My Education

1407593052“I went to college,” she told me.

She always reminds me of that whenever we go over the grocery list. This time we got as far as orange juice before she brought it up.

“I went to college too,” I told her.

“Yeah, but I finished.”

She had me there.

“And I drove 70 miles each way for eight years to get my degree.”


“And I did that so I don’t have to drink generic orange juice.”


“Get the kind with calcium and Vitamin D,” she said, “it’s the one with the blue cap.”

I know which kind it is.

We have a jug of it in the refrigerator. It is the one I fill with generic orange juice. She may have gone to college but I know how to save a buck – or in the case of Minute Maid, a couple of bucks.

We always have this argument. I buy generic; she buys name-brand. I guess she feels she has earned it because she worked so hard to get ahead.

While she went to college, she worked a full-time job and raised two kids. Her school was half-way across the state which meant she drove an hour and a half to get there, often through blizzards and thunderstorms.

That is true grit.

So I suppose she deserves Minute-Maid by the jug.

It is me who does not deserve it. I got kicked out of every school I went to. I dropped out of high-school a month before graduation to go hitch-hiking with Stan. I only went to college years later because that is where the girls and parties were. Eventually, I dropped out of that too.

I never understood college.

I loved literature. I loved history. I loved geography, sociology and psychology too. But it seems to me that if you love literature and history and all the other subjects, you would never stop studying them – yet so many people I know dropped out of learning the day they graduated. It is like once you have a degree, you know all you need to know.

Maybe that is why I never got one.

I guess it is also why things turned out okay for me. I never lost a love for learning. Even after dropping out of high school, I carried a backpack full of books on the road and years later, I was lucky enough to work my way into a technical field that was so starved for talent that they ignored credentials. All they wanted were people who so loved what they did that they never stopped learning.

“And cross out toilet paper too,” she said.

“I thought we needed that.”



“Remember what happened the last time you bought generic toilet paper?”

Ooooooh, I do.

“You never learn, do you?” she said.



If you enjoyed this, you will probably like My Job Seeking Advice

Author: Almost Iowa

54 thoughts on “My Education”

  1. I stayed in college as long as I could, living the good life for eight years, before snagging a degree. But my degree is in nursing and I’ve studied that and other subjects ever since. Lifelong learning is not determined by a degree. Name brands? Yes, for me, because I’m shallow. Haha!

  2. I never made it to college – I went the vocational route in a field that, as you say, was starved for talent. Sometimes I wonder what I missed. Maybe a few parties, maybe better developed social skills, maybe a broader knowledge – who knows? In any case, I’d have to agree that folks who let learning go at the diploma door are missing the boat. Have they no curiosity?

    I wonder if it would be a valid pre-interview test on a potential employer to hit the restroom and check the quality of their TP?

  3. Life-long learning + Anxiety of being a single mother of two = Success and exhaustion in equal measure.

    Thankful for taking retirement with simple needs and time to learn the finer things in life!

  4. First of all, I have to say I agree with your wife that toilet paper is not an area so scrimp on! Otherwise, I tend to remain neutral in the generic verses name brand argument, sort of like Switzerland. As for college, yes, there are too many people who use it just to get a degree, just to get a job. It’s supposed to be about learning, and goofing off before you actually have to get real job. Which makes what your wife did all the more impressive!

  5. I’m not sure they taught me the equivalent ratio of education to named brand products. But I’m not going back for any more degrees… ever!

    1. Locally, it goes something like this:

      High school drop out = 71′ AMC Gremlin.
      High school grad = 98′ Ford Ranger
      Associate of Arts degree = 2008 F150
      Bachelor degree = 2012 F150
      Master degree = 2017 F350
      Doctorate degree = 74′ AMC Gremlin (restored)

  6. I went to college and I very much enjoyed it, and I will always be grateful that I was able to get a degree. That being said – I do feel I’ve done a lot more learning outside the classrooms than I ever did in. When learning on my own time I can read what I want and at my own pace and so I enjoy it a lot more. I’m also one of those people that doesn’t care for being told what to do…. not the best attitude for a classroom setting lol. So, I guess I can see both sides of the argument! Except the toilet paper argument. ALWAYS name brand.

    1. A lot of my friends went to college, enjoyed it and landed rewarding careers because of it. I often use the subject of history to raise the question of why pay the cost of a house for a college education, yet one of my best friends majored in history then went on to get a master degree in Industrial Relations is now a very successful lawyer. For some it pays off, for others it bankrupts.

      But different people learn in different ways. I always said, “give me a manual and problem then stand back”, yet others I worked with needed formal schooling.

      I think what we have now is one size fits all credential quest where the costs are spinning out of control

      1. Definitely. It took me over a decade to pay off my student loans, and I know a lot of people who it will take a lot longer, if ever. 😦

  7. I have mixed feelings about college education (all education, really). Self-learning is the best. But I’m glad I went back to school to get my environmental biology degree. Going to a small (less than 4000 students) school was soooo much better than the huge Ohio universities I attended in the 80s.

    Quilted Northern all the way!! Any old orange juice is fine.

    1. I grew up in Saint Paul where it seemed every other person on the street worked for 3M. A friend’s dad once recounted how he got his job designing production lines.

      3M: Describe your work experience.
      Applicant: I don’t have any work experience. I got drafted in 42′
      3M: What did you do in service?
      Applicant: I was a navigator on a B25.
      3M: You’re hired.

      The average age of a B25 crew was 22 and they were selected for their character, not their credentials. I think we have lost something in that.

        1. I used to work for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Anyone who has read a John Sanford novel knows what that is. (It is the state’s version of the FBI) During my last year, I sat on a hiring panel to evaluate candidates for a job involving complex statistical modeling.

          I remember one interview going something like this:

          Panel: Describe your work process.
          Candidate: [paraphrased] I ask management what results they are looking for and I give them that.

          Needles to say, that was a short interview.

  8. So when are you writing the book? Every post should be in it! Love how you write! So, I went to college, grad school, and I make a master grocery list. I learned that skill in high school economics/ cooking class! Can’t say all that education didn’t help to advance a nursing career path though! 📚 Christine

    1. I thought about putting these essays into a book – but then I read up on the trials and tribulations of (even online) publishing. Egads!! 🙂 🙂

      1. I know, publishing works is daunting. But, you have a niche, humor in everyday life. People would relate! Your book would sell! 📚 Christine

    1. After trying the generic stuff once, I rushed out and bought a bale of QUILTED NORTHERN. I kept the generic toilet paper though, I use it to buff sheet metal.

  9. Lord it over…it’s the name of the game. We also play that. What a shame. Lack of confidence may be to blame. Many couples are the same. Luckily we lords are tame.

  10. Well, I agree with you on the orange juice…generic is just fine, it’s all squeezed fruit anyway. The label is just slick advertising.

    But the TP ?- I’m almost obsessively loyal to my brand, so I have to side with your wife on that one.

    I never went to college…never wanted the experience or the debt that went along with it. If I want to learn something, I teach myself with books or the ‘net, because having to sit and listen to someone else drone about the finer points of whatever it is bores me to tears.

    And I’m still learning things to this day.

    1. because having to sit and listen to someone else drone about the finer points of whatever it is bores me to tears.

      Before I went to college, I read everything, especially the classics from Thucydides to Hemingway. On my first day in English Lit, the professor lectured while staring out a window. He hated his job and hated literature. That was the beginning of the end for my formal education. On the other hand, I had an accounting prof that loved accounting. I never had such fun in a class.

  11. We were in northern Minnesota a week ago, thought about you when we drove through from Iowa. Mosquitos about took us away while there, they are bad in Florida, but Minnesota takes the cake. Oh, and I am impressed that you actually make a list when you grocery shop👍

    1. Oh my goodness, if you drove I-35, you passed within 10 miles of my house. This year the biting horse-flies are extremely bad because of the wet weather (and we got dumped on again last night).

      Where were you in Northern Minnesota? Beautiful, isn’t it?

      1. Our daughter lives in Eden Prairie, spent a couple days with her then headed to Ruttgers Bay Lake Village. Fun family reunion, with my sisters family and part of mine, boating, swimming, camp fires, golfing, fireworks etc. first time there. After spending the week there we commented that we don’t know why we never vacationed in Minnesota before. Wasn’t that far to drive from Des Moines. Have you ever been to the resort?

        1. There are stories from my academic career that would curl your hair — or leave you convulsed with laughter. Suffice it to say I started college way too young (16) and ended up taking nine years to get a bachelor’s degree. Eventually, I got a master’s, too — at some cost, and not only money. Finally, I said “NO!!!” to the chance for a Ph.D, and ended up varnishing boats. I’d never go back into academia now — those people have gone crazy.

          I can’t say college was a total waste, of course. I did learn how to play bridge in the back of my 500 person general math class.

          1. Oh — and when I was in Liberia, the Lebanese merchants sold Russian toilet paper that most nearly resembled our waxed paper. It was a delight — and no, we didn’t buy it.

          2. I’d never go back into academia now — those people have gone crazy.

            My favorite critique on what academic culture has become is The Sokol Hoax

            From Wikipedia:

            The Sokal affair, also called the Sokal hoax,[1] was a scholarly publishing sting perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University and University College London. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the journal’s intellectual rigor and, specifically, to investigate whether “a leading North American journal of cultural studies – whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross – [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions”.[2]

            The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”,[3] was published in the Social Text spring/summer 1996 “Science Wars” issue. It proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and it did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist.[4][5] On the day of its publication in May 1996, Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax.[2]

            If you have the courage to read “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, it is a hoot.

  12. There’s definitely value in a college education. The 24-year-old son with a job in the tech field makes way more money than his dad who has been laboring as an automotive machinist for nearly 40 years. I’m good with the son making way more money. So, yeah, the son’s talents and smarts and education in the right field landed him a darned good job. One summer or maybe two, he worked with his dad in the machine shop and learned that his dad is pretty smart, too, with a two-year vo-tech degree. He just is not fairly compensated.

    Learning in life, as you know, comes from a multitude of sources. I consider you a pretty educated person, even if you prefer generic (my preference also).

    1. There’s definitely value in a college education.

      There is always value in learning – but the question of our age is, what is the cost and is the cost worth it? Should a history degree cost as much as a house?

      My daughter studied philosophy (and her dad paid the bills) but after a few years of working for minimum wage, she went back to school to become a pipe-fitter, which she thoroughly enjoys.

      If one is studying computer science, business, engineering or medicine, the traditional college approach still works – but for the liberal arts the cost structure is becoming oppressive and various schemes to cover tuition are simply hiding the problem.

      We need new models. One of models that works very well is one I took advantage of to improve my writing. Minneapolis has a great non-profit organization called The Loft Literary Center which focuses on the continuing education for writing and literature. I would love to see “a loft” for history, for visual arts and various ‘studies”. If that were the case, there would be fewer kids burdened with debt and free to follow their passions.

      1. Ah, I came from a land where education was a right that you earned by proving you could use it. Educators and education were valued back then. Then Mrs. T came along. Of course, we had horrible toilet paper. Some things improve with time.

  13. I went to college, and graduate school, but (apparently) I never learned how to shop. I enjoy learning and I make it a habit to continue learning, but there’s something about shopping that sits just beyond my reach.

  14. hahaa I stayed in school because I didn’t want to work. Not all education is ‘formal’. Some of the smartest people I know never finished their ‘formal education’ and some of the dumbest did.

    1. Life long learning = only way to live life fully

      That is my take on it – but sometimes it gets me in trouble.

      HER: You spent all morning doing WHAT?
      ME: Reading up on Nitrate farms.
      HER: What in the world is that?
      ME: It’s how they made saltpeter for gunpowder in the old days. They would dig a pit and fill it with rotted vegetation and poop and…
      HER: So am I hearing this correctly, instead of fixing the roof, cleaning the cat box and paying your late credit card bill, you spent a morning reading about poop?
      ME: Yup.
      HER: I don’t know why I hang out with you.

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