This is what my professor told me on the last days of college. “But what about before I came to college?” I thought naively. Was I uneducated and therefore useless? I doubt that’s what my professor was implying. He was implying that education is a gift, one that comes with a heavy price tag–metaphorically as well as physically. Women and girls all over the world are being punished for trying to unwrap this gift, a gift that many argue should be an unalienable right. Still, his comment came at me like a blow to the head. It struck me as a “call to action.” I’m ready, I thought, to battle evil: let me go put on my superhero costume adorned with the letters “EW” (Educated Woman) and rescue the poor and oppressed, so that no one will suffer anymore. Right? Right??
I think I’m wrong and I wonder if I am not alone in the pool of recent graduates who feel that their ideals and their realities don’t quite align, since newspapers and journals now report that degrees are the cultural equivalent of incomes–necessary evils, almost accessories to your life, or something to put on a resume. Holding a degree does not change who I am. To me, the experiences of college are far more valuable than a piece of paper or moving my tassel from right to left. In college, I felt like my words mattered. I found myself in intimate situations with classmates and professors, arguing over the conditions of our time and of ages past. But nothing we said or did changed anything…so what use was it?
We weren’t changing the world, we were changing ourselves. We were being changed, unbeknownst to us. We were, I hope, learning empathy and compassion, something that this world could use a lot more of. We learned, I hope, to respect other people’s opinions, even when they are so different from our own. This isn’t easy. So many times I wanted to shout in class, “you’ve forgotten that Christ already saved the world!” or something to that affect. But I think no one would have taken me seriously.
Maybe I’ve taken myself too seriously all along. There’s so much amorphous pressure in college that I think we put on ourselves because we are so afraid of disappointing the ones who made this experience possible. College is not cheap. It is an investment (we’ve all heard that before, right?)
I heard in a lecture once that the speaker would rather his son be “a good person than successful, and I hope you would, too.” How strange, I thought. Don’t parents want their kids to be happy, and doesn’t happiness mean success? Perhaps not. Perhaps success is not the best way to measure happiness.
Despite that revelation, I want to say from the depths of my heart, Thank You, to all the parents, friends, teachers, coaches, roommates, bosses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and pets who have cheered us all on, dried our tears, and listened to us complain non-stop about our
But I hope that you know that I don’t want to be successful. I want to be a good person, and I hope you do, too.