Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I had an interesting experience recently that I would like to share with you. It reminded me of a dream I've nurtured for more than thirty years. I enjoy studying and learning new information. I did well in school and graduated from high school with honors, but I didn't go to college. I received no counseling or encouragement to go on to college nor did I know where I would get the money to pay for it. I didn't think too much about it at the time because I had enough skills to work as a secretary until I married and had children. I wasn't planning for a career outside the home and therefore didn't think that I needed a degree. I took a few evening classes to enhance my secretarial skills but felt that I needed to work full time. I married and worked while my husband went to college, with the plan to start our family after his graduation. It was only after I had several children that I realized how much I needed and wanted a college degree. I set a goal to start college when my children were all in school and take a few classes at a time. I thought that I would start school when my youngest son started kindergarten, but I postponed my plans when my youngest daughter was born just a month before my son started school. This new baby slowed me down, but she didn't derail my plans, only postponed them again. From the time of her birth I became very busy with time-consuming positions in our Church as well as my large family. I simply did not have time to even think about going to school so I buried my dream until my daughter was graduating from high school. I took a class at the local university that summer and really enjoyed the experience. My husband could not understand my desire to have a degree because he knew that I would not be going into the work force, but he was accepting of the idea. Even though my daughter's first year at college was also the first year of my husband's retirement, I thought that I could still work in a couple of classes at a time so I signed up for two correspondence classes. Because of our travel schedule, I was struggling to keep up with my classes. When other problems arose, I realized that I needed to drop my classes again in order to devote all of my time and energy to my family. I willingly made the sacrifice of something good for something better. Now all of my children have college degrees and most of them either have advanced degrees or are working towards obtaining them - and most of their spouses also have advanced degrees. I am the only one in my immediate family without a college degree, but I have never stopped learning and continue to study all kinds of subjects on my own time. In spite of all the knowledge I gain, I sometimes feel like a second-class citizen among all the college-educated people that I know. One recent evening I was working a puzzle that had lots of "education" words in it, and I felt my dream coming to the surface once again. I commented to my husband, "I wonder if I will ever have the opportunity to get a college degree." I think that he was actually shocked that I still carry that dream. Although I didn't know how I would fit college into my current schedule, I began to wonder if I should be pursuing my dream and simply wondered if the time had come for me to go to school. At that point I wasn't emotionally involved one way or the other. I simply wanted to know if I were pursuing what I should be doing. Because I try to pray about all major decisions, I decided to ask the Lord if I should get serious about going to school. The answer came quickly and clearly, "no." I wondered if I should just take a class now and then, specifically an American Heritage class that my son suggested to me. Again the answer came quickly and clearly, "no." This time the answer seemed to be tempered with a "not now" and an understanding that I am currently involved in something much more important than taking classes. I wasn't particularly surprised by the "no," but I was very surprised about my reaction to it. I didn't expect to feel the great disappointment that came. I immediately started to cry - and I cried like a disappointed little girl. Why, I have no idea because I am willing to live my life doing the things that God thinks are best for me. I am grateful that my children understood the importance of going to college. I am grateful that they were willing to make the sacrifices and put forth the efforts necessary to earn their degrees while they were young. The experience of going to school and the knowledge gained there have prepared them well for their responsibilities as parents. I am also grateful that I can look back and see that I gave them all of the encouragement and financial support that I could possibly give to them. I am sharing this experience with you because I feel prompted to do so. Apparently, someone out there needs to know of my dream. I want any and all young people to understand that education is critical for success. People with college degrees usually make much more money than those with only a high school diploma, but money is only a small part of the richness that comes from a college education. The experience of living away from home and making your own decisions helps you become mature. The experience of living with roommates prepares you for living with a spouse. The friendships made in college last a lifetime. The knowledge gained in the classroom prepares you for more than simply a career. Earning a college degree brings many riches into your life - riches that have nothing to do with money! My advice to all young people: Go to college and earn a degree while you are young. It is much easier and more fun to go to school before marriage and family responsibilities come into your life. You will never be sorry that you have that degree. If you don't take the opportunity for schooling while you are young, you may end up like me - always wanting the experience and never having it.