Her hands heavy as she tapped my shoulder with enough force to maneuver my body around, her eyes searching me beseechingly requiring answers, her voice nervous and almost pained, “beta”, an Urdu word referring to a child, “why are you wasting your education?” she asked. In rhetoric fashion, I repeated her question, “you graduated right? why aren’t you working?” In these moments, there are a million things I want to say but none of them come out; perhaps it’s in keeping with my religious beliefs of “say that which is good or remain silent” or perhaps it’s me not wanting to tarnish my own upbringing and ultimately my parents reputation or maybe it’s my own respect to the house of God where she has chosen to question me, the place where I feel answerable to none but the Almighty…whatever the reason, I smile, mumble something and walk away.
Although I have physically removed myself from the conversation and situation, her question bothers me; it almost makes me second guess the most important thing I’m doing with my life. So here, aunty (older woman I am not related to), here’s why I am not wasting my education….
1)My children are a trust between God and I and I am blessed beyond reason to be able to spend these moments with them, watch them grow, instill in them values we believe are important and I sincerely believe we are all as a family benefiting from this. I guarantee you, among all the dreams and aspirations I had that changed and wavered over the years, the one thing that remained constant was my desire to be a mother. Although I never charted out the course of my own life, if I knew what I know now, yes aunty, yes, I would still pursue the Masters degree I did 10 years ago.
2) I learned that money does not buy happiness. I have immense respect for all moms, whether you work, stay at home, breast feed, bottle feed, etc etc but two incomes do not equate to a better standard of living or a happier more consequential life.
3) My education showed me the meaning of hard work, building relationships, the value of team work and more importantly, the years in college taught me how to budget. My parents worked hard to ensure that I did not graduate with student debt; however, I also wanted to share that responsibility and tutored, worked at different labs and libraries on and off campus; the money I received often going towards my college textbook fund. IT/Computer Science/Software Engineering textbook prices were sometimes astronomical and I would often save and prioritize my spending so my meager earnings could pay for them.
4) Free time is valuable and rare; although I am mentally exhausted on a different level now, working 9am-4:30pm and having classes from 5 until 10pm then rushing home to complete homework and study for exams and write papers definitely made me value time and forced me to manage it well, lest I sink. I remember the feeling of submitting that last paper, doing that final presentation and turning in that last final; some nights when I get all my kids to bed before 9 pm and get the house cleaned, I get a similar high.
5) Cultivating meaningful relationships are what life if really about. In college, I made some great friends, from different walks of life, with whom I agreed and sometimes ferociously disagreed with. I was active and passionate on campus, being an active member of different organizations and ultimately creating relationships that added value and meaning to my life.
So please, do not assume I’m wasting my education in any way, shape or form…my education has very much helped to carve me into the person I am today and this life, is better than I could have ever planned it.