Saturday, January 27, 2007


The previous post on the life passion topic which included reference to attending college for the first time, also issues about returning to college some years after high school graduation, resulted in some interesting comments that stimulated further thoughts. Thanks to each of you who wrote, beginning with Kenju at Just Ask Judy who expressed a wish for indulging her passion, then fantasizing about being rewarded for her pleasures with a bit more of that green stuff that we all know doesn't grow on trees.

Cop Car (Cop Car's Beat) introduced the idea of "semi-passions" which describes well the changing interests we experience throughout our lives. As she mentioned, however, many women and men have had to consider the need to provide for others and cannot just arbitrarily pursue further education later in their lives, as much as they might desire to do so, and in spite of recognizing the future benefits.

Providing the necessities of life for not only themselves but children, spouses, parents, and sometimes, others, can take precedence over further education in many lives. For some, the additional time involved with classes, studies, might mean a trade-off requiring relinquishing important and pleasurable family time with those for whom the providing is being done in the first place.

Life presents hard choices sometimes, none of which we want. Life is also filled with what I consider trade-offs -- some more worthwhile than others. All we have to do is assess those choices, those trade-offs, reach a conclusion about the desired ones, then implement them.
Amazing how easy it is to sum up in such a few words what we spend our lives trying to accomplish in such a manner that we don't reach the end of our days wondering what exactly we were doing that didn't get us where we thought we were going.

Some individuals are fortunate enough to have the support of family in seeking the further education that they might have forgone at an earlier age, or, as in my case, my return for further training was necessitated to qualify for the work I wanted to do. Emotional support from family members can make the returning student's undertaking a much more achievable goal than the challenging experience through which some must struggle and endure without it.

I strongly believe emotional and family support, especially from a spouse, demonstrates the commitment and depth of love that exists in a relationship, since each would presumably want to see the other develop to be the best person they can be, be able to engage in activities which they enjoyed and in which they could excel. The reality is that not all find they have that degree of support. However, the intricacies of relationships and the needs each brings to the union, or the developing circumstances that sometimes alter that dynamic, is another whole topic better discussed elsewhere.

As for further education based solely on its feasibility due to the student's age, I surely do think whether you're 52, Pattie, (Texas Trifles,) or a 48-yr-old who has a current passion, seeking further education is a worthwhile endeavor. I hope no one ever views themselves as coming up short as a human being for having forgone further education after high school, especially if some of the reasons were a consequence of family responsibilities.

If indeed, as that 48-yr-old said, and I've read elsewhere, many of us are in many ways ten years younger, accordingly, than our yester-year's counterparts, we can then seriously consider opportunities many earlier generations might not have been able to do. As many know to be true, we do all age at differing rates, so we each must determine for ourselves what we believe we are capable of undertaking at any age. For example, when I became aged 50, twenty some years ago, my perspective was I was simply beginning the second half of the rest of my life. I was not so naive as to not recognize I would experience these years differently in many ways from the first fifty years, but it wasn't until entering my mid to late sixties ages that I began to get an inkling of some of those more significant changes.

Another reality when we're young is that pursuing additional formal education just isn't every ones cup of tea for a variety of reasons. Maybe they just have had enough of studies. Maybe their life style at that time was exactly what they wanted. Their employment or plan for devoting their energies to their home life held promise in their view for their life's expectations at the time and in the future.

Unfortunately, lack of a college degree can result in some individuals being passed over for higher level positions in some organizations, especially as an individual gets older. That doesn't mean it's fair, logical or even rational. I'm sure a lot of good employees have found themselves thwarted for just that reason, and I know some of them, both within and outside my family.

A Scottish academic whose professional career engaged him in University publishing in London, NYC and other U.S. settings once said to me that he didn't understand we Americans with the desire to have all our children attend University. In fact, he good-naturedly said, our obsession was such, each American baby should be born with a university diploma.

As a slight digression from the topic, I am reminded this conversation ensued during my early adulthood, shortly after my first child was born and I already had an undergraduate degree. He and his wife were childless, her father had come to live with them from Scotland -- all were a delight and pleasure to know. They also introduced me to the enjoyment of eating tongue -- a pleasure I had been heretofore only too willing to fore go.

But, my friend's view on education was expressed in the early ' 60's before the information age, personal computers, outsourcing of American jobs, awareness and prominence of other nation's beginning and increasing assent to power, and so much more occurred. A college education has seemed to have assumed increasing significance through these years for many. Achieving this goal has become more challenging as the divide between the haves and havenots has become very pronounced in our society, especially in the past six years. To remain among the haves, a college education can provide a key to creating the possibility of making that a reality.

That said, I also believe that college isn't for everyone for whatever the reasons. Each person has to make their own assessment for themselves on that issue. A college or university education is no guarantee as to the level of knowledge of the person with the degree, just as lack of that degree does not automatically mean a person is uneducated. I've met or known of enough individuals in my lifetime who were self-educated to a level that I sometimes found them to be more knowledgeable than numerous others with a degree, myself included. A degree may simply mean an individual has special knowledge in select areas in the same sense a pilot develops skills to fly a plane.

I've known of degree-less individuals who performed all the duties in a position for months, until it could be filled. They were then expected to impart all their knowledge to train a newly hired degreed individual, but would be denied the job themselves, or promotions, solely because they lacked a college/university degree.

Frankly, it made about as much sense to me as a situation in my early young adult years in which I found myself one time, seeking a job where shorthand was mentioned as a desired skill -- one I did not have, and did not want, since being a secretary was not my goal in life. The prospective employer was so impressed with my having the skills he did want, he offered the job to me since shorthand was not a skill he wanted in an employee either, or ever utilized from the person working for him.

Corporate offices in some distant city had concluded that level of work for the pay I required, must also include the shorthand skill regardless of the local official's needs. My future employer-not-to-be disappointedly told me his desire to hire me had been overruled all because of shorthand. He had no other viable candidates. Ultimately, that initial disappointment worked out fine, as a much better job opportunity for me came along a short time later and I was glad I hadn't been committed to that other position.

When viewed in retrospect, this was just one more instance when what had seemed like the desired outcome of receiving that position had been a negative blow to my advancement, the opposite was true. Perhaps, not right away in every instance, but sooner or later an opportunity or much more desirable event took precedence that might never have happened otherwise. I noticed this phenomenon in my life many years ago and this awareness has enabled me to cope quite well with what might otherwise have been interpreted as temporarily devastating experiences on later occasions.

Whatever choices are made regarding seeking a formal education in a college or university setting, or if a choice is made to actively pursue informal self-education, I couldn't concur more with anyone whose approach to learning is to think of the experience as an adventure, in or out of college -- the ideal attitude to have in life. Nourish curiosity with learning and education will follow.


  1. Think of formal education as a hobby. Sometimes it helps us earn money; but, it should be pursued for the enjoyment.
    Cop Car
    P.S. I think it's pretty neat what you're doing!

  2. At age 20, when asked what sort of job I wanted, I said I knew only that I didn't want to become a teacher. A couple of years later, I had a part time job substituting for a teacher in a private school, and found that I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. So what appeared to be something that I wouldn't want to do became something I just loved doing.
    A few years ago, I felt I needed a change and manage to become a webmistress of an academic site. I never regretted the move, even if it gave me a huge amount of work, as I had to learn all sorts of things I had no idea about.
    I find that what I find attractive these days, is learn new things.

  3. An excellent post, Joared, and it sums up my feelings about higher education (or education in general). I love this:

    "I was not so naive as to not recognize I would experience these years differently in many ways from the first fifty years, but it wasn't until entering my mid to late sixties ages that I began to get an inkling of some of those more significant changes."

    Exactly! But those changes do not negate a desire for learning, in any form available.

    Thanks for the link.