There are times when I'm sick and tired of making the girls' education the priority. I see the state of the job situation, I see the high cost of student loans with no guaranty, and sometimes I have to ask myself, why am I pushing this so hard? Just like I don't believe that the old American dream that being married with 2.5 children and living in a mortgaged home is the way to go for everybody, why is it so important for me that my daughters go to college?
I had a great email exchange with someone that reminded me that the state of the world today isn't necessarily how it will be 10 years from now. I heard about the bill Obama's introducing regarding student loan debt. I'm not necessarily convinced that will solve anything (nor that it will even pass), but it reminded me that indeed, things can and will change. Not necessarily for the better, but there's nothing more inevitable than change.
I also remembered something else. School is the hardest thing I've ever done. It was also the most fun I ever had, and the most accomplished I ever felt.
In school, expectations are clear, deadlines are set, and for the most part, you get back almost exactly what you put into it. Some teachers may be tougher than others, but once you have a grade, that's it; you're done. And at the end of it, you get a pretty diploma to frame.
At work, if there's a change in regime, there will most likely be a change in policy or process...usually, without any prior notice. At work, deadlines change constantly. You could work tirelessly on a project only to have it completely scrapped and all that work was for nothing. You could have a great day at work, but then screw up the very next day, and feel like there's more time and attention to everything you did wrong, and no time and attention to everything you got right. You're reviewed on an annual basis, but you know that all anyone remembers is what you did the week you got reviewed. There is no end, or at least, you hope there's no end!
The diploma, the report cards, aren't the end-all, be-all, but they are much more than that to me now. They remind me of my AP English teacher, who convinced me that I actually did belong in an AP class. They remind me of that great Communications class where we talked through how our weaknesses were our strengths overused. They remind me of that silly poem I wrote to represent what I'd learned in Listening & Lit. The friends I had, the laughter we shared, and that one time that my friend and I cried over how grateful we were to our parents who had sacrificed so much for us. And yes, the times I didn't do so well, which I can now acknowledge were entirely my fault. (I mean, come on, I skipped Biology almost once a week! Was I really going to get better than a C in that class?)
The expectations may have been clear, but that doesn't mean school was easy. Preparing for tests wasn't always fun, writing the papers didn't always come easily, and staying alert during the lectures could sometimes be the hardest part. I'd get nervous every time a test grade or paper was about to be passed out.
Work, for all its problems, is easy, comparatively. Very few of us are actually curing cancer or working as rocket scientists and for most of us, the hardest part is enduring the monotony of it! Another day, another dollar, we say. Another day, another agreement. It looks almost exactly like the one I did yesterday except it's not so I have to go through this one just like I went through the last one. And will have to go through the next one. I actually love my job, and feel like it does at least challenge and engage me, but it's not particularly hard. There are fewer opportunities in any job to try completely new things like one does in school.
I value my education not just for what I learned, or even for what it allowed me to accomplish. I value the educational process, and want my girls to value it as well. Because they will miss it. Even if they're not always so sure about that. So yes, in this regard, I will continue to believe that their education should remain a priority for all of us. They may not ever thank me, but they will look back on these days fondly.
P.S. (because I'm big on P.S.ing posts these days), there will be a Part 2 to this post.