Thursday, November 27, 2008

The 20-Year Plan

Getting an education came as a calling late in life. It has been a joy and a reward. It has also been a challenge with some sacrifices along the way.

At age 32 I decided to go back to college I have been going for 12 years now, and I’ve learned quite a bit.

Part of the problem is that I bought into my father’s philosophy that education was worthless; that it was hard work not schooling that bought you success. I never really balanced the fact that this perspective was coming from a man that never completed second grade.

My career in Hollywood took all of my time and I never got a chance to complete my education in that the time required for the jobs and the tasks were round the clock. But it also led me to believe that you didn’t need one and in some cases the prevailing attitude often held education in disdain. I saw people at the time that were going to school having trouble trying to make ends meet. I was determined to not be a starving student and make as much money as I could through working.

The Army helped me to establish a work ethic of being hard driven and determined. But the drive and determination was often interpreted as compulsive, and I was seen as being rough around the edges. Furthermore I was essentially told that I was stupid – that my Army experience turned me into a brainless cretin. This was a turning point for me. It was an epiphany and a major turning point in my life.

Making matters worse, I had up to that point convinced myself that I was a poor student and incapable of going back to school. My grades in high school and elementary further solidified that point in my mind.

Even though I did not believe in education as a whole at the time I did know that it was important for me to continually improve my knowledge in my career. Upon leaving the military I had taken the money I had saved and entered a couple of classes in videotape editing and television signal theory. Both of those classes served to be foundational for me to become a post production supervisor at Mark Freedman productions.

As my Hollywood career waned I decided to continue my training and I ended up taking a Panavision certification class that was offered through the UCLA Extension program. I did very well in the class and ended up getting an A. It was at that moment that I had another realization. If I could get an A at a university that I could go on and get a degree at just about any college if I applied myself.

I initially started out as a communications major. I wanted to quantify all of the experiences that I had so far in that I had a pretty diverse experience in the media with my background in television and some motion pictures. Around that same time I ended up getting published in a couple of different magazines and really wanted to continue with that success on the side, so I changed my focus and my major to journalism.

Part of what keeps me going is spite, the fact that my father did not want me to go to college; the fact that Hollywood didn’t care about education. The fact that there were several people in my life made me to feel stupid. Perhaps these are the wrong reasons, but they were motivators nonetheless.

That may have been the initial motivating factors for getting an education but since that time I have encountered others that have kept me going:

• The sheer joy of learning
• Meeting fantastic teachers – having meaningful dialectics with professors
• Meeting students and friends at school
• Going to school has changed my life. I no longer think the same I no longer look at the world, space and the universe with the same set of eyes.
• I now know that I don’t know everything but that I have more questions and seek to gain more answers.
• An example to my daughter – School is important, education is important. It all starts at the kitchen table when you do your homework.
• Getting a degree shouldn’t necessarily serve as a springboard as a trade. Education should be broad scoped and widely encompassing. The more foundational the longer lasting it will be. -

I’m not getting an education to hide from a goal or from success but rather to prepare for it. I enjoy school in that it has served as a canvas to create works and has often pushed me to try different mediums.

Re-entering school as an older adult has been an interesting experience to say the least. Watching the kids fritter time and opportunity has put my need to apply myself into perspective. Often the instructors appreciate the older students who can bring meaningful dialog and insight to a conversation, turn in papers and assignments on time and often drive the class in a positive direction.

In my career as I have moved up in responsibility continuing my education has become even more challenging. In order to maintain life balance I’ve had to cut back on my classes in order to ensure sanity and a survivable stress level.

The 20 Year plan has come at a price – I’ve worked 8 of the last 12 years during the evening shift. I’ve missed a lot of events and family dinners and time with my daughter in order to chase the sheepskin.

All of this leads me to the questions:

Am I wasting my time?

Am I too late trying to get an education?

We’ll see.

Ultimately it was my mom that raised the point by saying I didn’t need Oz to tell me that I was intelligent or for that matter to give me a degree. I know that to an extent I was autodidactic, but having an education only went to solidify what I knew.

Now that I have a new job at a company that I have always wanted to work for, I am going to back off the schooling for now. Eventually I’ll get back to it, but for now I just need a little bit of time to spend with my wife and kid. If I time it right, I could try to graduate from college in the same class with my daughter

Ed Flores is currently a student at Mesa Community College. He has been accepted to Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for 2-year colleges. He currently holds an Associate of Arts from Consumnes River College in Northern California and is 6 credit hours from a second associates degree in Arizona. At his current rate of academic progress he is set to graduate in 2015.


Scott said...

I think it's awesome Ed! I'm thinking about doing the same thing... but sooner hopefully. Unfortunately, I have very few credits that will transfer, but I did start out in the major I'm still interested in. I may not be able to get my PhD now that I'm 26, but I can sure get my Bachelors or Masters! Hope to hear more from you soon!

Anonymous said...

There really should just be a published book of Ed. Very inspiring.