Valuing Education

Books 1

“It is so easy to feel like a failure. So easy to feel undervalued, or unseen, or that your education wasn’t worth it, or (it’s insidious sneaky corollary,) that you aren’t worth it. It is hard to feel you really contribute when your contribution isn’t in cash.” Like Bronwyn Lea, I get this sentiment. I often feel the same.

It’s difficult to switch gears when you’ve been working a day job your entire life and develop a sense of focus towards growing a career out of what you really want to do with the rest of your days. It’s even harder when the cost of living constantly goes up and wages remain low. After all, food must be eaten, shelter must be had, and bills must be paid. So for those of us Creatives who didn’t zero in on starving it out in the arts when we were young, or had young families, we are discovering that, like losing weight, passionately pursuing our dreams gets harder with age.

I loved school simply for the learning. After years of taking business classes in the hope of moving up the ladder, only to be conked out by the proverbial glass ceiling or, worse yet, not deemed worthy of advancement by fault of being not only a woman, but a mother as well — I made the decision to study what I actually was interested in, literature and writing.

Then I had to deal with not qualifying for any grants. I made too little to afford paying full tuition, but too much to qualify for any freebies. So after several years, I graduated with a masters that came with a degree and a bill.

When people find out that my degree is in English they assume I’m a teacher. It was never my intention or desire to become a teacher — not in a classroom setting anyway. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have episodes of rethinking that decision though, especially when the nation’s economy took a dive.

How then to keep a dream alive? Perhaps only by stubbornly refusing to give in to the temptation of starting yet another “job,” even if it’s disguised as a career option, pays fairly well, and allows for summer vacation and holiday breaks without using up your vacation bank.

It is, of course, harder to stay focused when you’re plodding along in an office job, when you’d rather be at home writing. You get bored from the same old, same old every day and the pay isn’t enough to really live comfortably (even if it comes with benefits). There are days (weeks? months?) when I swear I have adult ADD, squirming to do something, anything, but enter data, or keep my head from bobbing out of boredom.

And yet I keep writing. In the evening. On the weekend. Wherever I can find a moment in my day to do so. A moment when I’m not feeling the burden of a light checkbook, or the heaviness of being mired in everydayness of life.

And one day, I must believe, persistence and timing will meet, and I will be able to make a living doing what I really want to do — write.

Until then, I try not to connect my worth to the degree. Doing that only dulls the innate richness of obtaining a well-rounded education and feeds into the myth that money defines class in character, behavior, or socially.

Remember, in the end we’re all just here for the beer.

Cheers, friend.


  1. Wow, Robin. I popped over from Consilium and am right here with you. I have a degree in Philosophy and History, simply for the education I got. I have never once regretted my educational pursuits (and I didn’t receive my degree till I was 46). I, too, work in an office and dream of writing. And keeping house and gardening and spending unhurried time. But until then, I’m here at work, slogging away and thankful for the paycheck. It isn’t all slogging. I work in a church and a lot of what I do is people-oriented. It is so nice to meet you, to bookmark your page and to look forward to knowing your heart through your writings.

  2. Hi, Robin,
    I found you through Bronwyn’s site and I’m glad I stopped by! I, too, have a masters in English and everyone assumed that I’d teach–that seems to be the one thing (unimaginative) people think an English degree is good for–but I really loved literature and art, and I couldn’t imagine not getting an English degree.

    I’d love to chat more, but my kids are running around like crazy girls, so duty calls. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Sweet to connect with another English major! My “kids” are all grown up now, but we have grandkids who run around like crazy, too, and give me the urge to play, “Whack-A-Mole”! j/k So glad that you stopped by and I hope to read more from your corner of the room as well. Blessings!

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