I was raised in a culture that valued education and saw it as a way to bring yourself up in social standing. Going to college – getting a degree – becoming a professional – all very important in my family system. My grandfather on one side was a lawyer and on the other side a doctor. My grandmothers were uneducated – and were dependent on their spouses for support. One of my grandmothers, my bubby, had a bad marriage and was forced at a certain point to fend for herself. She went to night school and learned office skills in order to get a decent job. She was determined but also hampered by the fact that she was a woman.
When the women in my family started getting higher educations -this was revolutionary. It did – in fact – increase their social standing and now they were capable of earning a living on their own. All of their children were expected to go to college and I was no exception. Being raised in an environment that insisted you go to college made it the easy and natural choice. I have assumed this same position with my children and grandchildren. “Of course you will go to college” I tell them. I believe, children need to feel that someone believes they are capable and cares about their future – that they rise to the expectations placed upon them by caring adults. There is, of course, a shadow side to this position –but overall I think it is good to encourage youth to go to college.
Ironically, although I defend this position (clearly making going to college an expectation) – I also suffered from it. As a youth I was bored in school. I was not inspired but felt obligated to finish. I was in a rush to finish. I graduated High School in 3 ½ years and college in 3 ½ years – completing my degree by age 21. Then I got a boring job as a computer programmer. I made money and was able to live on my own – but I was uninspired and somewhat depressed.
My understanding of the purpose of college – at the time – was to learn a job skill so I can earn a living. I wish now I had studied the arts – that I had found out what really interests me – that I had discovered myself. I wish that I hadn’t been so materially focused. College should be a time of great exploration.
It took a while – but I did eventually go back to school. I went to grad school and studied health education – a subject that engages me on a multi-dimensional level. It has allowed me to serve the ‘greater good’ and opened up a path to finding myself.
To answer the question has education played an important role in your life – I would say absolutely it has. It has greatly influenced my career path – but also my sense of self – my feelings of self-worth – my commitment to growth – where I live – who I married – my lifestyle – my friends. It has touched every corner of my world.