7 November 2011
This week I’m teaching a cluster of essays that asks students to ponder whether or not college is worth the effort. Today I asked them to spend a few minutes writing about why they decided to go to college. Many of them said that they decided to go to college so that they can obtain jobs that pay well once they graduate. Very few said that their decision was based on the desire to learn and experience new things.
Their answers made me ponder what was behind my decision to go to college. And the honest answer is that this was a decision I never made—it was made for me by my mother. I remember my mother dropping me off at my very first day of school. Before I got out of the car, she told me that I was at the beginning of a long journey that would eventually take me to college. “And you will go to college,” she said. This is something that she reiterated many times throughout my education. So when the time came for me to think about what I was going to do after high school, there was only one option on my mind—college.
Her desire for me to go to college was not monetarily based. She wanted me to go to college so that I could find something that I loved doing. Even when we struggled financially, and there was a lot of that in my teen years, her desire for me to get a college education was so that I could spend my life in a career that I loved. And this was good, because I seriously considered becoming an archaeologist when I was in high-school. (I love me some Pre-Columbian cultures!).
College was a good fit for me. I loved (most) of my classes. I read so many interesting works of literature, I learned to speak Spanish, I spent a summer studying in Mexico, I declared a second major in history—just because I enjoyed it so much. And when I realized that studying and teaching literature was something that I loved doing, no one was more excited for me than my mother. Both of my parents supported me, even though my decision wasn’t one that was going to pay off financially. They still support me in any way they can, and when I FINALLY finish my dissertation and get my PhD no one will be cheering more loudly than my parents. .
Though I’ve questioned my decision to pursue my doctorate in English, I’ve never regretted it. Studying literature and teaching brings me more joy and fulfillment than any other career could. This is more than a career for me, it’s a vocation. And it all started with a five year old girl sitting in a car with her mother on the first day of school.