January 31, 2006

It is important, dammit!

When I was distributing work this morning, I noticed one of my minions had flowers on her desk and some congratulations cards. This is one of my minions that I get along really well with and talk to on a daily basis. I’ve even been to her house for a party and helped her husband assemble a wooden outside play tower. Trying to rummage through my dysfunctional memory to pull up what she was being congratulated for, I walked up to her.

Curiosity was getting the better of me, I asked her what the flowers and cards where for. She responded that her mother was just being overly emotional. Okay, I’m lost. I know her mother; she’s not that type. Pushing for more details, I was able to get the truth from her. She had finished her courses for an associate’s degree. She graduated just yesterday. I congratulated her and she just shrugged it off and said, “It’s no big deal”. If it had been someone else, I would say she just didn’t like the attention, but this minion does like the limelight.

My minion doesn’t feel that this is a big accomplishment because it took her four years. Four years in which she raised a child (currently 5 years old), maintained a home and worked full time (putting in as much OT as she could.). She could only take one to two classes a semester. And she finished in 4 years, yes about twice as long as normal, but with all that added responsibility. I tried to explain to her that yes it is, it is a very big deal.

When a kid right out of high school goes to college, they don’t have the other financial obligations an adult has (Mortgage, Childcare, etc). They don’t have to take care of a kid and they don’t have a house to maintain. Admittedly, there are some that do, but they are the exception, not the rule. I went to college on a full ride, I worked on breaks for drinking money (I’m not going to lie about what it was for.), but I had no responsibilities. I took 18 hours of classes each semester. During the summers, I took some classes at the local community college so I could graduate a semester early. I wanted to get into the workforce and be a productive member of society. Yet, I think what she did warrants more respect than what I did.

I’d love to go back to school to get my masters in law. Unfortunately, it’s just not financially realistic for me to do right now. Any reputable law school in the area would require me to be fulltime the first year and I can’t afford to not work and support my family. Knowing that, I look at her accomplishment and can’t help but to be proud of her. For fighting the odds to better herself, to make life better for her family, I respect her.

I told her all of this and she still doesn’t see what the big deal is. “It’s only an associate degree,” she says. No, it’s not. It is a college degree. It is more than a high school diploma and it’s her first step to a bachelor's degree. And yes, she is planning on continuing to get her bachelor’s.

Even though she doesn’t understand why others think this was an accomplishment, I still wanted to recognize her accomplishment. Today I took her to lunch and refused to let her pay for her meal. No, it’s not a lot, but it’s all the company will allow me to do. (We have a stringent gift giving policy.) She appreciated it, but still felt I was making an issue out of nothing. She is wrong.

Posted by Contagion in Tales from the Work Place at January 31, 2006 01:06 PM | TrackBack

She is definitely wrong. My students are all in her situation this semester, and I see with them how hard it is to work, be a Mom, pay the bills, and take a night class two or three nights a week, plus homework and reading.

My hat's off to her. Congratulations!

Posted by: caltechgirl at January 31, 2006 02:30 PM

It is a huge deal!

It took me 7 years to get my 2nd bachlors and I only need to take my core classes.

Working and going to school, doing homework, papers, tests and keeping up a house and all that goes with it is huge, huge I say.

Posted by: Machelle at January 31, 2006 03:00 PM

I agree with you completely! What she did *is* a really big deal... Good for you trying to let her know so. (And kudos to her!)

Posted by: Richmond at January 31, 2006 03:04 PM

Huge, huge deal. Tell her not to sell herself short. What she did is an amazing deal. Takes hard work, perserverence and a lot of mental and physical fortitude. I am so glad you tried to recognize her for such a wonderful accomplishment. You old softy! ;)

Posted by: oddybobo at January 31, 2006 03:43 PM

It is a big deal and you did good putting forth the effort to recognize her for this accomplishment.

Right after H.S. I entered into college. I was going for my A.D. as a medical secretary. I got so far that I only needed 2 more classes to graduate. I got bored and quit. I really regret that decision now. Oh, how I wish I could go back and do it all over again, but I can't.

Posted by: Maranda Rites at January 31, 2006 03:52 PM

I am more imprssed that she didn't give up after 4 years. I was in a similar boat! So not only is it great she got it, it's great she put so much effort to get it, 4 years or not!

Posted by: Sissy at January 31, 2006 05:51 PM

Give her a "high five" from me. If I had a full-time job and a little alien, I couldn't do all the fun school stuff. This is a major big deal. Hey, I should know - it took me over 20 years to finish the 1st degree (okay, so I changed my major a couple of times *grin*).

Posted by: MathCog Idiocy at January 31, 2006 06:31 PM

As a full-time working adult even getting an associate degree isn't easy - hell, I've been trying to get one off and on since 1989, and I still don't have one.

Posted by: Shadoglare at January 31, 2006 06:44 PM

That was surprisingly nice of you.

Posted by: Raging Mom at February 1, 2006 07:08 AM