Somewhere a camera flashes, and you blink your eyes rapidly in succession, momentarily blinded by the plethora of happy, glowing parents, and the sight of too many peers similarly dressed in that ironically morbid, shapeless, featureless garb required by all the successfully graduated. For just one radiant moment under the sun, you feel as if everything in the world will be perfect, because you managed to surpass those four years of adopting uncomfortable cross-legged positions on the library floor and stooping way below your comfort level in living and eating accommodations. You feel like that hat you flung so wildly in the air represents your unfettered body, and all the wide open space of possibility lying so wantonly before it.
Education is a curious thing. Everyone seeks it, to some degree (no pun intended), but not everyone receives it, and those who do not receive it, often have this societally-snubbed view of themselves. Now, Aristotle himself in his times proclaimed the virtues of an education, and it was a general norm for citizens in the day; the difference therein lies in the placement of education as the pursuit of an intellectual endeavor, a critical marriage between mind and soul that we seem to have lost in this day and age. We’ve come to view education as mostly a gateway to bigger and better things, meaning just that: a “thing.” Being a capitalist nation, materialism comes with the territory, and it is no surprise that we treat education as yet another item to possess, something we must obtain in life to make ourselves a more viable commodity.
I currently sit on the threshold as a fledgling professional, just weaned from her days as a college student, and completely wide-eyed and naive as to what to do with her life. And I find it very interesting that the very degree I worked so ardently for, from the well-reputed university I attended, has successfully and safely returned me to square one as a newly hatched and inexperienced one of many. Don’t we love how the circle of life works these days?
Only slightly embittered by my seemingly dismal prospects in finding a research associate position, I have started to embrace life as a soul-searching unemployed homemaker, and have taken it as an opportunity to steadfastly pursue those other interests that college hindered. I’m talking about reading all the books I’ve always wanted to read, learn about Mayan glyphs my way, grow my own yeast cultures, more professionally indulge in baking, purr alongside my cat Blue, and whip out my creative guns when making dinner for two. In many ways – more than I care to admit – I’ve learned far more in these several months post-school than I ever did whilst in school. Autodidactism is a rare gift, and few people have the opportunity to relish in its freedom.
Of course, I’ve also learned that keeping a house is not so easy. I don’t think I’ve ever swept, scrubbed, or trashed so much in my life, just to maintain a clean living environment. Every now and then I have to snap myself out of the fugue that is becoming my mother, a.k.a. the woman I fondly refer to as “the Spanish Martha Stewart.” It’s all too easy to become the Border Collie who neurotically stares at the dripping water faucet for being too unstimulated.
So, what is the moral of the story? Don’t expect college to open too many doors for you, when it’s really yourself and your intrinsic abilities you have to rely on. Appreciate every day as a learning experience, and understand that an education should be just what it was historically meant to be: a way to expand yourself characteristically, but not to make yourself a better or more valuable person.