Here in the silence of my parents-in-laws house, nothing but the click of keys and mouse, passing of cars, ticking of clock and muffled song of a sparrow outside. I’m unaccustomed to such quiet, not sure how to structure it, though we sought it here—a retreat on the way to pick up our youngest son from Scout Camp on the Oregon coast. There was getting up at a reasonable time, fixing breakfast for my husband and me, finishing my book while he did work remotely on his laptop in the living room. Yesterday on the way here he spoke again about the one satisfaction in his work, knowing he was providing for us. How important or our children to learn a trade so they could do the same. I’d been expressing my deep value for the type of education that would not only prepare a person for the work force, but enable one to understand the forces at work in the world, develop vision and wisdom, exert influence in the world for good. My desire that they go to a college that would provide the support and opportunities that intelligent, young, Type B introverts need, a place where they would be known by their professors who would mentor them, help them develop a vision for meaningful work in the world based on their gifts and values, and confidence in pursuing that and other important aspects of life purpose. We told our children and they were growing up that God made us to be a blessing in the world. Even now and then I ask, why did God make you, and they answer “To be a blessing to the world.”
There’s certainly an element of wanting for my children what I felt I never received. Back then I didn’t know what I was missing. I expected university to be big and impersonal, professors to inhabit a different world and not have much to do with undergrads. Science was about attending lectures in big halls, taking notes, getting the labs done, doing well on exams. I expected most of my meaningful growth and learning to be outside the classroom (as previously). I studied at the big research university, but lived on a small neighboring campus, a self contained Oxford-style liberal arts and journalism school with a rich student life–frosh, upper classes and grad students mixing in the student pub, lit society, theater, debates and open mic nights. But I think now, if only I’d had the kind of academic and career mentoring and encouragement from my professors that some of the colleges I’m now researching have the reputation of providing–what might I have discovered about my life purpose? What if someone had noticed and helped me develop my strengths and particular way of seeing things, my confidence, in the realm of scholarship and work? There was a bit of activity in the way of picking off the top few students from each class to invite them to apply for lab assistanceships or encouragement to do grad work, but that wasn’t me. I studied marine biology because it fascinated me, but who knew? Who knew my other interests and how they might be connected? I had no idea what the options were, or where I might best serve and develop. But maybe that’s what you get for under $16,ooo a year.
Maybe better to get that technical degree or certificate, keeping costs down by living at home and studying at the community college, then work to earn what a great liberal arts education costs. Then you always have a trade, and can afford to build your mind, deepen wisdom with a foot in the “real world.” Trading on potential straight out of high school is a pretty risky business, as well as a highly competitive market. I wonder if my oldest, who doesn’t lack intelligence or commitment to learning, but doesn’t have stellar test scores, can place in that race. And to try for a swimming scholarship and then have to balance two workouts a day with studies? Maybe not feasible either.
So I maintain a balance of hope and anxiety, continue working on the options, helping him feel out his plans and desired possible courses of study, travel, work. One thing going for him is that he has a good network of friends–sensible, caring, intelligent friends, a variety of personalities. That goes a long way in helping one work things out, doesn’t it?