Friday, August 3, 2007

Some more about college: stressful living

One of the most difficult experiences of my college years was the enormous load of stress and pressure I felt almost all the time. Mrs. Lydia Sherman, from 'Homeliving Helper', referred to this in one of her recent posts:

"…they are told it is inferior to marry and be at home, and are instead convinced they must be shut away into college dorms that make cattle and sheep pens look roomy, and forced to study in a distracting and stressful atmosphere. The piles of assignments heaped on them make it impossible for them to love life and enjoy beauty. Such a load can only be borne a certain period of time before they finally break down, either mentally or physically."

Mrs. Sherman merits a huge 'thank-you' from me and from all young women who were made to think they are weak, whining creatures that can't 'handle pressure'. I didn't dare to complain when I often had to spend from 12 to 16 hours away from home, daily. I felt like a failure when I didn't feel the inclination, ability or desire to enter the cycle of overwhelming competitiveness, rush, ambitions and career plans my fellow students were immersed in.

What we didn't stop to ask at that time, and what I would like to ask now, is why are we supposed to handle so much pressure? What good does it do? Our study course took 3 years, while the load escalated each year, up to a point when right now, I await the results of my exams with trepidation. It would have been busy enough even if we did 4 years and not 3, and there was such an option, but we were discouraged to do that. We needed to complete our degree, fast. Enter the workforce, fast. Or start a higher degree right away. The important thing was not to allow breaks in our career! It couldn't wait! Even stopping to think about it was an incredible challenge for me, and I must tell you I'm glad I did.

"College and career can wait: marriage and homemaking cannot", says Mrs. Sherman. I agree, and would like to add: marriage and homemaking are our careers. As for college… well, if you've read some of my previous posts about my college years, you know I don't think it was all bad. I did learn valuable things, but I think it was more despite, than thanks to the teaching methods. I'm sorry, but cramming my short-term memory with facts, spitting it all out during an exam, then forgetting all about it isn't exactly what I consider effective learning. Maybe it works for some. It didn't work for me and for many others. Yes, I handled it. Yes, my grades were generally good. But what about knowledge? All the time, I had a feeling I'm stuck inside a huge industry that cares only about one thing: stuffing my head with theories, hauling me towards an exam, then allowing me to forget everything I learned. This doesn't happen when I learn at home, on my own. This is an important lesson I learned: I'm mostly autodidactic, and I learn much better without stress applied. This is not something to be ashamed of.

I remember long weeks and months, passed in a whirl, without having the opportunity to 'love life and enjoy beauty', like Mrs. Sherman said. This is what our culture proclaims these days. Do more. Faster. Now. Otherwise, you are ineffective and worthless. How foolish! How on earth is this supposed to make us happy, enhance our spiritual lives and contribute to our preparation as future – God willing! - wives and mothers?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against education, and I'm not against the very idea of going to college. What troubles me is how it is done, and the consequences it bears for young women. Like Mrs. Sherman, 'I am just saying that the system of education either needs reform, or we need to seek alternatives.'

Following a request from Mrs. Sherman, here is also the link to my first post about my years in college.

26 comments:

Buffy said...

I went to University and there were good things and bad things about it. It would be nice to filter out the bad things and replace them with something better so that the experience would be wholly good.

So in an ideal world how would a college or university for young women work?

Anna S said...

Buffy,

My college was not all bad either! This post about education for women got a bit too long as I was typing it, so I decided to split it in two parts, and I'll post the second part tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Anna Naomi said...

Great thoughts... I've been researching different ways to perhaps learn more from home in various ways suited to my learning style, which is mostly by self-teaching using books.

By the way, I really like the new picture of yourself that you put on your sidebar!

Anna S said...

Thanks, Anna! I thought it works better with my current blog background. I'm mostly autodidactic too, and there are countless ways to learn from home! More on this in tomorrow's post, though.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Anna,

I keep waiting for a student to say that instead of enjoying learning, they found themselves in a factory, being pushed through to make room for the next batch. Colleges are archaic systems of learning which can be traced back to ancient days when books were scarce. Today learning can without locking yourself up in their factories and being indoctrinated with unrelated subjects. Their system will have to change or they will collapse.

AnneK said...

Although I have a Masters, I do tend to agree with some of what you have written. My undergrad years were so accelerated, only the best of best could survive. I very nearly didn't and I am no dunce. There was no time to stop and smell the roses. But doing MS here was a breeze. The stress I felt towards the end was mainly of my own making.

Th stuff I remember from college has less to do with geotechnical, transportation and structural and more to do with valuable life lessons. The former helped me to find a job, the other helped me live life better.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

please post a link on your original article here to the first article you wrote on college. I read it sometime ago but it would be easier to find if you'd include it in your article! I'll post it on my original article, as well.

Truth be told, it takes a lot of stamina and emotional stress to be a homemaker, wife, mother, etc, but it is this kind of stress that women are built for. While they may not do well under college stress, the same women are capable of much harder work and more stress in home life, because this is what she is designed for by God.

Rightthinker said...

As a woman who battled herself back and forth over "what she should be doing", I can relate. When my first son was young, I was convinced I should obtain a college degree and begin a career at some point.

During this time, I took a full load of 18 credits and maintained a 4.0. Soon I began receiving regular grants and scholarships for my essay's, grades, and the fact that I was a female and a mother. Nowhere were there grant or scholarship opportunities for blessings of staying home!

Eventually, after a few years, and also working part time, I came home. My husband began pleading with me to allow him to do his job. While I never had a fully-feminist mentality, and always wanted to be home, I was overwhelmed with the fact that every woman I knew worked and had gone to college!

I was the first one on his side of the family in recent years to "just stay home". EVERY WOMAN worked and not just jobs, but were professionals! My husband was busting his hump to work towards a career goal, and I knew very well what others thought of me "staying home with a child who was perfectly capable of going to preschool so that I could work and go to college".

My career-oriented and highly succesful mother in law would constantly remark and ask when I was going to finish up that degree. After each time I announced I was pregnant, she would comment in veiled terms that things would now be harder on my husband, and now I couldn't go back as easily...and highly discouraged us having more children..to the point that it influenced (yet again-not God) my decision to "stop having kids".

The period of demands of college was a difficult time. Looking back, I was kicking butt in school-yet yearned to be home and making a home while supporting my husband. Once he and I both followed God's design for men and women and families, our lives changed dramatically.

The freedom and liberation we have from following God's Word and His Will, surpasses any fleeting "freedom and success" the world and those who follow the world can impart!

We moved away from the fast paced, career oriented and 2 income demanding place we lived in CA, to a family friendly and much slower paced Northern Idaho.

While I would make an excellent physician, it is not God's plan for a woman that He has abundantly blessed with a husband and children. I will never return to school, and I will never return to the workforce. My husband has provided ample life insurance in the horrible case that we lose him, and there is no need for me to contribute to the misnomer that it is the race of education and career that makes a woman valuable.

I might point out, as well, that years later we are still paying off the student loans for my high dollar private college education. While my husband had attended Bethel college and seminary in MN, he had the GI bill, as well as worked and paid through it. We have NO DEBT on one income, except the debt we incurred from living a life of the world to buy me education. Isn't that funny to add to the personal lesson?

Great post! Thanks.

Anna S said...

Lady Lydia,

'Making room for the next batch' was probably just the reason we were urged to get our degree over and done with, as soon as possible. I added a link to my first post about college.

A woman who dedicates herself to her home might not be living a stress-free life, but at least she doesn't feel she is pulled in two opposite direction!

Rightthinker,

Thank you so much for sharing your personal testimony!

"While I would make an excellent physician, it is not God's plan for a woman that He has abundantly blessed with a husband and children."

This is precisely what I wrote yesterday to a lady who commented on my post 'Feminism vs. Women's rights' (you can find it in my FAQs sectionif you're interested). She claimed that she agrees with God's design for women, but at the same time thinks it's tragic and unfair that talented, 'above average' women should be 'only' wives and mothers. When a woman decides to become a wife, she takes on certain responsibilities that must be fulfilled, and there's no use trying to smooth things over. Intelligence has nothing to do with that.

I'm glad you are now living a happy, fulfilling, peaceful and debt-free life at home!

PaulaB52 said...

You know, back in 86 when I graduated highschool, our state was in severe economic crisis. My dad had lost his job of 20+ years. My mom was a homemakers and I was the oldest. I never had the desire to attend college, and it was never really encouraged. So after I thankfully graduated highschool, I tried to get a job.

Because of the high unemployment, I was stuck in a fast food job, basically due to friends who worked there. Now, I am grateful for that experience, because it was work experience that led me to other jobs more suited to what I wanted to do.

In 88, I got a job as a secretary for a medical lab. In 91, I worked as a secretary for a uniform processing plant. In 93, I aquired a job as an accounting clerk. I worked there until 2000 when I quit to come home with my kids. Sure, I could have gone to college for 4 years to become an accounting clerk. You never really know if you'll pass that CPA exam the first time. But you're still allowed to do accounting work without the CPA. I feel I wouldn't have learned as much as I did thru college as I did with hands on experience in the real workforce.

When I did come home to be with my kids, I never had that nagging feeling "oh you're wasting your life being home. You spent so much time in college" etc. I actually thought I'd just be home until the kids were in school. But God had different plans for me.

I've said before, my sister has all the degrees, etc and she and her dh barely make it with two kids in daycare. But she's not "wasting her life at home" as she so eloquently puts it. I am now a firm believer that God takes care of those who follow his word.

Anna S said...

Paula,

I know women with many children who live on one tiny income and have very, very frugal lives - but I'm yet to see one of them being in debt up to their ears. Why? Because, like you said, God takes care of those who follow His word, and because when you have two incomes, your appetites usually increase more than twofold!

H. said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I agree with with much of what you said, we don´t need the pressure, we aren´t made for outside stressful life, I think. The society has such an enormousm effect on what we think and believe, it´s hard to step away and really think about things, about why and how issues. Mostly because the influense doesn´t give us the need to think about it, but it tries to get you us with the flow. So it is very imprtant there will be some people in the society who will think about things and keep right understand and biblical beliefs with them about many things, including man and woman roles at society and at home. It is God´s mercy that He is showing us these things! Let´s not be encourage by those who yet doesn´t see the same things. Wish you all the best!

God bless you and to the readers!

USAincognito said...

I absolutely LOVED my college years and thrived in that type of environment! I took 22 credits a semester (my choice), coached our women's college soccer team, worked a part-time job, maintained a 3.77 GPA, mentored inner city youth, taught Jr High Sunday School, was part of a traveling drama team, and had time for a social life.
Even today I am continually having to attend training seminars and expos to learn the latest to stay on top of the ever growing world of narcotics and gangs.
I can honestly say that college was beneficial in shaping my life. It made me a stronger, more knowledgable woman. Before I started college, I lived my life according to how my parents wanted me to. I never formed my own opinions as it had been drilled into my brain to think just like them just because they said so. I believed what I believed because that is what my parents had told me to believe.
When I went to college (a nondenominational university), I was able to finally think for myself. I realized that the only reason I thought and believed a certain way was because somebody told me I had to do it that way. College taught me how to ask why it was I thought and believed a certain way. It taught me to form my own thoughts and believes. And in so doing, I became an individual. I became my own person. I was able to back my beliefs and thoughts up with factual reasons and proof.
My sister chose not to go to college because she married right out of highschool and now has a family. My mother was in college until she got married but when we children left the home she went back to college, finished up her degree, and now substitute teaches for the local private school. I chose career and am passionate about fighting crime.
Three women. Three different choices. All doing what God has called us to do.
I have no regrets for choosing college and career. I truly am happy.

Laura H said...

Absolimo, Mademoiselle,
Bravo, and well done! All of that makes sense! God has surely blessed you with the gift of insight!
Laura H

Elizabeth said...

There are stresses and strains that a woman at home must carry and endure. They take their toll, but I think they are stresses and strains that a woman is designed carry, with the help of God! Thanks for the encouragement! :->

Kelly said...

It's sad to hear that colleges seem to be getting worse. Due to budget constraints in my family I went to a small community college for a two year degree. My husband went to a large well known engineering school. He remarks all the time how my education seems so much more than his. I seem to "know more" in his words. His school was too focused on weed out classes and trying to put pressure on students, for what reason I don't know.
So it's not just a woman's problem. Our education system is a mess.
It's a shame that people don't respect true life lived knowledge instead of just your degree.
God Bless,
Kelly
PS Love the new photo Anna.

Anonymous said...

Anna,

As I have read your blog over the past few months, I have clearly seen your love for the Lord and your desire to serve Him. As pertaining to this discussion I understand where you are coming from, and I am assuming that you attended a secular college(?). Several years ago I graduated from a Bible college. By attending Bible college, my appetite for God's Word grew as well as my walk with Him. Most of my close friendships today are from college. That said, I would quit my job today if God brought my "Mr. Right for me" into my life. My dream occupation is to be a wife and mother. For whatever reason the Lord has not granted that request, and so I work to pay my bills. In no way would I consider myself a career woman. I know that the Lord has laid out each step I have taken and that He leads each of us differently. I just thought I would give you a perspective from a Bible college graduate. May the Lord bless you!

mm

Laura H said...

Anna,
Great work! I am so pleased! I was having a hard day yesterday, feeling a bit melancholy, and such, because I was not doing something worthwhile for my family! Then I read your post, and I got clear on what I was placed here for! Hallelujah!
Laura H

Mrs. Brigham said...

You raise excellent points in this post, Anna. Mrs. Sherman's thoughts on this topic were also excellent.

I wound up dropping out of school due to the pressure to "go-go-go" all of the time. In addition to school, I was the counter manager for a cosmetic counter at a large dept store and also did private makeup artistry gigs on the side. I really believed all of the world's lies about doing everything right now. I can recall many nights with next to no sleep due to the stress of my life and nothing could break the nasty cycle I was on...until I became ill, anyway.

During college, there is no doubt that I LEARNED things, but hardly any of my lessons became knowledge that I recall and hold into my head today. Much of it stayed around just long enough to ace the test as I never had the downtime needed to really process what I had learned or to master just a few skills.

Being several years away from the madness that was my former life, I can tell you that the constant rushing about has done nothing to help me in my role of wife and mother. If anything, the constant going to and fro left me feeling discontent and very lonely when I first "came home". I wound up needing a lot of time to master the art of doing nothing, knowing when to take a break, and learning how to really enjoy the work I do, rather than just breezing though it as fast as I possibly can.

Anna S said...

Dear ladies, thank you for your comments and for sharing your experience! I appreciate it so much.

And yes, mm, I did go to a secular college. I guess another type of college could offer a different, more positive learning environment.

Anna S said...

Oh, and USA: I'm glad that you feel you're where God calls you to be, and it's great that you're happy with your choice. What I have a problem with is that this isn't really a choice anymore: women have college and career literally forced on them, after they've been brainwashed this is the only worthwhile thing to be doing with their lives.

USAincognito said...

When parents force their children to do career or to do family, that definitely is not right. It should be left up to each person and what God has in store for that person. That I definitely agree with.

Kaye :) said...

Hi,

I hope this comes across the right way, but I'm not so sure I believe God has 1000 different opinions in His Word for 1000 different women. I believe the Word of God teaches us to be Keepers of the Home. It would be hard for me to keep track of "His Will" if it were so different all the time.

I think if we're not happy to be in our homes then it's our place to line our thinking up with God's. Yes, it can be difficult to always know the minute details in life, such as which car to buy, etc., but on something such as what our roles as women should be--I believe God's Word is clear.

As I said, I hope this comes across the right way. I'm not downing anyone else's opinion, but just expressing mine. :)

Anna S said...

Kaye,

I agree with your point, which is sometimes described as 'legalism', but it really isn't. Yes, we are all different. But on a very basic level, we have one God and one set of commandments to follow.

Anonymous said...

Anna,

Very interesting post. Please allow me to add my 2 cents.

I LOVED college. My learning was varied, interesting, and intense. I thrived in my collegiate environment unlike any other time in my life. I also, I might add, worked full-time to support myself (I joyfully moved out of my parent's house at 18) AND put myself through school...without accumulating huge amounts of debt. It took me 5 years.

Could a persons inability to handle or thrive in the particular stress of "higher education" be a personal attribute and not an indication of an innate biological trait of the female sex?

If I, as a woman, am designed for the stresses of homemaking and marriage why is it I thrived so much more before I was one (a wife and homemaker, that is)?

Yes, I am busy. I cook (healthful from scratch meals daily), I clean, I budget (a skill I perfected while being a struggling student), I volunteer (through church and area schools), I am still a voracious reader and explore "new worlds" through the written word frequently...etc.

And still, I have never been so fruitful as I was during those college years. I would, if given unlimited time and funds, continue that formal education indefinetly.

The idea that this type of stress might difficult for a woman to handle, literally, never crossed my mind. When anyone starts to expound on what a woman is "designed for" (marriage and homemaking) I get the distinct impression I have been created something other than a woman.

I am NOT disputing the biblical references for such a statement. That would be useless. The bible is very clear on the topic. I'm just wondering where someone who is an exception to the rule goes for guidance or reinforcement? Or, are there any actual "exceptions" as opposed to sinful deviations. Hmmm...

What say you?

Autumn C.

Anna S said...

Dear Autumn,

Thank you for taking the time to write! I wish you much peace and strength to work through your struggles, walking alongside God.

Fear not, and have faith in Him. He created you as a woman, and He sent you a husband and home to care for. This, in my opinion, shows very clearly He wants you to be a woman, a wife, a homemaker. He is omnipotent and omnipresent, and I assure you, He hasn't made any mistake regarding any of us!

First, allow me to say that I don't think EVERY woman suffers in college (it also depends very much on the sort of college etc...). Many, maybe most, feel the pressure is overwhelming. Some love it. I'm glad you enjoyed your years of formal education. Certainly there's nothing wrong with that!

I don't know you, and I'm very cautious about expressing my opinio, but allow me to say our fruitfulness and happiness and contentedness can only truly come from walking close to Him, loving Him, resting in Him. No one can ever even hope to know your heart as much as He does. Bring out everything to Him and let Him lead you. Pray for clarity, and for understanding why is it that you are less contented in this season of your life.

And, of course, if you ever want to drop me a note by email and talk more about it, you are always welcome to do so!