Monday, July 14, 2014

College Mistake #3: Listening to the Haters

Maybe this should have been the first on my list of college mistakes... Then again, maybe I just saved the worst for last.

Hating On Yourself

I'm going to take a trip down memory lane because it is relevant to this discussion. I wanted to attend college after graduating from high school; however, my parents disagreed with this decision, and did everything that they could to prevent me from continuing my education. They succeeded until I was in my 30's, but there was a part of me that still believed that I wasn't "worthy enough" to attend college.
"pointing-finger" by Purple Slog CC By 2.0

Big mistake... When you hate on yourself like that, you are giving the haters around you an open invitation to hate on you. The haters' words and actions will only serve to reinforce all of the hating that you are doing to yourself. I'm not going to spout something like, "Believe in yourself, and you can achieve anything;" however, you do what you need to do to stop hating on yourself before starting college. Sure, you'll have moments when you think, "Why am I doing this?" That's normal, but you'll encounter more than enough haters during your college career, and you don't need to add yourself to that list.

Hater Types

I have my own list of haters, and have separated them into two categories:
    Blatant Haters
    "bullhorn" by CALI CC By-NC-SA 2.0
    From my experience, blatant haters are the easiest to deal with because you see them coming from a mile away. These haters openly voice their objections, and you know that they do not care what is in your best interests. They throw around words like "stupid," "irresponsible," "selfish," or "incapable," when the topic of your college career comes up. You are probably mentally prepared for them, and you may see their perspectives as a challenge to perform well in college.

    If you aren't mentally prepared for them, or think that you might have problems viewing them as motivational, you should work on that; they will appear, and they will be very vocal. If they are getting to you, talk to someone about ways to shut them down. You'll find that some of your peers have found effective ways to shut down these types of haters. Also, don't be afraid to talk to an academic advisor, professor, or another employee at the college you are attending. Many colleges have people that you can talk to that will help you deal with these types of haters. You're paying for your education, so don't be afraid to get your money's worth out of it.

    Ninja Haters
    The "ninja" haters are the most difficult to deal with simply because you don't see them coming. These are people that you think have your back. Some of them think that they have your back, and some of them are too cowardly to be a blatant hater. Generally speaking, haters in this category will try to prepare you for failure, or view college as an expensive hobby.

    The problem with this category of haters is that it is often tough to determine which ones have good intentions, and which ones are just cowards. Honestly, it doesn't really matter, because the end results are the same; however, knowing which sub-category these haters fall in may provide you with some insight on how to deal with them.

    "Solarized Ninja" by chrishuseln CC By 2.0
    The "ninja" haters with good intentions think that you are going to fail in some way. They will inevitably (and even unconsciously) create challenges that interfere with your continuing education. Mike's mother is a good example of a ninja hater with good intentions; she truly cared about me, but she had her own agenda. Here are a couple of examples of what well-meaning ninja haters can do:
    • When I had to put in extra study time for a course, she would come up with some minor disaster that needed my immediate and undivided attention. 
    • When my financial aid refund would come in; she scheduled an appointment with the doctor, who ran every test on her that could be run, or needed some of her very expensive insulin. 
    I don't think she went out of her way to provide these barriers, but the end result was the same; I lost sleep before an exam because I was studying, I went back to my studies frustrated and distracted, and I had less financial aid to cover the cost of college.
     Now you know why I said to refuse the surplus loan/grant amounts.
    The "ninja" haters that are cowards will consciously do whatever it takes to interfere with your continuing education. To your face, they will be concerned about you; however, they will do whatever they can to provide you with challenges to overcome. One of Mike's sisters-in-law falls into this category. Some examples of the extremes she went to are:
    • Interfered with my study time by blasting music and singing off-key
    • Found tasks for me to help her with that could have waited (by her own admission) until after I completed my coursework
    • Threw drinking parties the night before an exam; I wasn't invited to these parties, and was woken up on several occasions by drunken "philosophical" discussions, such as what the result of 8 times 3 was (that's a story for a different time). 
    • Suggested to me that I drop out of college because I was wasting my time, since I would eventually be on disability because of my Graves' diagnosis. 
    When confronted, she claimed that she had the best of intentions... Sure she did, and I have some ocean-front property here in Missouri that I'm willing to sell for a steal.

    Some (Not Much) Advice

    I wish that I could give you some effective ways of dealing with the haters; especially the "ninja" haters. What I can offer is this:
    Don't buy into what they are doing or saying
    You have to decide how you are going to deal with these folks; what you are going to say, how you are going to say it. Set boundaries for if/when you are going to talk about college to these folks, when you are going to be available to deal with minor stuff, and define what an "emergency" is; then stick to it. Do not give an inch, because they will take the mile.

    My mistake was that I didn't stick to the boundaries I set. I stuck to them at first, then I felt guilty for sticking to those boundaries, and then eventually allowed others to disregard those boundaries. In short,  not only did I allow the haters to be disrespectful towards me, but I also disrespected my self. You know that you have some really good reasons for continuing your education; don't let anyone tell differently.

    Anytime you consider giving in to the haters; think about this:
    1. It's no fun being laughed at during interviews.
    2. It sucks being a college dropout with a huge debt hanging over your head.
    3. The first two things can sometimes be avoided by thinking ahead.
    Thanks for reading, and best wishes.

    Title image modified from original: "College Lecture" by Sean MacEntee CC By 2.0

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