I am the step mother of a high school senior, and these past few months were filled with watching her prepare college applications. She is waiting for acceptances now, and reflecting on the process. I can honestly say that what our society puts teenagers through is fairly brutal. The competition is fierce. I don’t take issue with competition in and of itself, but I do take issue with what they are all competing for. Higher education is a carrot that we push teenagers to strive towards, the ivy leagues being the biggest carrot of them all. We promise them that if they work hard enough, they can get into those brand name schools, and then they will….? You can finish the sentence here. What are we promising them exactly, if they get into Harvard or Yale?
I was accepted to an ivy league school as a high school senior, but I couldn’t pay for it. And so, I ended up going to a school that had no name recognition at all, a tiny school. A public school. I went to the honors college for the state of Florida; New College. I had never even visited the campus before arriving on the stairs of the student center, ready to start my freshman year.
I didn’t know it, but New College would end up being the best thing that could have happened.
Why? First of all, it’s a beautiful place.
New College breaks the paradigm of traditional education. It’s a fairly self selecting place, full of students that are not looking for prestige or carrots, but for the love of learning itself. It is an entirely non traditional school. It’s a school for freaks and geeks, where exploration and research is what students love.
I spent years after graduating explaining to people what New College is. People simply had never heard of the school. With a student body of 500, there aren’t a lot of alumni. Working in finance, I hated having to constantly explain; we didn’t have grades, we wrote contracts of learning, we did research, we wrote lots and lots and lots of papers.
I wished sometimes that I had simply graduated from a brand name college.
But taking my step daughter back to visit after all these years changed my mind. As soon as we stepped onto campus, you could feel the palpable sense of freedom and exuberance of the student body. These kids want to be here with all their heart and soul. They can totally be who they are with no need to conform or compete. It was lovely to spend a few days in a place where personal power is not about external prestige but simply the inherent nature of fully being who you were born to be.
My wish is that we, as a society, could help young people to recognize the power that comes from following their true path- and shift our limited image of power. What if a teenager could feel equally powerful making the choice to study to be a carpenter- as making the choice to be a banker? What if a teenager could see the wisdom and power of spending two years at a community college exploring their career options before spending money on a private school degree and therefore ended up graduating with less debt? What if learning outside of traditional paradigms was a power that the world needed as much as the traditional ones?
In celebration of those memories of being a super poor broke student on a food plan, I share with you my staple supplement. Popcorn. We made epic popcorn at New College, and I still make it this way today.
Best Popcorn Ever
1/2 Cup Organic Popping Corn
1 1/2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
Truffle Salt (this is a post college addition. In college we used regular salt or bragg’s amino acids)
Heat your pot over medium heat. Be careful not to go over medium heat, or you may experience a very unpleasant chewy texture where the kernels were heated too fast and did not completely pop.
Add the coconut oil and let it completely melt. Once the oil is completely melted put a few kernels into the pan and wait for them to pop. This helps determine when the oil is heated enough to popping.
Once the test kernels have popped, place the rest of the popcorn seeds into the pan and cover.
After the kernels begin popping, begin to shake every 10 seconds or so until you hear the popping slow down. When the popping slows down to a pop every 2-3 seconds remove the pan from heat and continuously shake for another 10-20 seconds. This helps the popcorn at the bottom from burning.
After the 10-20 seconds, or you feel the popping is finished pour into a bowl.
Sprinkle throughout the popcorn your spirulina, yeast, or simply truffled salt to taste.