I remember an incident that occurred my junior year of college, when a notoriously unkind classmate was joking about my choice to be a History and Spanish double major. He said, “Good thing Nick is going to be a dentist,” among other rude comments. Anger boiled up inside me and I wished to prove that I would achieve an ambitious career worthy of the work that I put into earning my B.A.
Fast forward to last month. When I decided to consider a position as a nanny, I knew I would be happy. I knew the job would meet my ideal of working with children along with giving me plenty of time to devote to my own family (namely my husband and our kitten.) However, I couldn’t get over the guilt of accepting a position that didn’t require a college degree. Had I asked my family to make sacrifices for four years’ worth of tuition and expenses for no reason? Had I wasted four (well, three and a half) years of my life studying my butt off only to stuff my diploma away unused? Didn’t I go to college so I could have an ambitious and successful career?
Luckily, I had my mother to help put things into perspective. First, she explained that I had no way of knowing my senior year of high school what I would do, or want to do, upon graduation of college. True; back then, I vaguely imagined myself working through politics to forward social change that would benefit the under-served, never mind the specifics. It wasn’t until I had some of the experiences I did during my college years that made me realize I specifically wanted to work with children. Second, she pointed out that while the actual content of many of my courses may not be relevant to my work, the experiences I had while at Butler University are invaluable. This is also true, and I intend to make another post detailing these experiences soon. Third, she couldn’t help but mention that if I hadn’t gone to Butler, I would not have met my husband, and that’s very important.
In fact, my husband reiterated everything my mother told me. He added that while my first job after graduating was one that might have allowed me to climb the corporate ladder, and had a pretty nice pay check, it wasn’t one that truly fulfilled my dream of working with children. Working as a Title I Instructional Assistant next, teaching K-2 literacy skills, was a position that brought joy to my life every day, and gave me the satisfaction of helping children develop intellectually and emotionally. Coincidentally, this didn’t require a B.A. Being a nanny doesn’t require a degree, but it does require patience, a love of children, responsibility, flexibility and the ability to have fun (which isn’t a skill that most people think to put on a resume.)
I can now see that the money and time spent on my college education was not a waste because it has brought me to where I am today. Those experience will continue to shape my future, and what I gained may become useful in ways I can’t yet foresee.
Yes, I am lucky that my husband wants to be a dentist. I’m lucky because he has found a career that will fulfill his own desire to help people. It will also allow him to help provide the life to his family that he wishes for us. “Life is too short to spend it in a job you hate,” he tells me. If you can afford to have a job you love, go for it.