“Mesa is full of girls with elementary education and dental hygiene majors.”
I remember when a guy I knew said this. It was not intended as a compliment.
It caused me to stop and think about my education plans. He had recently finished law school and moved here for a real job. He was also really attractive, which possibly had some effect on what I thought of his comment.
My thoughts from that? Being a teacher must be lame. Dental hygienists are somehow not living up to their potential. Because some boy was sick of hearing all his dates say that they were pursuing these careers.
That was when I was 19. I was living in Mesa going to community college and living with roommates. Most of my friends at the time were around 25 and were either done with school and working full-time, or they were in grad school. Being around those friends–male and female–encouraged me to consider how far I wanted to take my education. So that got it in my head that I needed a Master’s degree in order to be accomplished.
What’s my point with these two scenarios? Now, I’m not trying to say that the first guy was a jerk. He’s actually really nice and supports women furthering their education and careers. If we’re being really honest, after a couple of years at my university it was hard to not roll my eyes every time a guy told me that he wanted to run start-ups, so I eventually understood where he may have been coming from. My friends were also a great motivation for my education, but did I need to focus only on a Masters? Could I have made a great living without needing to pursue a graduate degree? My point is that I let so many other people tell me what was valuable without considering what I wanted.
Let’s be honest, though–I was 19. I didn’t know what I wanted. Shoot, half the time I’m still not sure what I want. Even so, education and careers should not be compartmentalized into what is or isn’t worthy of our time and effort. If it brings satisfaction, pays the bills, allows you to live the life you want–then go for it!
Dental Hygienists make a lot more per hour than I do and most of the ones I know work a lot less hours than me. Now that I’m expecting my first child, I would love to work flexible part-time hours and still make a ton. Jealous! Teachers work their butts off for crappy pay and can have such a powerful impact for good in their students’ lives–they did for mine! There are areas within education that I could have excelled at and make a decent living, but I needed to be a teacher first in order to pursue them. So much for thinking an education major would be lame/not worth it.
We all have different values and plans for our lives. Maybe you only want to work full-time until you have kids. Maybe you plan on returning to work after they’re all in school or even after they’ve all moved out. Maybe you want to work full-time except during maternity leave. Maybe you don’t want kids or don’t plan on marrying and you want to work your career around traveling the world. Maybe you want to bum off your parents the rest of your life.
Don’t do that last one–that’s lame. That’s not a value, that’s just lazy.
Whatever it is you value and plan for your future, I believe there’s an educational path and career that can support you in that. The trick is understanding yourself and what those values are. That takes time and can even change throughout your life. It’s okay to be a work in progress.
Just don’t let other people make those calls for you.