Trading Trades: The Near-Extinction of the Trade Market

blog post may 6 2019


Long before capitalism and the free market, our ancestors relied upon learning a trade or skill in order to barter goods for their livelihood. Farmers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, bakers, fishermen, liveries, etc. all relied heavily on these traders whose skills were also taught to their children as they carried on the tradition for future generations.

Since the explosion of capitalism, globalization, and the free market, big corporations thrive on mass-producing items that used to be hand-tailored by local craftsmen. More and more younger generations are bypassing learning trades and heading toward four-year universities majoring in disciplines that may or may not lead them to prosperous careers later down the road. This falsehood that a four-year college is more reputable than two-year trade schools cheats these young people out of learning a useful skill that can lead to financial independence and self-sufficiency. Yet, we continue to be shackled by the confines of capitalism and keep falling for such traps as pursuing useless degrees—myself included.

Personally, my family would be lost without a “one-stop shop” business like Amazon. We get all of our items for our cat colony and for my dad’s care and of course, all of my work is published through them as well. I, too, am enslaved by capitalism.

I went to a four-year university and never ever used my bachelor’s degree in psychology. This led me through a near twenty-year struggle to find my place in the world, settling for random part-time work and never being granted a steady nine to five job with a 401k or benefits or a pension. I had to figure it all out on my own the hard way. If I could go back in time, I would have gone to school for a trade and become a beautician. I would have my own beauty salon by now and I would be much better off than I am now. I was further brainwashed when I decided to go back to school that MBA’s were the way to go to find work not realizing that you had to have a job in business already for an MBA to be valuable. I realized much too late that the more degrees one carried the least likely you were to get a full-time job. Higher end degrees in useless fields are like garlic to vampires. Businesses don’t like you educated and don’t like to pay you what you’re worth. They want you dumb and they want cheap laborers. I had no one’s guidance through all of this and just went by with what I read and what I was told through second-hand information.

I deeply regret going back to school and now am shackled by debt I will never be able to pay off in my lifetime. If I could offer any advice to those not sure whether a four-year college is suitable for them or not, consider two-year trade schools first. When I was a senior in high school, I really had no guidance on what to do. I didn’t have any real interests and wasn’t fully prepared for life after graduation. I decided a four-year university would be a suitable way to spend another four years deciding what I wanted to do with my life even though I still was no closer to finding a career or knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

My father was the only career individual in my life and he was an educator for nearly forty years. I kind of got thrown into education through his suggestion and not because it was any sort of passion of mine and essentially because I was trapped post-graduation and not knowing the first thing about finding a job with my useless degree. I didn’t like psychology enough to want to pursue it as a masters degree or Ph.D. back then. I was a dumb kid. I was a dreamer. I honestly thought I would get married and have kids and be a stay at home mom like my mom was. I had no aspirations to be better than I was and went through many heartbreaking years stuck in this horrific rut and I feel like I am in my own personal hell reliving the same mistakes over and over again. As I got older, I realized that marriage and kids were not in the cards for me and I developed a very strong, feminist, “Rosie the Riveter” type personality. I learned that I don’t need a man to survive and have always found some sort of way to keep afloat all of these years.

My advice to those uncertain of which path to choose, consider computers, plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, cosmetology, etc. anything that offers you certification and licensure and allows you to become an apprentice, perfect your skill, and someday become your own boss. Those crafts and trades offer you an opportunity to build something of your own someday, provides you with a trade you could teach others, particularly your own children. It is a golden commodity long lost due to these corporations that shackle us all. We need something that can be passed down from generation to generation; something we can be proud of and passionate about that provides you with lifelong financial security.

When you learn a service or trade that no one else around you knows you become so valuable in this market society and you can name your own prices and establish a brand for yourself which leads you one step closer to complete and total financial freedom. Also, when you choose a two-year school to learn a trade, you most likely won’t face crippling debt post-graduation and since you will have a useful trade you will be able to find work quickly and make money to pay off any debts you may have accrued if any.

My point is not that four-year colleges are bad. I find that they can be poor decisions for those, like myself, that had no real guidance or real understanding as to the devastation the debt I’d have and the lack of financial opportunities I’d have post-graduation. My last piece of advice for those seeking career advice is that if you do choose four-year college, please pick something that you know will give you a guaranteed career when you’re done, offers licensure of some sort from your state for the skill you’re obtaining, and you’ve thought out how you are going to pay back your debts when you are done. Being pushed into a four-year college was the worst mistake of my life and I furthered my mistake by getting a masters and Ph.D. with no real skill set to help me get out of debt. These are mistakes I have to live with for the rest of my life and if I can help someone starting out to not make the same mistakes I did then I would feel that this whole ridiculous mess would have meaning.


My Response to The Current College Admissions Scandal


By now everyone has heard the latest scandal on the news involving certain celebrities bribing college officials and testing officials guaranteeing the entrance of their children into prestigious schools. Although this may appear shocking to some, given the particular celebrities that were mentioned in the scandal, I, for one was not that shocked. I feel that this has been going on for generations. It was always quite apparent to me that some celebrities use their wealth and status to get into Ivy League schools. I see all the time that actors will pursue their college degrees in between acting gigs and will have bachelors from Yale or Harvard or another top-tiered school. When I hear certain celebrities have bachelor degrees in psychology from Yale I am not very impressed because I know that their status factored in on how they got in. The lines have always been blurred as to how many actually got in by merit. Who wouldn’t want a big named celebrity going to their school? What great business that is to have a prestigious individual serve as an alumnus in your institution!

Now, I’m not saying this about every celebrity. I am certain that many do work hard for their degrees and their passions but I am certainly skeptical when I see a celebrity’s child’s educational background and wonder how much was merit and how much was status or monetarily motivated.

One thing I do, that I really should stop doing, is read the comments on posts highlighting certain news announcements. The comments really boil my blood. I understand that there are so many varying opinions, what I am offended by is the close-mindedness of people who are so quick to identify things in a clear cut black or white manner. They never consider that gray area. Situations are never identical. You have socio-economic status, familial structures, educational backgrounds, and other matters to consider. The conversations in the comment section veered away from the topic at hand and became a conversation about the usefulness of education and what a waste certain majors are in terms of finding fruitful employment post-graduation.

We are raised believing that going to school when you’re young, then going to a four-year college, getting married, having kids, buying a home and a car, while earning a paycheck at a traditional nine to five position is the only effective form of living. This is perceived as “the norm.” Imagine if everyone thought that way? There would be no actors, musicians, comedians, artists, photographers, or other entertainers out there. And if everyone opted for a four-year school there would be no military personnel or trade workers either. Some people thrive thinking outside the box. Everyone has a place in this world and every single person on this planet deserves to feel fulfillment. That person defines fulfillment for themselves.

Few things boil my blood more than when people mock someone who pursued a major in English, Psychology, Liberal Arts, etc. Education is never a waste. Granted, I feel that every college should properly guide students who do choose such a major and inform them of the appropriate path for each major. It should be presented as a dichotomous key.

Do you want to be an English Major? Yes. What do you see yourself doing with this major? Teacher. Then proceed. If you say you want to be an English major but aren’t sure how to proceed then that student should be given opportunities to do internships, enroll in seminars, and engage in other programs offered by the college to expose them to all of the job opportunities that they can do with that major. If they want to become a published author, or work in advertising or do copywriting, or be an editor, or whatever their skills could be used for there should be transparent information provided for the students so that they are properly prepared and given some hope post-graduation.

The same is true for majors like psychology. I was a psychology major as an undergraduate. I admit that I was an absolute hot mess coming out of college at twenty-one. I had no direction and no guidance and I figured everything out on my own. I realized fast that my degree was pointless and I did try to go back to school for a masters in social work but I didn’t get into the programs that I applied for at the time so I dropped pursuing that path altogether and went into education. Not everyone is meant for education; however, and no matter how much I wanted to pretend to be normal like everyone else, I just couldn’t squeeze myself into societal’s mold they had for me. I knew right away as a child that I was different from everyone else. I was more artistically inclined was not interested in striving towards a traditional path. But I lacked direction and ambition in my youth. I was a dreamer. The traumas of my childhood enveloped me into this safety blanket nestling me from outside exposures. My mind protected myself for so long from the elements of the cruel outside world that I was just not prepared for life post-graduation. I recognized right away that the world was certainly fast-paced and you had to be aggressive if you wanted to find a place in the world. I just wasn’t that type of person to run people over to get what I wanted out of life. I always believed that the proof was in the pudding. If you do a good job and people witness that then you should be offered a position. Merit should matter much more than status.

Now, nearing my forties, I have stopped trying to hide behind the shadows of others and finally am forging my own path. Would everyone agree with my path? Certainly not! What is good for the goose, may not always be good for the gander. But it’s also not anyone’s place to judge.

You had a great childhood with two loving, supportive parents who got you a car at seventeen and paid for your college and you now have a nice cozy job in the city and found a spouse at twenty-three and are now married with kids and live in your own house, blah, blah, blah. Good for you. That’s not everyone’s path. Not everyone was built to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, etc. You can’t judge someone’s experience based on your own good fortunes.

I don’t make excuses for myself. I outline the reasons that things occurred the way they did for me. I had no one to guide me. I had no money to pursue things the “right” way. I had to pay for my own education, my own textbooks, my food, and clothing, etc. I was left to my own devices and had to learn about life on my own. Therefore, I made a lot of mistakes, I learned about life on the streets from different types of people. I was naïve and foolish and idealistic. Yes, I made so many mistakes throughout my adulthood, but they’re my mistakes to make and I learned so much from them. As painful as my mistakes were, the life lessons were priceless and I wouldn’t substitute any of my experiences for anything. Do I have regrets? Absolutely! If I could go back in time I would make changes where I could. I don’t enjoy being poor and doing things the hard way. I would do one of a few things. I would either pursue my masters and Ph.D. in psychology right away after my bachelors and be a psychologist. I would have convinced myself that risk-taking is a part of life and that if one school rejected me that there were others to pursue and to not give up so easily. By the time I did go back to school for my masters and Ph.D. in my thirties I wasn’t interested in psychology anymore and decided to pursue degrees in business administration. If I could go back, I would definitely have chosen to go to a brick and mortar school for my masters and Ph.D. and not do the online route that I did. I hadn’t realized what a negative reputation online schools would have by the time I was done with schooling. If I had gone the brick and mortar route, I probably would have gone into accounting or something that would have gotten me a traditional job.

At this point; however, sitting at home regretting my past mistakes is not helpful and is borderline destructive. I have learned that instead of lamenting on all of my past mistakes and all of my life choices, I have chosen to instead highlight all of the positive things I have done. I choose to recall all of the positive contributions I have made to society, all the lives I have touched. I choose to remember my former students telling me that I was the best teacher they ever had because I was different, in a good way. I choose to think of my former colleagues at my old high school where I worked for seven years and how they are all reading my novella, A Wynter’s Tale, and constantly ask my sister when the next novella is coming out because they loved reading my book so much. I choose to think of my poetry, my novella, my children’s book, and my music that I was able to produce because of all of my past choices. I choose to be grateful to be at home with my dad during his final months with dementia instead of the opportunities I could have taken had I moved out of state or out of the country. I am a firm believer in the sentiment that everything happens for a reason.

My path may not be easily understandable to most people out there but it’s what works for me and it’s all I know. I finally feel that I am on the right path. It is certainly slow-moving but I have learned so much and have improved as a writer and artist and have learned so much about myself as an individual. I follow my own path. I don’t feel compelled to fit into molds others have forged for me. I will never be perceived as “normal.” I’m the trailblazer and I forge my own paths in life and create my own trends.

As William Ernest Henley wrote in his poem Invictus, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” My life is not yours to make sense of. All I ask is that you don’t pass judgment of others when you don’t understand their situation. People are complex and things in life aren’t black and white. What worked for you may not work for others and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. Enjoy your successes. Everyone has goals they set for themselves. One version isn’t more correct than another’s chosen path. It’s all about respect and empathy in my book.