I read your energy blog regularly and am trying to chart a course in life amid the ongoing collapse. I'm writing to ask what, if any, thoughts you have about what I should do. I was thinking about law school, undergrad for econ, or grad school for stats, or education. But will there be time to use any of those? Guy McPherson (from the Nature Bats Last blog) advised me to forget school and move far from pop. centers.
Background: I have one useless degree (in religion/philosophy, but with great grades) and one seemingly more practical (mathematics) that may be useless due to mediocre grades. I was valedictorian in high school (with scholarship to a top college), but am now 31 and flat broke due to never having a real job. If the industrial economy weren't in its death throes, I'd still be young enough to start over, but with oil production soon to fall to 1980 levels, my margin for error is not large. I currently scrape by teaching test prep courses part-time for one of the major companies. My family moved from NJ to Montana 5 years ago when my dad retired as a carpenter. They would take me in a second, but there is no work there except Walmart.
I think the solution under "normal" circumstances would be a degree, but is the time right? Any thoughts, please send them along.
Well, though I don't know you or your talents, I will speak in generalities…
Another degree is not the answer, unless you need it for a professional license. Education does not really require somebody else's approval. When I referred to myself as self-educated, my good friend, family clergy man, and adviser Rabbi Mo Silver sniffed and said: "As if there was any other kind." He has an uncanny ability to grasp the obvious and to remind me that it was so...
Start a business. Learn to make money, negotiate, sell, buy, trade, manage... the most important skill in business is the ability to "grind it out". It is true: “80% of life is just showing up”. Business is not as much fun as going to school (with all of it attendant social opportunities), but it can provide you with a living.
Don't know which business? Me neither. But I think something where YOU add value beyond just being a merchant... but if you can't add value, well... being a merchant ain't all that bad.
Northern Rockies? LOOOOOOONG Winters... if that is OK with you... but the middle of the country will likely empty out (with the exception of rain belt farm land), and that ain't good for a local economy... and in the end, that kind of isolation is not for many people.
The U.S. advanced education industry has ripped off millions, saddled them with debt, and held up their productive lives for years and years - and you might have been caught up in that fraud, though I can't be know for sure. 31 years old is a bit late to be going to work, unless you are a surgeon and spent 8 years in full time training...
I have a son, 16 years old. Every chance I get I tell him the faster he can get through college and get some real life experience in business, the more success he will likely see, and the more comfortable will the end of his life be.
I can only look at my own life for perspective, and compare that to others… which is rather imperfect. I went to work at 17 (14, if you count my weekend job I held till 17), worked through college with an athletic scholarship (I would have been better off working at McDonald's), skipped back packing around Europe (mistake, but I did travel extensively through South America’s third world – excellent eye opener) to go right after it in business (best thing I ever did, by the time my friends got their MBA's I was a millionaire) and I have been at it ever since with a couple of weeks off per year. That's life. The good news is that I have been blessed to be able to provide very well for my wife and children - and that really IS a reward. I worked hard, saved my money, and never bought a red sports car.
But there is something you should know... unless you are a freak of nature, there will be times when life beats you up. I have had business failures, lost every thing, came back, lost everything again in a market collapse that nearly broke me… went through a divorce… personal loss… came back... nothing is static, especially in business.
Still, through good times and bad I always had a glass of wine with dinner, never missed desert, and endeavored to make love every night. I played hard in general.
If I could give you any advice... start with the wine, desert, and love making... add some hard work in a business that pays (too many folks give you the circle jerk about doing what you love, doing what makes you happy... let me tell you something... while “money can't by happiness”, happiness can't buy money... whoever said the former had never been poor - I have. Poverty SUCKS. You will find whatever you do for a living infinitely more fun if it pays $2 million a year, or even $200k...
Go into business, and go to work. Besides, since you probably can’t get a job you really don’t have a choice.
I continue to be struck by the number of people just STARTING to go to work at 30 or 31 years old. If you need medical or law school to enter the profession, that's OK. That is simply the start up costs... but if you are getting Poly-Sci degrees and putting off work until you are 30 years old... well, I think you would have to have rocks in your head.