April 12, 2011


The grublings playing on the lawn
As most of you are probably already aware, I'm in school these days.

I'm a perpetual student.

I've majored in Opera Performance, in Philosophy, in Creative Writing, in Fashion Design... and now, here I am.  Narrowing in on my degree at last.  In Public Administration and Urban Policy.

Sort of a left turn from where I started out, no?

I've been in college, a variety of colleges, for the past twelve years.  It used to be exciting, exhilarating.  I used to learn and have my preconceptions tested and debunked.  Not anymore.

Now I'm just getting by.  Killing time.  Closing in on the end.  And this is an endless source of depression for me.

You see, there's a reason I've never finished my degree.  It's not that I'm lazy, or disorganized.  It's not that I was ridiculously young to be embarking on a college career, and sort of confused about it.  No, it's a matter of integrity.  Once I realized that I had no intention of building a career, of using the degree I was working towards, I couldn't continue towards it in good conscience.  When I realized I would never be able to be an artist (which is to say, never be ONLY an artist as opposed to waiting tables or telemarketing), I left art school.  Once I realized that I could never work in an industry that is fully conscious of the exploitation of its laborers (had a lovely conversation with the accessory buyer for Sears that devolved into a shouting match), I dropped out of fashion school.  Once I realized that being a working philosopher was, in most respects, worse than being a working artist, I joined AmeriCorps.

But now I'm almost done with my degree.  A degree that I can use, that I can move into non-profit management, or walk into the public sector and find meaningful work utilizing.

And I'm miserable.

Why?  Because I am learning nothing.  In these twelve years that I have been school hopping, the standards in the Universities across this country have dropped dramatically.  Here I am, juggling two toddlers, a fairly complicated personal life, and completely half-assing my school work.  And even though I'm completely aware of how much I'm half-assing it, putting in three times the work of my fellow students.  Self-entitled slackers who make excuses like, "It was my boyfriend's birthday so I had to go to the club instead of preparing my presentation.  I even lost my sweater."

...these students are getting As.

The work I'm doing now, this work MIGHT have gotten me Bs at my first community college, over a decade ago.  And the degree I would have gotten with these grades?  It would have gotten me a really good job.

This degree is only going to get me a good job because I've also got the experience and the networking skills.  By itself, I'd be looking at grad school.  And this makes me feel like a fraud.

This degree, it's meaningless.  It means that anyone in my classes can get this degree, which is to say that they can limp along, never doing the reading or the homework, coming up with sob stories and excuses, and walk away with this degree.

When I started this program, it was a pilot.  It was entirely taught by graduate faculty.  And they made me WORK.  They made me LEARN.  One of them even gave me a B, and she was right.  I could have done better.

Now they've hired on a whole faculty of undergrad professors.  Who mostly just care about making sure everyone passes.  Already knowing the material, knowing that I'm half-assing it... I feel like a cheater.

And I want to teach my children about integrity.  I want to teach them that they should stand up for professionalism, for intelligence.  For doing their best.  Regardless of how unpopular or isolated in might make them for a time.  No matter how many people might tell them that they're wasting they're energy, or making them look bad.  I want my children to know that they should always do their best.  Should always BE their best.

So for me, this degree is going to represent a betrayal of my ideals.  And that really hurts.  But it's just as important that I set an example for my children that they finish what they start.  No matter how long it takes.  So I'm going to finish.

And maybe I'm going to learn something important, too.  Maybe I'm finally going to learn a lesson about shutting up and doing what I'm told.  I've never been good at that.  I've never wanted to be.  I still don't.  I would always rather be the lone voice on the side of honesty and decency, and not blindly following along when it makes no sense.  But isn't that what you really need to succeed in this world?  Isn't knowing how to put on some blinders and just get things done because you HAVE to a good thing?  I had a supervisor tell me that once, right before he sent me home without pay to decide whether or not he was going to fire me.

So often, I find myself looking at a crowd and seeing a mass of ignorant, angry, or frightened strangers.  People who are looking for any excuse to follow- not to have to think for themselves.  And there are two kinds of people who can see the crowd and stay out of it- people of character and integrity, and people who want to lead the frightened masses.  Who want to tell them who to blame, who to castigate, who to attack.

I don't want to be that kind of person.  I want to be the sort of person who slowly but surely opens their eyes to the crowd around them, to the dangerous wackos pointing them in meaningless circles, and help them find a way to their own path- and their own mind.  I want other people to find that integrity within themselves, to hold themselves up as the best example of themselves that they can be.  Not to half-ass it when they can be so brilliant.

M and his children
This time next year, despite my husband's cancer, despite my complicated pregnancy, despite my wedding and my children and my own illnesses, and despite changing degrees seven times and changing schools five times since I was a terrified and green 15 year old freshman, I'll be getting myself a cap and a gown.  I'll be getting ready to do something I've never done before in my life.  I'll be getting ready to graduate.

I just hope I can set aside all of my disappointment and disillusionment and enjoy it when it happens.

BWS tips button


  1. The Moral: Every choice is a compromise.
    I've decided that I want to teach! Music! I have the luxury of being able to go into that profession, because my spouse has a job. For economic reasons, you chose to compromise in what field you study. You are not happy, but you made this choice to help support your babies. I have massive quantities of respect for my parents, who worked jobs that they didn't love for the sake of their families. Respect yourself for gaining a diploma. The rest of your class doesn't have to be as good as you! You work to be your best.

  2. I think you are teaching your children some very important lessons. One is that life doesn't always turn out the way you plan - or hope - but you don't let that stop you. You never give up. Perseverance is something that will serve them very well. You are also teaching them that you don't always have control over situations, but you do what you can to make the best of them and stay true to your ideals as much as possible. Striving to be the best you can be? An awesome lesson! Be proud of your accomplishment, and celebrate it!

  3. "Maybe I'm finally going to learn a lesson about shutting up and doing what I'm told."

    I'm not that kind of person either. I can't follow the crowd or take orders. It doesn't mean that I'm insubordinate.

    Maybe, that's what the world needs. More people who can think for themselves.

  4. Hi SuperMommy! I've been reading your blog for a long time and recently started a blog with my husband. This post really struck me because we feel same as a government worker and student about to graduate from medical school. Check out my blog sometime...

    Jessica @ domesticflighttoterminalbliss.blogspot.com

  5. College is hard especially when you are around 18 year olds who don't have a clue. I was once an 18 year old who did not have a clue. I still don't have a clue. You are doing what's best for your family no matter how that feels. But I want you to know that I want to Award you the Stylish Blogger Award. I really like you blog and to find more check out my blog http://andweareoffto.blogspot.com/2011/04/finally-someone-thinks-im-stylish.html

  6. Maybe it's time to get your hard earned piece of paper, celebrate all your hard work, rejoice in what you have learned, admire the connections you have made and get ready to share your voice and talents in the world. The world needs strong thinkers like you. Pat yourself on the back!

    Have you heard of Jeff Brown's book Soulshaping? I think you might like it. Namaste, Carol

  7. Wow, I had no idea that the colleges had gotten that bad! How can it be possible to be that much of a slacker (not you, the other people you were mentioning) and still get A's??? I knew the public school system was declining quickly but I didn't realize the colleges were as well...

    Don't let it bother you. Just keep on trucking, so that you can do what you want to do, and what you need to do to live a fulfilling life. :-)

  8. You are a great teacher. Your kids will respect you for what you are doing! You may not be enjoying the schooling but hopefully the work you will be doing will be one of the rewards you seek:) I'm a new follower http://angela-mommytimeout.blogspot.com

  9. Great post. I, too, am a parenting student trying to fit college into the chaos. I also feel like I'm on the never-ending path to a degree. And this is my sixth college. Maybe it's my major, my program, or something else but I fell excited about school (at least the good classes) and carry a sense of being where I'm supposed to be. That being said, I so understand the feeling of horror when you look at some of your classmates. Maybe it's because we're older? Or we have real responsibilities? Or integrity? Whatever it is, there's a difference between those who mean business and those who are years away from understanding what that even is.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Vote for me!

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!