Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cameron Lovejoy: "Is this what I want to be doing the day I die?

Cameron Lovejoy of theautodidactsymposium shares his views on unschooling and living life without a university degree.

On what 'success' means:
Success, to me, is happiness and a passion for the work you do and the life you live. Yes, it’s cliché, but there is nothing more I want than to live a happy, interesting, and passionate life.

It can come in all sorts of forms for many different people: It can be found in a college where afterwards you have this certificate that could open a few doors to the line of work you want to pursue; it can be found adventuring in far away lands, journaling endlessly, and one day publishing your stories and adventures for the whole world to read; it can be found at home spending all your time demoing video games and then have a job working for Blizzard land on your doorstep; or it can be working job by job just to make ends meet.

As long as I’m healthy and happy with myself, I’m successful.
Success should be defined on a case by case basis, but for me it is waking up everyday and answering this question, “Is this what I want to be doing the day that I die?” Success has been enjoying the adventures I have each day, creating exciting projects, and waking up to something new.

Are you working at things that bring you satisfaction as well as money?

I’ve always worked joyfully with each job that I’ve had. Currently I have multiple jobs, which make it incredibly easy for me to travel, my main passion.
In the middle of March of this year I directed an unschooling conference for 150 people in my hometown in the Carolinas. The success of that three day gathering that I created on my own brought me an enormous sense of satisfaction and even some income on the side.

As I type this, I’m currently living in a small, single person cabin on the edge of a field in rural Georgia where I work six days a week on a large organic farm. I'm learning skills and gaining experience and discipline that I desire. Working in the sun, getting my hands dirty, and lifting large buckets of produce in order to to see the smiles of hundreds of people at the Saturday farmers' market is extremely rewarding.

I also work with my good friend, Blake Boles [] with his project Homeschool Leadership Retreats [] in Ashland, Oregon. I have also assisted him with marketing and advertising for his other business, Unschool Adventures [].
These two projects provide very useful tools to growing unschoolers, and I benefit by seeing different ways of running two completely different and creative businesses from the inside.

Being able to travel, live, and experience life in such a unique way provides me with satisfaction as well as the funds to make this lifestyle possible and extremely enjoyable.

Tell us about your educational background and the pros and cons of an unschooling lifestyle.

I had eight years of traditional schooling at a private college preparatory school in South Carolina (two years of preschool and six years of grade school). There were obviously both pros and cons during these eight years of my life (I left school at age 12, and I’m now 22).

The pros being meeting three or four close friends whom I still see to this day, learning to read at such a young age that I don’t remember learning it, participating in/creating several cool and creative projects, and experiencing the school atmosphere.
The cons include loosing a lot of my curiosity for many things in life, having my love of reading and writing almost completely squashed, having mean and disrespectful teachers, experiencing an invasion of privacy, and—something I’ve been recently noticing about my body compared to my brother’s—not getting the sufficient amount of sleep needed for a growing boy.

But the lifestyle you are talking about (the self-directed lifestyle--unschooling) is much more free and challenging and interesting. My parents trusted me to make all my own decisions (not just now, but back when we started unschooling) about my money, where I travel, what I eat, what I do for work, what I read, what I write about, where my education comes from, and what my future holds.
Having this freedom has finally opened my mind to learning again, and now I’m unstoppable! There’s nothing I don’t want to learn about anymore, which was definitely not the case back in school. And having not been forced to read since leaving school, I have finally found my love of reading.

My relationship with my unschooling family is actually kind of abnormally perfect, and our respect for each other astounds me sometimes. I have an incredible network of friends, project partners, contacts, and people around the country (and even some across the globe) whom I share this lifestyle with. This network would have been impossible if I had stayed in school. I can go on and on about the positive side of this self-directed life I live.

It took me a while to come up with any negative aspects of this lifestyle. I suppose having complete control over your education (even if you do choose higher ed) can be very challenging and confusing. Occasionally I don’t know where to start with a project. Having so much I want to do can me crazy sometimes—but that’s more of a good thing, I suppose?

More so than not, it’s difficult to talk to people about this philosophy and lifestyle. It can sound very radical, counterintuitive, and absurd to the average person; and they probably just think I'm nuts.

Do you like the world you live in? How would you like it see it changed?

Well, this world is huge, and I haven’t seen even a tenth of it. But I’m guessing you mean the world that we have here in America. Every day I see different people, and I talk to them- strangers, old friends, new friends, travelers, businessmen, the homeless. The majority of them believe that you must go to a university to be successful. Many of them have been to college and are now working at jobs that they do not enjoy in the slightest.

Or they have collected school debts that they will still be paying off years and years after school. And often their majors are chosen on a whim.
What I would like to see changed is giving young people the time to choose and taste different parts of life and work in the real world before making a decision on their “one and final career.”

I'd also like us to realize that you don’t have to have one career for the rest of your life. Changing your mind is OK. Learning completely new things is OK. Taking things slowly is OK. Gobbling things up is OK. Quitting is OK. Having the freedom to choose and the time to change is important. As a young person, it is good---it is empowering---to be trusted and respected.

What words of advice can you offer a young person who is trying to convince her parents that school/higher education is not the right place for them at the time?

College should be attended for the right reasons. If you don’t have a real and personal drive to be there, then it can be a big waste of time and money. Go when you’re ready and only if you have a real goal in mind.

Learning can and does happen outside school walls. Travel, internships, apprenticeships, and entrepreneurial ventures are great ways to learn. Some colleges even accept these life experiences as credit hours for older students. Take the time to find and immerse yourself in your passion(s). It's trite, but the money will follow. Most of all, you'll be happy doing what you love.


Anonymous said...

Well, here is an example of an unschooler type like most of these guys who are basically bumming around. How com enone of these people are doctors, or engineers? Because they have no schooling.

clementine said...

Sounds like he is a well grounded perspn IMO

gail said...

This is an example of a young man who at the age of 22 has already osuccessfully "engineered" a conference that was one of the best I have ever been to with families that came from all over the country to be a part of it. And that is just a very small part of all that he has already accomplished. He lives every day with integrity, passion, curiosity and compassion and he is just one of many unschoolers that I have had the privilege to know.

rfs said...

Thanks Gail.

This young man gets it. The question, "is this what I want to be doing the day I die?" is exactly what I need to help me live the life I want to..right now.

Living a life that that includes doing true (to myself) 'work' rather than a 'job,' a life where I'd rather be sweating with joyful effort that chasing after dollars.
These days, the concept of working and learning from a place of passion and love seems completely alien
But happily, many are starting to vision own definition of success.

scatty said...

Why are people who leave these meanie comments generally anonymous?

appalachian unschool said...

WOW, this is so very beautiful in every way...thanks Cameron:)

Ren said...

Yeah, I guess being a doctor or engineer is the only way to be happy in life right? You missed the entire point anon.
If being a doctor or engineer made someone happier than farming, then that's what an unschooler would do.

Carry on Cam, you're a true inspiration and one of the most beautiful spirits I've ever had the pleasure to know.

Ren said...

Oh, and I want to farm when I grow up too. :)

Penta said...

To anon:
Your assumptions and sweeping generalizations are incorrect.
To Cameron:
You rock and I can't wait to meet you!
I love what you wrote about the organic farm and getting your fingers dirty and seeing the smiles of the people at the Saturday market! Blissful!

Bean said...

To anonymous...bumming around? The next time you eat something, try and think where it comes from. That FARM that it comes from is run by people such as Cameron, who by 'bumming around' farming, are providing YOUR FOOD. And not only is he providing your food, he is also doing something he enjoys and is passionate about. What the hell is wrong with that?

Stephany said...

Funny, I am not sure that I have ever met a happy doctor or engineer. Seems to be doing much the same thing with his life as my friend who just finished his Master's Degree in Geographical Systems.

Anonymous said...

You have just made my 21 year old daughters day. She is a free spirit and sometimes she feels there is something odd about the way she thinks and feels. You expressed her thoughts exactly. She is a free thinker because she was home educated!

rfs said...

Stay tuned for more such wonderful stories!

Madeline Rains said...

Cameron, we are so glad that you shared your joyous self with us on our farm (and taught the boys magic:)

Your hard work and positive spirit are wonderful.

Come back soon!

Tera Rae said...

Beautiful! We are an unschooling family and though our oldest only attended public school for 2 years, he also lost much of his passion for learning, especially reading. It is encouraging to hear he may get it back one day. My lil guy at 3 yrs old is very passionate for books and I am not going to let that be taken from him! Rock on and spread the love!

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