I’m Not a ‘Wasted Mind’ Because I Don’t Have a Graduate Degree

bookworm

It was freshman year of college and I sat in the first day of class Monday morning.  The professor’s ice breaker question was “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Answers flurried around the groups.  Hopeful future lawyers and entrepreneurs swapped opinions on grad schools.  Social work majors discussed non-profits and the Peace Corp.  When the small circle turned to me, I answered, “Well, I’ve always wanted to get married and have kids.  If it works out, I’d like to stay home with them and homeschool them.”

Stares.  Silence.  Smirks.  This wasn’t a popular answer on a University campus.

In comparison to the dreams of my fellow undergrads, my dream sounded…crazy.  Mundane.  Some even called it a waste.  Why would I choose littles when I could choose learning and writing and staying up into the wee hours of the night discussing intellectual topics over lattes and craft beer?  Wasn’t I just wasting my time even in my undergrad if I was just going to throw it all away?

I decided to prove them all wrong.  I came up with my life motto and ran with it for the next three years: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deepest passion and the world’s greatest hunger intersect” (Frederick Buechner).  Ironically, the place that I saw that hunger was the university campus itself, especially in the way that Catholicism was taught in history classes.

I began to entertain dreams of pencil skirts and practical heeled shoes, lecture podiums and power point clickers. I was enamored with what “Professor Mooradian” sounded like, and how proudly I’d display the diploma that I could almost taste.  I dreamed of late nights spent grading essays (which I’m sure is completely over-romanticized and not nearly as exciting as I picture in my mind) and coffee with students to discuss the beauty of Catholic history.

But I was torn, because deep inside me I still ached for that original dream.  That freshman-year-Chloe answer that I loved so much, despite what people said.  That raw version of me, before I had soaked up the influence of a University environment  – before I listened to what so many people said about me wasting my potential on a family.  So I toyed with the notion that maybe I could do both.  Do it all.  Pick options ‘a’ AND ‘b.’

Over winter break, senior year loomed ahead of me.  Adulthood and decisions beckoned to me.  I was asked to put together my top list of graduate schools where I would venture into the depths of a doctoral degree in history.  I mulled over the list, chatted with students and professors, and dug through course catalogs.  I watched countless video interviews of professors, read random samplings of essays and contemplated life over multiple vanilla lattes.  And after all of that I felt empty.  I wasn’t just wrestling with a doctorate adviser, I was battling with whether a doctorate graduate degree was actually my dream, and if so, what ramifications that had for the rest of my life.  Early in January, one night during a family vacation, Joseph and I had a long heart to heart where the reality that decision time was right around the corner hit me.

Don’t get me wrong – women who have doctorate degrees are amazing. My favorite professors during my undergraduate degree time have been women who know their subject inside and out and have been an incredible source of knowledge.  But I didn’t know if that was for me.  Because, deep down inside of me was a dream that I had…I wanted to stay at home with littles and teach them.  I wanted to see their first steps and tell them about the saints and what the Eucharist meant.  I wanted to cook breakfasts and sew pillowcase dresses.  I wanted to spend the summers with grass underneath my feet and smelling like kid’s suntan lotion.

Because, deep down, the issue was much larger than a job decision.  It was a heart decision.  It was a soul-searching, gnawing realization that dragged me to adoration.  A question that tugged at me and left countless journal pages scrawled with my thoughts, prayers, hopes and cries to God for clarity.

I realized that the idea of being a stay-at-home mom scared me.  Because it made me realized this adventure would take a selfless heart that I didn’t know if I had.

It would mean balancing and organizing.  Schedules and spontaneity.   Littles with their muddy messes crashing into my muddy heart that wanted only what was good for me. What made me comfortable.  What made me happy.  Which, as it turns out, isn’t the healthiest for the soul.  Or sainthood.

So for now, we’re planning a wedding for early next year.  And when littles come, they come and bring with them decisions and bridges to cross when we get there.  There is a lot of unknowns right now…and learning to trust God and His plan for us that is better than anything we could have ever imagined.

I’ll still read through stacks of books.  And talk about Catholicism and history until everyone wishes I would just be quiet and enjoy the silence.  I’ll still drink the same inhumane amount of coffee that I would have had a doctorate been in my future (maybe more, you never know).

Do I know what the future holds? I sure don’t.  But I know what I choose is…God’s will.  Simplistic and childlike faith that does not come naturally to me.  But I do know that, doctorate or not, I’m called for a life that has peace on the inside, and doesn’t always look like the the world’s version of success on the outside.  And that’s better than okay.  For real.

“Be truly glad…there is wonderful joy ahead.” 1 Peter 1:-6

 

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Why a Summer Reading List will Change Your Life

The house that I am living in for part of the summer is lined with books.  Bookshelves line the living room, the guest bedroom, and the dining room.  Stacks of books sit on the side tables and in shelves around the hallways.   Needless to say, I’m in Heaven and the only problem that I’ve encountered so far is ‘Where do I start?’

I’ve always been a reader.  It originated with mom reading to all of us kids when we were little.  We’d each pick a book and huddle around her as she read every afternoon after lunch.  After we learned to read on our own, everything was fair game.  I grew up in a little town, and I quickly demolished the little public library’s collection.  Their shelves were lined with books I had already read and re-read.  My love of reading woke me up early and kept me up late at night…even resulting in the reason that I wear glasses today, due to strained eyesight from trying to sneakily read under the covers.

Needless to say, I love books.  I read past my bedtime.  I finish a book, have a good cry, and get over the loss of beloved characters by starting a new book.  I purposely read slowly through the last chapter so that the book doesn’t end as fast.  Call me crazy, bookworm, bibliophile, or nerd.  But I truly believe that reading makes you a better human being and I’m challenging you to put together a summer reading list and watch it transform you.

Books let you see the world through another lens
I love Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  How could you not…he is loyal, blunt, and adventurous.  Clumsy yet practical, he longs for adventure that will take him out of the comfort of the Shire, and perhaps see some Elves along the way.  Sam’s genuine character shines through Tolkien’s pages and inspires friendship to no end.  But his tale is only one of the multiple characters who make up the Fellowship of the Ring.  What about Gimli, the dwarf with quick wit and blunt humor? Pippin and Merry with their antics and quick thinking?   Each character weaves into the intricate world of Middle Earth.

But it’s not just Middle Earth that is complicated.  The world is a muddy place full of muddy people (and hobbits).  There are different vantage points to every story and reading allows you to see into the perspective of the other – a life skill that comes in handy most days of the week.

Books makes you healthier
Fun fact: Did you know that reading can prevent Alzheimer’s, improve your general brain health, reduce your stress levels, and help you better empathize with others?  With benefits abounding, reading is the way to go to improve your life overall this summer.  So far, the only negative affects from reading that I’ve found are an empty wallet due to book purchases, bloodshot eyes due to 2:00 am reading binges, and anger that bubbles up when a movie director missed an important part of the book in his attempt to crush a week long, page turning journey into 1.5 hours.  But don’t let that deter you – the pros far outweigh the cons.

Books expand your knowledge and imagination
I’ve never cooked a lobster.  In all honesty, I’m not planning on it.  Seafood creeps me out and having to cook those overgrown bug-like crawling creatures alive sends shivers down my spine.  But I can tell you how to cook one thanks to Julie Powell and “Julia and Julie,” a book about a food blogger who is determined to master the art of Julia Child’s French cooking techniques.

I’ve never ball room danced.  I think it’s beautiful, the movements are graceful and the intricacy of two people working together is thrilling.  Yet I can tell you the struggles of communication between dance partners, the stress of a competition and the sheer relief of triumphing over a daunting routine you never thought you’d beat – at least according to Pat and Tiffany from “Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick.

While these experiences, I’m sure, are better if lived in the ‘real world,’ the expansion of knowledge that comes from opening a book is immense.  This identification combines with an expansion of the imagination as you train your mind to picture what the lobster would look like as he crawls out of the silver pot that boils on the stove.  Or the sweat the drips down your face as you turn and catch your dance partner on the competition floor.  After all, Albert Einstein did say “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Putting Together Your Summer List
Ah summer.  We’ll blink and it’ll be August, our summer plans sitting on their Pinterest boards, untouched and unexplored.  Make this summer different!

Start your reading list by picking out three books: One you’ve wanted to read but never have time for, one recommended by a friend, and a classic.  For me that means I’ll be reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, The Book Thiefand Our Mutual Friend.  That doesn’t mean you have to stop after those three…believe me, I’m already on book four of the summer and am not planning on stopping (or sleeping) anytime soon.

Hang up your hammock in the backyard, make yourself an iced coffee and let’s get to it!

May your shelves always overflow with books.