Thursday, December 23, 2010

Unschooling Myself

        I have officially left college. I am now back where I started, back where I spent the first 17 years of my life, my little hometown of Coxsackie, NY. This is where I went to public school, where I played recreational soccer, where I spent time with friends, and where I learned to grow up. I'm glad to be back.
        However, I do miss dear Buffalo. Although most of my writings have been critical of college, I am not in total disgust with the idea. I actually enjoyed my experience very much for the last semester. A recent comment on my last post stated that my analysis of college was short-sighted and erroneous at best. I understand that I have been taking a biased viewpoint (don't we all?), but now is the time to point out that my opinion hasn't been a complaint. Perhaps it has come off as myself feeling annoyed and angry at "the system," but, in fact, I have discovered the true way to be happy, and that is to appreciate every moment for what it is, which is why I came to University at Buffalo with the attitude that I would make the most of the time I was there, and I did. I took the most interesting classes that I could find in the course catalog. Most turned out to be unimpressive, but luckily I lightened my course load, so I would have more time for the more charming parts of college, such as school clubs and meeting new people. With those two things in mind, I learned a lot and had fun at the same time.
        But, of course, the time had to come to an end. I was able to experience 4 years of undergrad in only one semester. How? By setting that as my goal. With knowledge of not returning, I took everything out of it I could. I met with students of all ages, audited classes I wasn't even signed up for, and let university show me what it's made of. I can say that I am now ready to move on. It's time to unschool.
        So, it's not that I think I'm better than anyone else because I'm "over" college. It's just that I have realized that I can make my life into whatever I desire, rather than comply with expectations. My heart aches for those that feel they are stuck, for those left at college, not knowing why, but complaining about tests and the lack of fulfillment in their lives in general. This is where my frustration comes from. These people are those that motivate me to write papers about why college is not a good investment.
        I may go back to college, eventually. But like my father pointed out to me in the car ride home, if I'm attending college, it should be my priority, but right now it is not. Therefore, I will do what I've been dreaming about since my first training bra - travel. So many people say, how will you get the money? Ahh, money, money, money. It's what makes the world go 'round, right? The funny thing is that I don't think too much about it. I realize that if I really want to do something, money is not an issue. First of all, it certainly doesn't take that much money to sustain oneself. I could probably live without money. I could couchsurf and practice freeganism. Most people have never heard of these things because they haven't made it a priority to figure out. Yet, I'll probably still try to bring in some cash. When I get low, I can just pick up a job in a city I want to befriend for a while, save up, and move on.
        You might be thinking that this isn't a pleasing lifestyle. It's not stable, not secure. But that's the thing; I'm not looking for stability or security. I've had that my whole life. I need chaos and excitement. I need something to motivate me, to instill passion in me. I just need to figure the world out, and a college classroom is not the place to do that.
        As of right now, I am sitting in the kitchen of my high school friend's house as she's at work. Her parents don't mind that I've been sleeping on the couch for the past few nights They even offered me a blow-up mattress. They've been feeding me, and in return, I do some dishes and provide good conversation. When I treat them like family, I'm like family. It's a simple as that. Good character is enough to get me places. For example, next stop is Woodstock with my old English teacher (yup, the one from the speech). After that, I head to New Paltz, where a friend from Buffalo resides on holidays. I continue south to NYC, where I will stay with another friend. Now, this is where it gets even more exciting. In mid-January, I'll be taking a plane down to the family I will be staying with for an undetermined amount of time, the Halldorsons. And the Halldorsons aren't just any normal family. They have renovated a school bus RV-style, and named it the Unschool Bus. Here, check it out:

        Kelly Halldorson was the first person to interview me after my speech. We met up in a coffee shop in Albany and had great conversation for about two hours. We kept in contact through Facebook, and the few days before I shipped off to Buffalo, I spent in Boston at an unschooling conference with the whole family. I'm very excited to see them again and start acting like part of the family. Creating family everywhere, I've learned, is one of the beauties of life.
        So, for night now, I'm in stage 1 of unschooling myself. I've been relaxing - sitting around reading, playing ukulele, making a dress out of construction paper, duct tape, and tin foil...basically whatever I want. I'm really not focused on trying to make money, or figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I'm taking it one day at a time, and I'm lucky enough to have a support system that will help me with this crucial stage in my life.
        I know a lot of people expect me to be "something great," but there's no way that will happen along side of me being happy and driven without realizing myself what that something is. I often feel that I have been trying to free myself, but now there is even more pressure. Honestly, I think that no matter what I "become," I will be great. I think that my path is maturing me and giving me wisdom every step I take, and even if I died tomorrow, I will feel complete. But, here I am, still living, so there must be a niche for me to take, one that will continue to create balance and harmony in the universe.


  1. Hey Erica,

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  2. I have officially left college


    I'm about a decade older than you, but since I'm about eight or nine years behind you in the Figuring Things Out department, I can only speak to a year or two of living kind of like you say you plan to. I haven't gone the couchsurfing/freegan route, but the picking up jobs, saving up, moving on--yes yes yes. Stability is overrated.

    It doesn't take much money to support just yourself with no dependents and no debt and no money-sinks like a house or a car. This doesn't change the fact that most of us don't have nearly enough money to support ourselves, but it does mean if you start with the right circumstances it's not that hard to get by. It's important to recognize, as you do, and remember that when they say "People need jobs" they're talking about something two levels removed from actual necessity. No one needs a job, they need what the job gets them--money. But then, no one needs money, they need what that gets them--necessities like food and shelter. If you keep that in mind, focus on the necessities and beyond that focus on what you want rather than what you're told you need, you'll do well. Or at least that's been my experience so far. Good luck!

    I hope none of that sounded like condescending voice-of-experience advice or anything. I intend it as solidarity and support from someone just a tiny little bit further along the road than you are right now.

    Our current stage of capitalism is collapsing, and there's no telling what will replace it. But the more people out there living the lives they choose, the higher the chances it might be replaced with something livable.

  3. So fun to follow your journey.
    Your life is yours now. Yeah!
    I added your blog to my "inspirational unschoolers" column on my blog.
    All the best...

  4. Hi Erica, I like your ideas and thoughts. I want you to visit this

  5. Beautifully said! I look forward to following you journey!

  6. Great post! I'm very impressed with your clear-head!

    I mentioned this post and your speech in my most recent post found at The Anarchist Mother.

  7. Thanks Erica. I do apreciate and suport your vision. I'll be pleased you come to visit me in France when you think it possible. You'll find my contact on or appvie-crea//at//

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  10. It might be cool to find volunteer networks in each city you visit. If anything, it would at least pass the time while you look for Truth.

  11. Erica, its me joe. I will admit I envy you a little. Being able to drop everything and bounce is far beyond me. Im way to deeply embeded in the matrix already. Goodluck and farwell, we will meet again... maybe. dont come back to buffalo unless its like the middle of summer, or fall i guess. you know how it is

  12. I feel like you're writing your own Kerouac novel. Interesting twist of fate ...

    If you want advice ... get involved with restaurants ... that's what I did after I dropped out of high school. It has afforded me freedom beyond belief. It gave me very interesting experiences.

    Live the dream.

  13. I'm glad you're "free of burden" and living everyday to the fullest and exploring "who you are". (:
    I think not many of us will actually be where you're at or maybe we will be "there" much much later.
    And I'm also glad that you are creating your own little families where ever you go, especially since I know that I don't think I can do that (:

  14. All the best for your journey. May you find all that you desire and more. I wish I had the courage to do something like this.

  15. I loved reading this Erica! And I've totally agreed with this for a while. I agree college is a big waste, in addition to the fact that it doesn't give good life experiences (well it does a bit) and kind of ties one mentally into some boring pre-planned social routine.

    That said, I went to college; just graduated actually. It was interesting, and I got more out of it than I was expecting. I need it (no really, the state requires it) for structural engineering. Unfortunately, it kind of teaches one to rely on paying others to teach things, rather than being responsible for one's own learning.

    I'm slightly envious of your freedom from college. I hope to have an adventure in out of state grad school, yet in many ways my feelings are the same as you project yours to be.

    I don't really know what I'm saying - I figure stuff out by communicating with people. Maybe I'm trying to balance my compulsion for security with my desire for freedom. I think it takes guts. Job-money-necessities are always there nagging away, asking to be guaranteed to remain constant for eternity. They kind of annoy me sometimes. Ah well I feel like I'm stealing your blog! Good luck!

    Oh and if you're ever coming to the Phoenix area I've got a place you could stay at for a bit. If you like a couch :-P Just message me on facebook.

    Aaron V McDevitt

  16. Hi Erica!

    I'm currently a high school student, and every single word I've heard from this site and your Valedictorian speech renders me completely unstruck of how well you've developed yourself and the ways in which you perceive the world around you. All the points you've covered resemble the type of education I am receiving- and show that something like it should be changed. Thank you so much for being the voice your/my generation needs!


  17. Hello Erica,

    When you said that you were back in your hometown "where (you) learned to grow up" I had to respond.

    I know you think you've grown up. You haven't. I don't intend to demean you or to belittle your accomplishments. You are certainly growing and what you've done is clearly impressive. I admire you, both who you are and what you've done. I think the path you've chosen is one that requires a lot of courage. You will find yourself growing rapidly in the months and years to come, but you are not grown up. Five years from now you will look back upon yourself and chuckle at the idea that you thought you were grown up and at that time you will think, "but now I'm grown up" and still you will be wrong. That's just the way it is darlin'.

    You are a fast learner, you have a good grasp on reality and you seem to see things for what they are but there is no chance you are grown up. To illustrate why that is so I ask you to remember the last fight you had with someone you loved, regardless of their gender ... to remember the last time somebody really hurt your feelings. How did you react? How did they respond? Did it all work out? And how do you feel about it now? That’s why you’re not grown up.

    For most of my life I would get upset and argue with people despite the fact that it almost never worked for me. With some people I had had no success whatsoever, yet I continued to respond in the same fashion. I knew that my success rate was abysmal, yet I persisted with the same broken behavior.

    A rational person would have amended their behavior, tried something else. This did not even occur to me until I was in my late 30s.

    So, now we come to the heart of the matter. Rather than arguing with people, what do I do when I get upset? First I try my best not to get upset because anger kills all reason. If I do get upset I do not argue with people. Instead I say something to the effect that I don’t think we’re getting anywhere at the moment, (I say it without any implication that this is their fault) and politely suggest that we speak about it again the next day, saying that perhaps then we will be able to come to some mutually agreeable resolution. Then I go home and write them a letter. As you can see I write long letters … usually by the time I’m done I have thoroughly analyzed my feelings and come to a truly rational point of view. I end up doing a lot of editing but when I’m done I’ve crafted an expression of how I feel that cannot be argued with and even better than that it cannot be interrupted or misunderstood. That’s the problem with arguments. People end up misunderstanding what you’re saying which causes them to interrupt you before you’re done so you never get to express yourself completely. This happens in EVERY heated situation and everybody walks away with an incomplete or erroneous idea of what the other person was saying and everybody’s feelings are hurt over what is essentially a misunderstanding. Can you see how truly childish this type of behavior is? Yet, your parents probably do this and perhaps even your grandparents. So, it’s no surprise that few people ever learn to respond more effectively. So far my success rate for my new behavior has been 100% even with an ex-girlfriend with whom I had an extremely unhealthy relationship. It is only now that I am sure that I have truly "grown up". My way may not work for you but the important thing is that you recognize what is not working and look for something that does.

    I hope you will be able to use this information to prove me wrong regarding how long it will take you to grow up.
    Good Luck,

  18. Hi Erica,

    I am from England.

    I'm guessing you would write a book about your experiences in travelling and living the life of a nomad, homeless lady. Its such a shame you didn't use your intelligence properly... But then again, maybe you will make loads of money out of your writings? :)

    Good luck!

  19. Erica,

    You are living in a dream, love not in a reality. But who knows? You are now attracting the world's attention so it might benefit you in the long run. But there are only one Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson (UK) in the world. It is only a matter of time until we see you join the club of those highly- successful icons. Who knows?

    Anyway, all the best!

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  27. Hi Erica, thanks for publishing your thoughts and arguments. It's really cool not only to read your well argued points, but the responses too. People come up with the same defenses of indoctrination everywhere it seems.

    You're right, freeganism and couch surfing are amazing ways to spend time and experience people and places. disability sport work and aged care are the best ways I find to supplement them with income. Fundamentally fulfilling, decent pay (in Australia, England and most of Europe at least) constant demand for workers and flexible contracts make for the perfect way to participate in the economy when necessary.

    It makes freedom within this age of ours seem less morally expensive.


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