It took me 3 years of attending college to convince my recently Ph.D.-ed mother that it wasn’t the right time for me to be in college. I couldn’t have explained it well then, and I’m still not sure if I could explain it well now. But I didn’t feel like the school system was for me. School was a pivot table, and I was abstract art. Luckily, my parents are amazing people who understand the importance of being true to who you are.
My family prizes education. I think that’s probably why so many of them got intentionally involved in the educational system. My dad started a high school and was the administrator, as well as taught everything from maths to history for 17 years. My mom taught at the same high school while finishing her bachelor’s, earning her master’s, and then her Ph.D.. She’s now a professor at a university (the same university I attended while trying to convince her to let me quit, naturally). My grandmother started and ran an elementary school for years. My uncle took over as administrator when my grandmother retired; he also taught in the school. Another uncle taught music, an aunt taught piano, and the list goes on.
After I left college, degreeless, I worked as an administrative assistant in higher education. I took time to broaden my knowledge, hone my skills, strengthen my abilities, and find my passions. Then, I found a place where I could not only use my KSAs, but also was encouraged to have shared passion with my company and coworkers. The fact that I didn’t have a degree didn’t deter my hiring manager from seeing that customer service was my art and my passion.
Still, I almost never feel comfortable admitting the fact that I didn’t finish college. It makes me feel inferior, inadequate. I love knowledge. I’m an information junkie. And when I found out that a (degreed) guy said he wouldn’t want to date me because I was “too smart,” I laughed. And then I got to thinking: my level of formal education has nothing to do with how smart I am and has nothing to do with my value. I am a smart person! It was a revelation.
Before I read Out of Our Minds and The Element (both by Sir Ken Robinson), I would have been surprised to hear someone say they see a little of their own story in mine. Growing up, I felt like a fish out of water. I felt like everyone else was just sailing through college like they were meant to be there. And I was definitely the odd one out.
The Element is full of stories: stories about people who thrived once they found where their passions and skills intersected, stories about people who believed in someone, stories that will resonate with you, stories about people you will recognize with backgrounds you’d never guess. Reading The Elementwill make you feel like it’s okay to be you. It should also make you want to mentor someone like you (and your version of someone like you might open quite broadly after reading it).
So I’ll leave you with this to ponder, and hope it spurs you on not only to read these books, but also to share them, and then to make a difference in whatever way you can, even if it’s just in one person’s small life.
“Mentors lead us to believe that we can achieve something that seemed improbable or impossible to us before we met them.” –Sir Ken Robinson in “The Element”
Sir Ken Robinson was a keynote speaker at the California Library Association Conference in November in Pasadena California. Better World Books was privileged to be the official bookseller for the conference.