Matt at his college graduation this weekend
My brother, Matt, who is eight years my junior, just graduated from the University of Hawaii. All I could think was, (in an Irish accent) "The first McFly to be born in America..." My two brothers and I grew up watching the Back to the Future trilogy like we knew video cassettes were going out of style. It is thus appropriate that my mind choose a snip of that movie to commemorate this occasion. Matt, the youngest, is the first kid in our family to graduate from college, fulfilling the American education dream, and making his big sis very proud. Being born in the USA was one of the first ways to be American in the old West, and I think being a college graduate is the modern translation of that idea.
I was in a funk this weekend, and I couldn't decide why until I realized that I wished it was me in that picture. It's funny to say that, considering the blog post I wrote on education last week. That's when I said it didn't matter what we "should" learn, but that we are generally interested and passionate about learning, so that we do it well and wholeheartedly. In a sense, a college degree says that. It tells everyone that you figured out what you wanted to be when you grew up, and you learned all you could about it. You found your passion, and you paid to learn more about it.
Matt is a naturally smart guy. He took the military ASVAB exam and had recruiters calling him immediately due to his high scores. He scored well on the SAT, got great grades without trying too hard, and is a great friend to many people. He has had many ideas of a degree as he has gone through college, some being accounting, law and politics. What is most admirable, however, is that he stuck to it through two deployments to the Middle East with the Hawaii National Guard. He is graduating with a specialty in human resources. I think what a college degree says is that you are able to bring a goal to fruition. It's Matt's badge of honor, saying that he's trustworthy and will complete what he finishes, and when he does, he will have done it well. He's had the idea that he could be in politics, and I think he could, because he is the kind of person who engenders trust. A college degree will only serve to further the kind of credibility he'd need for this.
My brother Danny, 5 years younger than me, is an amazing craftsman. Coming from our family, you will find this to be a miracle. None of us have a handy bone in our body, but Danny can think about something, learn how it's do be done, and build it. It seems like his natural skill precluded any need for him to study at college. He could teach himself anything he needed to know, and indeed he does, having figured out how to wire in lights in his home, put in various kinds of flooring, wire electrical outlets, hang drywall and build houses on mission trips in Mexico. He is a person who makes a difference because he shows up and works his best, which is always the highest quality of workmanship.
I wondered, then at my tinges of jealousy at Matt's graduation. I am not overly concerned with going back to college. There are no major feelings of regret at leaving my formal studies in order to grow a family. I know however, that there is that innate desire to prove myself trustworthy: to finish what I started. It's a gift and a burden I have. I do not quit things easily, and am therefore dependable, but I also will not leave things that should be left. My parents always told me I didn't need to get a job when I was in high school: my job was to learn. I see now the gift that was, considering that it was that education that prepared me for my life today. I was free to pursue core studies, and then to take my interests further by spending extra time in the photo lab, the ceramics room, and in foreign language studies. I was able to volunteer with children in church and girl scouts, and to really understand what my passions were. It is this space that I was given that I am thankful for. I have a background in arts that I can share with my children and their friends. I'm beginning to understand why the degree is not essential to my work. My children see my persistence and dedication to helping them to learn to teach themselves. My work is to help them to feel that same sense of pride in their accomplishments that a first generation American, a college graduate, a craftsman and a good mother feel.