Graduation: Smile Now, Cry Later


“I easily completed the G.E.D. requirements before moving forward to learn a vocational trade. Now I could hang out in the auto body shop with my homeboy Li’l Man from 107th Street Hoover Crips.

Getting my diploma and learning a trade was just a formality. Felony convictions on our records meant that the possibility of getting a job after release was slim-to-none. Who would take a chance on a criminal?

My real education came from my peers, dudes from every walk of life. Some were ghetto superstars like Big Diamond and Monster Kody from the Eight-Trey Gangsters; Fats from Piru Bloods; my sister’s boyfriend, Peanut, from Black Peace Stone Bloods; and King Rat from the Nikerson Gardens. These were just a few of hundreds that helped shaped me into that true thug—G Man.” (Excerpt from GMan: The Education of a Criminal by Gregory “GMan” Marshall)

Yes, it’s that time of the year. You see the effects of it everywhere you look during the month of June. Graduation is definitely supposed to be a happy time; a time to reflect back on all the hard work you’ve done in search of that ultimate prized piece of paper that you’ll frame and hang on the wall. It doesn’t matter if you’re graduating from high school or college. Graduation provides a sense of accomplishment. The actual event provides a very festive atmosphere.

Maybe you were the first one in your family to graduate from college. Maybe your parents saved like hell and worked their asses off just so that you could have an equal opportunity at living a prosperous life. Maybe you followed in their footsteps and made the same career choice. Oh yeah, that’ll really make them proud of you.

But what if that decision was a bad choice? The economy changes everyday. There’s a college graduate out there somewhere designing a computer program that will possibly eliminate the very job you’ve spent four years training and studying for. So now you have a student loan to pay off that you couldn’t even afford in the first place. You have a degree hanging on your wall that’s now a worthless piece of paper. You have no plan B because plan A was a “for sure” thing.

I’m not bashing college, but I’m a firm believer that college isn’t for everyone. Using myself as an example: I’m a writer. I’m not educationally equipped for this job. I didn’t even finish high school. I received my G.E.D while being incarcerated. I’m self educated. I still have problems with nouns, pronouns, and verbs. During my writing career I often find myself in the company of writers that have multiple degrees, yet I find a way to hold my own. That’s because writing is what I’m so passionate about. I knew that failure was not an option when I started this journey.

So basically what I’m saying is, if you’re passionate about a career that doesn’t require you to waste years and spend money away in college, follow your true dream. Don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail. Your trade could be right there at your local vocational training school. Parents have to be the ones that support your decision. Life is too short and money is too scarce for do-overs. Live life to the fullest. Do whatever makes you the happiest. Who knows, you just might strike it rich following that dream!

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