I’m not done with this on-going rant, but these are my thoughts right now. Please excuse any grammar mistakes, and I’m sure there are too many (which is why I’m not an English major.)
I had a momentary crisis tonight. I was envisioning my future before my eyes at some very instant in the past couple hours—I was confused, frustrated, and hopeless. I felt somewhat betrayed by the education system. As an avid and loyal believer of higher education, I became frustrated with the whole idea of pedagogy (especially in a university setting) for a couple, perhaps a few, reasons. In the “land and home of the free”, education for the most part is not free. This surreal and subjective attitude applies to all stages of education, that is, K-12 and until the post-doctoral stage of our “pursuit of greater knowledge”. All these expenses accumulate and when we get a chance to really look back and calculate the true costs of an education, it’s shocking and almost ridiculous. Our society emphasizes the importance of education and how everyone should be allowed an equal opportunity to a free education. But the definition of a “free education” stops after high school. Although scholarships are readily available, the chances of each student being offered free money are slim to none. Obviously, the students’ chances of receiving scholarships or grants are dependent on their performance in high school, their well-roundedness in extracurricular activities, and most importantly their ability to pass some standardized assessment of their now outdated knowledge. What I’ve come to realize during the past three years of my academic career as an undergraduate at PSU is that education is figuratively priceless—our experiences in both our social and academic constructs cannot be marked with any sort of price tag. However, as students of higher education, we pay a big price for a piece of paper, literally. We work and study vigorously all for a piece of paper that seems to credit and validate our exhausting and grueling experiences, and that piece of paper cost us thousands of dollars. But my point isn’t to complain about why our education is expensive or question our education system. Right now, I’m sitting at my desk, heartbroken. It’s heartbreaking to see the role money plays in our lives, not only in terms of education but everything else; the sacrifices we must make in order to chase something meaningful, as if we aren’t making enough sacrifices in our lives. I’m heartbroken because I have to choose between a PhD program and a full-time job. I admit that I am very blessed to be given an opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree and to even have a job ready for me by the time I graduate next spring. Absolutely, most certainly, very blessed. But as I rewind time, I begin to see the bigger picture. As a PhD candidate, I won’t be able to make payments for my loans. Given that I will be paid during my term as a graduate student, the money I make as a TA and RA won’t be enough to even make a dent on my loans, or even my accumulated interests. As I sulk in my frustrations, I decided to call my mom, the financial guru in my life.
My mom has always been liberal with my brother and me. Whatever we wanted to pursue, she supported our decisions fully and inevitably. She comforts me by saying, “follow your heart”. My heart is telling me, “Go! Get that PhD! Show and give the world all you have! Expand every horizon!” but honestly, my wallet and my brain is telling me “no.” Do I follow my heart, or do I rationalize my sacrifices and decisions, and just settle? I honestly don’t know, and I most likely won’t know for a while. But remember when I said my mom is comforting? Here’s what she offered: “I will help you pay off your loans. You follow your heart. You do what makes you happy, because Eunice, if you’re happy with what you do every day in your life, you will have no regrets and your heart will always feel full.” Amen, mom. But here’s my response: as a single mother of two, you sacrificed years of your happiness putting us through private school and focusing on what made us happy. But after you sold all your businesses, you chose to settle for the lesser route as a technician. And I have never seen you happier, and that’s what I admire. I want to wake up happy and excited to start a new day at work, but I’m so confused. I’m caught up in this web of “what-ifs” and I can’t find a way out of this tangle.