Sunday, August 15, 2010

Do Overs...

The other day I was riding in an elevator, and I was slightly bored.  My mind began to wander towards the realm of the imagination... "What if...", I imagined, "at the end of my elevator ride, the door opened and I was in a different life.  I would step out of the elevator and into a whole new world, a whole different me." Oh, just think of the possibilities.  Imagine getting into an elevator, and being able to push the "Do Over" button.

When I was a little girl, I had definite ideas about how I wanted my life to be -- as most children do.   Mostly, I knew the most important thing was to have a university education.  It is the one thing no one can take away from us.  Knowledge is the key to all things, including respect from other people.  In "The Wizard of Oz", all the scarecrow wanted was a brain.

"I'd unravel every riddle for any individ'le,
In trouble or in pain.
With the thoughts you'll be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain...

Wizard of Oz: Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma.  Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitartus Committiartum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of ThD.
Scarecrow: The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. Oh joy! Rapture! I got a brain! How can I ever thank you enough?

Wizard of Oz: You can't.

Some areas of my life -- specifically my job choices -- have not been at all the way I wanted them to be, because I was not fortunate enough to get a university education. Education is the class system of the 21st Century, and because I am not formally educated, I am "less than".  I am keenly aware of this fact every day, and I am made subtly aware of it in a multitude of subliminal ways.

Less than...

A university education can change our whole lifestyle -- the house we live in, our furniture, our clothing, what type of car we drive -- if we own one.  It can affect our status in the community, even our social networks, and it can otherwise have an impact on every aspect of the life we lead.  I do feel a bit like the Scarecrow at times.  He knew what he was missing.  Perhaps one day I can step into the elevator, and step out into a whole other life.  I have a feeling I wouldn't be in Kansas anymore...


Alissa Grosso said...

Jo, I don't think you are "less than" at all.

Actually, I was just having the college education conversation with someone last night. He has his own business and has done well for himself, but some days when he is hard at work at some manual labor job he is envious of his friends who went on to college and now work at nice air conditioned office jobs. I have a college education, but don't really need it for what I do, and told him that I hated working one of those office jobs, and he agreed that he would hate it as well.

Sometimes, I think we are all guilty of making grass is greener assumptions.

myletterstoemily said...

you are one of the wisest people
i know . . . just as the scarecrow
always was!

i am sorry you didn't get to pursue
the education you would have
enjoyed, but it seems you are
constantly learning wonderful
things and sharing them with us!

please don't stop!!!!

Firefly the Travel Guy said...

I wouldn't say that I am unhappy with my life, but there are a couple of things I probably would have done differently if I had the chance. Drop me on the 3rd floor please.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Many of the wisest, most creative and successful people in the world do not have a university education. And many who do have never had an original thought in their lives, nor progressed since the day they were awarded their diplomas. I suggest you stop wasting your excellent mind on such regrets and worry about something relevant.

Or, you could go back to school and get your degree - my mother was forced to quit school at 14 to help support her family and resented it bitterly. She always read voraciously, married a lawyer and finally went to college in her 70's after raising her children, graduating with honors at 79.

Maha said...

When i'm in the elevator, i hold my breath and keep on praying that it wouldn't stop. It'd be sure great to imagine that i can step into another life when i get out, perhaps my mind works this way about waking up. I love how you pinpointed the fact of education being capable of changing your entire life. Like "Alissa" i don't think at all you are "less than" at all. For some, a diploma will be nothing but a papaer hung on the wall, but I believe you have a very great mind

the walking man said...

Knowing many, many, many university educated people including all four of my siblings with advanced degrees, a father who was a PhD and taught one semester a year at Purdue U. I think for the most part I went the right route of remaining ignorant. That is to say bliss filled.

jennifer black said...

Have you seen the movie _Sliding Doors_? I think you might like it.

I also would have thought you had a degree, so I would say you are certainly educated. Having taught college for almost 30 years, I'm positive it's entirely possible to get a degree without getting an education, just as it's possible to be educated without the degree. It's attitude and willingness to learn, and you clearly have both of those in spades.

In the U.S., we have culturally moved college to the apex of life, which I do think is a mistake as other commenters have said. My electrician is an amazingly smart and talented person, but he has no college degree. He also makes a lot more money than I do, owns his own business, gets to go from place to place and (somewhat) sets his own terms ... and his work can't be outsourced. (Some college teaching is being outsourced overseas due to online instruction these days--seriously.)

Yes, the grass is always greener, but, seriously, only a doufus would look down on you for not having a degree.

I think you're fabulous!


The Bug said...

Jennifer said what I was going to say! I do know that it's true that some jobs require a degree (although often they'll take experience of a certain number of years without the degree).

I think you should consider taking evening classes toward a degree. So what if it takes forever? It would engage your mind and give us blog fodder (did I say that out loud?). Think about it! You can't change the past, but you can move forward in whatever direction you choose.

Katy said...

Jo- I know what you mean about feeling less than. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a degree. I loved going to school and learning things.

Now I work at a law firm. I'm a paralegal and I am reminded often in subtle and not so subtle ways that I am not a lawyer. That I have not gone to law school. That I am less than.

It bothers me that I'm treated like that by some, but at the end of the day, I don't want to be a lawyer. One of these days I will go to graduate school and change careers, but until then I'm just focusing on being a mom.

Russell said...

Before I went to law school I believed all lawyers had to be brilliant.

After three years of law school, passing the bar and then practicing for many years, I now realize that lawyers are not any smarter than anyone else. They do know a bit about the law -- just as a plumber knows about plumbing and an auto mechanic knows about cars.

Before I went to college I believed that getting a college degree would mean I was smart. It does not. It only means you are able to jump through hoops and that you survived the process. It has nothing to do with being smart.

In your case you are extremely well read, have a great mind and are really, really, really (did I say really?) smart. You are intelligent and witty -- two gifts that either you have or you don't.

If it would make you feel better, sign up for one or two night classes and start the process. You could fly through a bachelor's program very quickly.

But you would still be just as smart, intelligent and witty as you are today!

Unknown said...

Sometimes the most well credited, certified, educated people are really the dumbest people around. I truly believe its life experience that makes someone intelligent and from what it seems, you have lots of life experience :o)

DJan said...

What a great post! I also don't have a college degree, having given birth at nineteen when I should have been going to college. Plus my father thought it was wasteful to send girls to higher education since they would just get married. I felt "less than" for a long time, until one day one of the PhD educators I worked for (as his secretary) showed me how shallow and, well, dumb he really was.

I did go to night school and found out that I am smart. I didn't get a degree because it wasn't important to me any more. And as the years went by, I continued to learn. My ex-boss once dedicated one of his books to me, noting that to his mind I had earned a PhD, if anyone had!

Thanks for reminding me, again, that intelligence, knowledge, and accomplishments don't follow predictable pathways.

Sam Liu said...

"Education is the class system of the 21st Century" - Jo, that is one of the truest and most poignant things I've read in a while. A University education does make a large difference, and you are so right - no matter how much may be preached about "social mobility", the privileged have a far, far better chance of attaining higher education and therefore remain privileged, as do their children, and their children ad infinitum.

Just the other day, I was reading a newspaper article detailing the fact that British universities are going to start upping the levels and grades required to get a place. Upping them to levels and grades that usually only those who have had a privileged education can attain.

But know that you are not less than, you are wise and kind and very considerate.

KrippledWarrior said...

I didn't get my first degree until I was 40. And 42 when I got my Computer Science degree. My wife got her Masters in Business only 6 years ago. But decorum prevents me from mentioning her age. My point is, you don't have to "DO OVER", just "DO" DO IT NOW. Better late than never. Seems to me, you've got the knowing of a great many things inside you. Now go get it validated.
You know I love you,

@ly said...

I do not have a college education either and often think about how much different my life could be if I did but I do know this.....I am happy and that is what really matters. It is also never too late to educate.

Anonymous said...

Knowing facts is not the same as living life. The latter is better.

Miss Kim said...

I'm a new reader and all I can say is thank you for writing this post! it is just what I needed to read and think about today. I'm just about to step of that elevator and need the courage you've given. Thanks so much!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Some of the most intelligent and interesting people I know are "self-taught" and have no degrees at all. It is true that knowledge can never be taken away from you, but I don't think that we need a degree to prove that we have learned a lot .......... just the thirst for knowledge that you have.

Mia said...

Does any adult do what they wanted to do as a child? How many cowboys and princesses are there in the world?

Paula Slade said...

Jo - College is not a path for everyone. The talents you possess in writing and art speak highly for you. You carry a sensitivity and wisdom that reflects a life of learning and doing, which is far more valuable than any degree. I'd like to direct your attention to a website - The College Dropouts Hall of Fame -
Most listed on this site never had college at all, and many never completed high school. Success comes in believing in yourself and in your talents, which for you, have been nurtured and honed through a life of non-traditional learning. Many peers have shared the same elevator.