Learning to trust my intuition
Mon, 06/26/2023 - 2:28pm
This past week, I got a hard lesson on life.
No, I didn’t get humbled, although that’s certainly happened often enough. In fact, I received the opposite lesson, that maybe I do know what I’m doing more often than I think, that sometimes, I should rely more on my intuition or my gut to tell me that I am right instead of looking for validation or listening to others all the time.
I won’t get into the details of the latest episode of “life lessons with Mike.” It’s some drama that really shouldn’t be in a newspaper. But I will tell you of another time when I was taught–the very hard way–about self-confidence and trusting my instincts.
Many in high school won’t remember me for my writing. They remember me for being a funny, weird guy who was smart and liked music. Many members of my family think I’m the smartest of the bunch, that I have been gifted with brains–which is why when talk of college came around, I almost had to go.
I felt deep down inside that I shouldn’t be going to college. See, back in high school, my plan up until late into my junior year was to start a band with my best friend Eric, skip college, and go straight into the workforce until we inevitably became one of the biggest bands in the world like the Beatles. Our high school prophecies in our yearbooks literally said that we would sell out Madison Square Garden.
But then, when Eric chose to go to college, I decided I had to do the same thing: practically out of the blue, I set my heart on Gustavus Adolphus to study music. When we toured there for a college fair during my junior year, we were shown the beautiful recital hall named after famous Swedish opera singer Jussi Björling. I fell in love instantly. And when it came time to decide, even though it was still between Gustavus and MSU in Mankato, I chose the former.
It wasn’t even sophomore year of college when I started questioning why I was there. I was going to be in so much debt for a degree that I really didn’t think I needed. Should I change majors? I thought about switching from a music major to political science because, for some reason, back then in the thick of Trump’s presidency, I enjoyed politics.
Well, God, or fate, decided for me. Nearly halfway into my junior year, I couldn’t afford to stay. Since Gustavus is a private college, it cost much more than MSU, which I didn’t fully know at the time. (Seriously folks, stick to public colleges if you aren’t rich.) Now I don’t have a degree at all.
What that taught me is that in the end, in a way, I was right: I didn’t need college. I’m a reporter at two newspapers and am content with the work I do.
See, the problem was back when I was in school, there was pressure to go to college. I remember teachers telling failing students, “If your grades don’t improve, you won’t get into college.” It was to the point that, if you didn’t go to college, you felt like a failure. I remember getting told, “You’re wasting your brain. Use it,” which to me translated to, “You are smart. Therefore you have to go to college.” I didn’t listen to my intuition due to lack of self-confidence.
Looking back, it almost felt like the only point of high school was to prepare you for college, not real life.
But can you teach real life lessons in a classroom? Sure, you can teach someone how to change a tire or file taxes correctly. But what about instilling self-confidence in them? What about that?
The problem is, you can’t quantify life lessons. You can’t create a rubric to measure someone’s self worth and ability to be intuitive. You can’t grade the ability to cope with difficulty or failure. The whole point of school is to not fail.
I think the speakers from the Waseca Class of 2023 graduation are a prime example that wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Lindsey Kopetzki said that her social studies teacher John Hanson taught the class that not only is having an opinion important, but having conviction and a rationale for that opinion is more valuable. As a 25-year-old Gen Z’er, hearing a younger person in my generation say that hit me.
Aubree Hansen then echoed those thoughts when she said that we have the chance to change the narrative, to “be our true selves.”
I think that’s what I’m learning. Even though I’ve been here for 25 long years, life seems to be getting shorter and shorter. So why hold ourselves back from what we love to do because we feel like it’s not the best choice?
I also hope that the culture change includes not pushing college so much, recognizing that other options are also valuable. I think that is happening more and more these days. There’s a reason why Mike Rowe makes millions of dollars showing people “Dirty Jobs.” Maybe you don’t need a degree to be successful. Maybe you just need to trust your intuition more.