Awkward Moments

My employer, having recently laid off 10% of its IT workforce, did what a company has to do when such things happen, and put instituted a major personnel reorganization.  As expected, I’ve been moved to a new department with an entirely new mission.  I’m not upset about this at all – I am far more comfortable with change than I am with stagnation.

My new boss, whom I met for the first time last week, very wisely sent out questionaires to all the employees he now manages, in order to get a decent handle on our skills and current responsibilities.  There were also several housekeeping questions (upcoming time off, etc).  And a question which brought an answer out of me that was quite unexpected.

The question was “Area of Professional Interest”, meaning the typical “Where do you want to take yourself professionally in the next few years?”  I answered the usual answers: upgrading certifications, learning the latest toolset, cross-training within my new department.  But then, without thinking much about it, I added this:

Long range: Go back to school to complete BA or BS degree.

After I hit “send”, I looked at the form again, and said, “What the?  Where did THAT come from?  I haven’t even considered college in over 20 years!”

And now, I’m left sorting out why I have this desire I’ve left dormant for more longer than your average college graduate has been alive.  You see, if I were to do such a thing, I would want to do it for the right reasons – not as some mid-life crisis self-indulgence, certainly.  My own kids’ education HAS to come first.

Being from a blue collar family, I have the typical working class view of higher education: it is a means to an end.  It is training more than enlightenment.  Learning for its own sake is important; as a Christian, I consider it my duty to “think God’s thoughts after him”.  Lintilla and I have built our family life where learning is something we just do, like eating.  Our kids have accepted this.  But, I can’t help where I come from and how I was raised: In my view, formal education should prepare a person for a specific job or career.  I know you may disagree with this, but I’m too old to change who I am.

So, that brings up an interesting question.  If I put in all the extra work it would require to get a degree (I would basically be starting all over), to what end?  In my chosen field, I am pretty highly compensated (till the healthcare industry collapses, at least).  I don’t see how a newly minted BS added to my resume would help my career, considering I’d be over 50 when I completed it.  I can imagine the most common comment being, “You did it backwards, didn’t you?”.  No, I’ve gotten this far without a degree; if I stay on this path.

I’ve made it no secret that, mid-life, I’d love to switch careers and become a writer.  Journalist, columnist, author – it really doesn’t matter; I could be happy with any of them.  But, here’s the problem.  Anyone who’s paid attention knows a J-school degree, still based on the old industries that are dying, is becoming worth less and less.  An English degree?  Yeah, I’d have a ball getting it, but I just don’t see what that would buy me.

I don’t want to bore you with anymore details of my musings; just know that the world is open to me…I could go in almost any direction.  The specifics I can work out, maybe with a little career counseling.

But, one thing is certain:  there is a part of me that desperately wants to right this ancient wrong.  I have few regrets, but this is one of them.  I was supposed to have been the son who would be the first to get a degree; my brother, in his 40’s, acheived that distinction instead (and I am proud of him!).

And then there are those awkward moments, when I’m having a conversation with this or that person, and I’m wowing them with my intellect and creativity.  Then, the subject changes to which school I graduated from.  When I tell them, there is a change in their eyes.  you can almost see the person’s mind working overtime, reworking the view of who I am and where I fit in relation to them.  He or she, in that split second, takes me out of one box, and puts me in another. 

I am diminished in their eyes.  They don’t say it out loud, but it’s still there to see.

A lifetime of those awkward moments eats away at a guy, you know?

So, I’m going to see what I can do about it.

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5 Responses to “Awkward Moments”

  1. Susie Says:

    Good for you!

  2. Ford Prefect Says:

    Hey Slarti, we’re going to the movies – you wanna go? Homework? You can do that later – common, you know you wanna go! We’ll get BEER!

  3. jim voorhies Says:

    I used to work for a guy who left here to become cheif information officer of a health care company here. All he had was a high school eduction. Degrees are overrated, but sadly, mostly by those that have them.

  4. Warrior Says:

    Find what makes you come most alive, and go do that, because the world need men who are truely alive!

  5. Katherine Coble Says:

    Well, I never finished either. To this day I still have people convinced that I’m making it up and did indeed finish. I’ve had people even thinking I’ve had an advanced degree. Am I diminished in their eyes when they find out otherwise? Maybe. Is it my fault or theirs? Theirs. Completely. I quit for the right reasons.

    If I ever go back to finish it won’t be for any reason other than the fun of taking classes and writing papers again. (I love to write research papers.)

    If you do go back, I think maybe you’d do better to stop looking at it as a means to an end and start thinking of getting a degree as the equivalent of a lengthy gourmet cooking class. Just as most people don’t do those cooking classes to open a restaurant, most folks these days don’t do college to get a career. (unfortunately they think they do.) College is best viewed as a chance to meet people and expand your horizons.

    Frankly, I stopped dreaming so much about going back when the Internet shifted into Web 2.0 mode. I get from the Web a lot of what I got out of college that I still can’t get on my own. I get to associate with smart people and broaden my mind through dialogue and study. And it’s a lot cheaper and less time-restrictive than college.

    Having said all of that, I really DO understand the feeling of inadequacy from not completing college. I’ve wrestled with it myself for years and have only recently made peace with it. If you can’t make peace with it any other way, then by all means finish. Because you need to live at peace with yourself.


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