In terms of what you should do with your life; if you're having a hard time defining your goals, instead of starting with trying to figure out what you want to happen, try asking yourself what you don't want to happen, and go from there.
posted by vignettist at 9:25 AM on December 30, 2004

To summarize the college question:

(1) You can start at a community college - you can sign up for a course or two without any commitment (or paperwork) toward a degree. Very inexpensive. You can take classes during evenings if you want. Plus community colleges tend to have instructors who really know and care about their subjects, and who are evaluated solely on their teaching abilities (unlike the highest-ranking universities, but that's another story).

(2) For subjects that you know well, you can often take either a nationally-recognized examination (typically, CLEP) or a local equivalency examination. So, for example, you don't need to take US History 1a if you've always been interested in that and done a lot of reading. Or a basic computer skills course if you've built your own computer and done programming. Don't take classes that bore you because you already know the subject matter - that's unfair to you, the taxpayers, and other students.

(3) Being in community college, or in a four-year college, in your mid- and late-30s is not unusual at all. You won't stand out unless you want to.

(4) College is what you make of it. You'll probably get more out of it than you would have in your late teens and early 20s because you know what you like and what you don't, and you're able to see things through the lens of your own experience. Or you'll decide that you could get a degree but you don't want to. But it won't be a black box.

(5) If you start with a few courses at the community college (or jump in, full-swing, for a semester), and then decide you enjoy the experience, it will be easy to get into a four-year college, assuming good grades. Your community college advising office should be able to help you extensively with this. Or you can talk to college admission offices of a few four-year schools you're considering. You're
posted by WestCoaster at 10:16 AM on December 30, 2004

College is over-rated and serves mainly as a gate-keeper - it is there mostly to restrict the entry of too many people into professional careers. When that stopped working, graduate school became necessary to keep people out.

Now, if you want to go to college to learn about things like protogender anthropological metastatistics, or even economics (both essentially useless in the real world) more power to you. That's why I got a Ph.D, so I ain't knocking it. But I would suggest starting your own business. Don't buy a franchise, become a consultant. Find something you're good at, get better at it, and then charge people by the hour to help them with it. After a while you can do what some people I know do--charge 'em a higher hourly rate if they make you wear a suit while you're working for them.
posted by Peach at 10:38 AM on December 30, 2004

I think this happens to a lot of 30ish year olds. If you don't have one driving ambition, or if you're generally good enough at getting by not to need to seriously assess things, it's easy to get to this age without really 'making a plan' or whatever. Over the last few years I've tried to distinguish medium sized goals that I can achieve so that I can actually see myself progressing. It's not easy, because there are enormous numbers of things I'd like to do, and in order to do any of them, I have to put aside most of them. Being interested in a lot of stuff can feel like being not particularly interested in any one thing because you don't favor this over that, but sometimes you have to just choose to focus in one area for a while.

vignettist is spot on about school. YOu have to consider that as an internal choice, not an external one. If you think you'd gain from the experience, go for it. If you'd be doing it to meet some presumed expectation, don't bother. There are plenty of people with advanced degrees who have nothing to say, and plenty who have unimpressive formal educations but agile minds & a taste for learning, who are much more interesting. School is a good structure though & if you are intellectually hungry, then I absolutely recommend it. The lone ranger method of education is a bit romantic and can make you think you know a lot more than you do (eg, you think you figure out something big and it turns out that's been a major field of study for 300 years; you just didn't know the terminology - in a community, you won't reinvent the wheel, at least not as often).

I guess the main thing you have to figure out is what you would actually enjoy doing with the rest of your life. It's easy to get stuck in a routine without affirming that it's what you want. My advice is to take seriously the "you only live once" adage, and honestly just do whatever it is that excites you. Don't get stuck worrying about how you come across to others or whether you have the right letters after your name. Get involved with stuff you've fantasized about doing. Don't be stupid, obviously, but give yourself permission to take some risks and follow your dreams a bit.

Try writing a list of vague fantasies out - things you've daydreamed about - like, being a biologist, taking fencing, winning a pulitzer, appearing in a movie, learning to breakdance, I dunno, whatever - however random and silly they seem. Then look over them and see if any of them are things that might actually be worth looking into more clearly. Also useful: write a list of your best assets and what you've been told you're especially good at. Try to advise yourself as an outsider based on that, and see if the result is interesting to you.

(I like lists, though. ymmv.)
posted by mdn at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2004

I second the list-making. It can be very helpful. A lot of journalers have been doing "101 Goals in 1001 Days" lists, which are fun. Small, acheiveable goals, within a time table. I did one (add /101.html to the end of my website URL to see mine), and it's been fun to think about as life goes on.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:40 PM on December 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

I have a master's degree, and I often ask myself whether it was worthwhile. I also often ask myself whether the bachelor's degree was worthwhile. There are even often times when I think that I didn't do myself any huge favor by finishing high school. I have a good friend who didn't finish high school, and another who dropped out of college, and both of their lives are arguably more stable (and perhaps more interesting) than mine at the moment. Their cocktail-party rhetoric is shaky, but that's a small price to pay compared to all the money I owe and all the time I spent reading textbooks and writing papers, often on subjects that I really wasn't very interested in.

ymmv, and there's a fairly painless way to find out: take a couple of classes while you're still part of the working world. They could be 'continuing education' classes, or classes that just happen to be at night or on the weekends, and see how you like it. It won't be 'the college experience,' but as others have noted, if you're 30, you're not going to get that anyway, not really. And that's nothing to be ashamed of.
posted by bingo at 3:09 PM on December 30, 2004

You sound like you're in a rut (or feel as if you are). Go back to college. You don't have to go full time. In fact, you shouldn't, unless you have a really good handle on what you want to accomplish (which, from your initial post, doesn't seem to be the case).

Forget about making goals, you're there to learn. Take everything - physical science, pulic speaking, art, history, math, psych - except your current field (don't want to deepen the rut).

You'll learn new and exciting things. You'll meet new and exciting people (which seems to be half your question). A lot of them will be aimless slackers in school because they don't know what else to do with their lives, but a lot of them will be extremely passionate, motivated people that you never would have met otherwise. Passionate people can be very exciting to spend time with (in or out of bed, depending on your situation).

And that may be enough for you to bust you out of your rut - meet some great new folks, pick up an intriguing new field of interest. Or, you may be lucky enough to stumble on something that changes your life forever that you want to pursue as a full-time degree and beyond. That's what happened to me.

Good luck either way.
posted by zanni at 3:37 PM on December 30, 2004

I still have a chip on my shoulder over not going to grad school.
posted by goethean at 4:23 PM on December 30, 2004

Given the wealth of advice here that is not all mutually consistent, allow me to offer some meta-advice: Think long and hard about what everyone has said here, weigh the advice as seems fit to you, and go with what feels right. Many courses of action have been offered here, and most of them will probably lead to an improvement for you, but it's important to analyze how exactly each course of action will benefit you.
posted by The Horn at 4:28 PM on December 30, 2004

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