Sometimes I get confused as to what I am doing with my life. I decided a decade ago to follow my passion in service -- service to a public institution where I feel I am making a difference, well, most the time. However, I get a lot of social information from friends, colleagues, and media that I should be focusing more on gains of finance and prestige.
My goal in life is to help all students, especially those who are first generation or lower income, access good public higher education and obtain a degree. I feel much gratitude every day that I was able to figure out how to enroll in college and find financial support to help pay for it (grants and loans). Being a first generation college student and "orphan" at the time, this was not an easy task. I am passionate about other first generation, lower income individuals . I feel strongly that when working lower or middle class, men have more options to be "successful" without having a degree. Women have limited number of options without a degree. And by successful, I mean you can eat and pay your bills. Simple.
To move beyond your circumstance, you need a college degree.
No matter whether I lose everything -- my car, my house, my cable, my electricity, or my money -- you can't take away my education.
With an education, you can find a way to rebuild. It may not always be easy, but your potential is exponentially better.
Now, I know there are arguments, even recently, that school loan debt is an issue leaving many questioning whether or not college is worth it. Moreover, I understand wanting the government to provide relief to those with loans through interest reduction, affordable payments, and loan forgiveness. I understand the movement to fund the exploration of extremely affordable degree programs or the debate around offering free community college education. I am in support of efforts to make higher education affordable. However, right now, let's not send the message that college loan debt or the cost of college should make our high school students rethink or avoid college. This coming from a girl that will be paying her school loans until she dies probably. It is worth it. Go to college!
Okay, that isn't even why I am writing this blog post, but glad I said that. If I didn't feel so passionate about individuals like myself going to college, I wouldn't even have this blog or be in higher ed.
Every year, I feel pressure to find a new job, more money, fancier title, cooler responsibilities, and so forth. While I watch my friends climb the corporate ladder, climb higher, maybe burn out, and climb again, sometimes over each other and possibly losing friends and family along the way, I still think that maybe I should be moving somewhere professionally. I have some colleagues questioning why I am not making moves, and then I see other friends and colleagues making moves, fancier titles, more prestigious institutions, and increased financial rewards. Then, I am torn...
I actually questioned my values -- what is really important?
In a conversation with a dear friend this morning and after a sequence of events the past few weeks, I realized it is very simple and re-affirmed my values. I now know my priorities for 2015.
I have long been a critical consumer of what society tells me to do. A lot of this developed since society told me my whole life that I was "less than." It is hard growing up with not a lot. I always remember wanting the material things that money afforded for other kids. Also, it was hard not having the things that media depicted as normal (a dad, a house in the burbs, a nice car, etc.). A great amount of my grit probably came from not having things that society was telling me I should. These feelings and memories are ingrained in me. I wanted more!
Then, all of a sudden, you realize one day you surpassed your circumstance. You have enough. It isn't a ton, but it is enough. Now, what matters?!
Every year, I feel like I need to leave public higher ed. I actually said today that I might need to change my values to focus less on public education. I choked on my words before they even came out, and instantly, it became clear. I realized who I didn't want to be, and I found my priorities once again.
I want to help others like me move beyond their circumstance.
I want to foster networks -- the professional ones that become personal.
I want to foster friendships -- those with people that are reliable and contribute to my happiness.
I want friends who focus on relationships and helping others.
I want to have fun experiences and learn new things with great people.
I want less material stuff.
I do not want to focus on financial gain or material things.
I do not want to focus on ego.
I do not want to forget to feed my friendships.
I am sure this won't be my last time having this conversation with myself or others, but this is what I have for 2015.
At the end of the day, I want great friends and experiences while being noticed for helping and advancing opportunities for girls like me.