I wish someone had told me when I was in college that I probably wasn’t going to use my degree. At least, not directly.
As someone who works full time in customer service for a technology startup, and who sews part time to make stoles for ministers, I bet you’d be hard pressed to guess what degree(s) I hold without me telling you. Lucky for you I make it a point to tell you (at least here on my blog… if I met you in real life I might show more discretion).
Recently, a co-worker asked me if I thought I was using my degree. The question didn’t surprise me. I’ve had to defend my career choices to family, colleagues from grad school, professors from grad school, and even myself for what feels like a long time. His question was a sincere break from the accusation I’ve been used to facing in similar questions in the past.
“Absolutely,” I told him.
I studied what I did and made the educational choices I did because I needed to. I needed to study religion to answer questions I had about why my mind didn’t always seem to fit with my faith. And when I didn’t find those answers in undergrad, I went to grad school. I thought I was equipping myself with a means to a career path along the way, too.
While in grad school, though, I had a startling realization. No such answers exist–at least, not the clear-cut answers I was hoping for. But you still ask yourselves the questions anyway. You let them get under your skin and make you itch a little bit. The purpose is to equip yourself always to be willing to encounter a different answer with sincerity, humility, and respect.
I may not be applying my degrees in any explicit way, but because my view of the world changed through earning these degrees, I cannot help but apply my degree every day. I am living a life oriented toward embracing the overwhelming mystery, pain, and joy of life, and reveling in the unending questions.
So, perhaps I don’t wish that someone told me I’d never use my degree. I wouldn’t have believed them any more then than I do now.