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Taking the artistic route for better or for worse

In August I will enter the University of Maryland freshmen class of 2011. After 12 years of slaving away in the public school system, not counting preschool and kindergarten, I’ve reached the end of Baltimore County’s educational tether.

It’s a scary and exciting time. I’ll be on my own but will also share a room with a stranger. I won’t have to use textbooks with graffiti plastered on the pages, but will have to spend several hundred dollars a semester to buy new ones.

It’s embarrassing to think that in four years my brain will be worth more than most people’s homes due to the fact that American higher education is the most expensive in the world. I’ve thought a lot about my future because of an obsessive need to plan everything, despite the fact that God has a sense of humor and life never goes according to plan.

I will major in English to prepare for a life as a writer, specifically as a columnist. After graduating I’d like to attend one of the country’s more prestigious journalism schools. Before I breathe my last breath I would like to have a Pulitzer sitting on my shelf, a column in a prominent publication, and several books with my name on the cover. So there you have it, my battle plan: Operation Life’s Journey.

What I wrote above is a rosy picture of perfection. I expect and hope for bumps in the road because without them life is boring.

They are already starting. Along with graduation came a lot of checks and a lot of questions. “What do you want to do with your life?” “What are you majoring in?” seem to be the most popular among the middle-aged inquisitors. When I respond that I want to be a journalist, some say I have the writing skills to do it, others say it doesn’t pay much. But life is too short to do something you loathe.

At the same time I was walking across the stage to receive my high school diploma so were 1.5 million seniors at over four thousand colleges and universities across the country. The number of people attending institutions of higher education today is more than 17 million. Of them 22 percent major in business and less than 4 percent major in English. History has a whopping 2 percent.

Today’s colleges and universities are producing an entire demographic of businessmen and women and so few writers and artists. Of course, this is great for me, but ultimately hurtful to society for it is the artists that spark human intellect.

When I walked across that stage recently I thought about the people I’ll miss and those who I’ll be glad to get away from; the teachers I wish I could bring with me and those who I wish had taken up another profession. But such is life.

On my last day of school, while saying good bye to a teacher, I said I’d come back and visit. “Don’t come back,” she said, “this chapter of your life has ended and it’s time to turn the page to the next one.” She was right and I’m grateful that I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of being surrounded by people who have kept my path aligned and nurtured my passions. Because of them I’m one of the lucky ones in that I know what I want to do and where I want to go. I only hope I continue to be surrounded by such people who will help me to get there.

Justin Snow is a former Baltimore Examiner editorial page intern. He can be reached at jsnow489@gmail.com.

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