I'm smart. No, really... I can prove it.

My degree arrived on Friday. Well, the certificate arrived, anyway - technically I qualified to graduate at the end of 2006 but it took me a while to get my act together to apply to graduate. In 2007 I started an Honours year but had some significant health issues during the year so decided it would be better to defer Honours for a while. I applied to withdraw in good standing, which means my Honours work stays on record at the university for ten years and I can re-enrol and finish it off at any time during those ten years. In most cases when you do Honours you graduate from the whole thing (the degree plus the Honours year) at the same time but since deferring Honours I was starting to feel like the preceding three years - the degree part - hadn't counted for anything. So, I decided to graduate from the degree, although I didn't attend the ceremony. Really not my thing at all... plus, it's an Arts degree and my surname is a fair way down the alphabet - I wasn't keen to sit for two or three hours waiting for the 20 seconds of glory when my name is called.

I had mixed feelings when I saw the certificate. I didn't go to uni when I finished high school, so starting a degree at age 34 was in some ways the fulfilment of a dream. Still, I wonder about my real motivation when I decided to quit my job, move interstate and start a whole new life studying something that has no practical use in the real world (I majored in Classical Studies and minored in English). Although I went to uni largely for enjoyment - and I did love studying - there is a little part of me that wanted to prove something. To myself? To other people? I'm not sure. And what does it prove, anyway? That I'm intelligent? Well, not really - if anything it proves that I learned the 'secret' of good essay writing, which has very little to do with intelligence. It also proves I have a good memory, since much of my Latin and ancient Greek study was simple memorisation. Does it prove that I'm "as good as" the people who went on to tertiary study straight after school? Or perhaps "as good as" the people who worked in the exact same job as me but were paid slightly more simply because they had degrees... despite the fact that I trained them and I supervised their work (yeah, that one still rankles).

This all makes me wonder why I need to prove something to other people, or even to myself. I doubt that it's just me; I think most people have a deep insecurity about their own worth. In some people this insecurity lies just below the surface and in others it's buried deep down but wherever it lies, it's there and it can have a profound impact on the way we think and behave. I suspect it's something with which I shall always struggle, but at the same time it is so incredibly freeing to find my worth in Jesus. God sees me through "Jesus-goggles" - because of Christ's death and resurrection on my behalf, God sees me as holy and blameless in Christ. He sees me as his loved and precious creation; he knows me by name and values me as ME, not simply as Nameless Christian #503,486. As happy as I am to have my degree, I am even more happy to know that I don't need a piece of paper to prove that I am of incredible worth to God.


Lizzie said...

You are very noble. I would be there, butterflies in my stomach, loving the thrill of the anticipation of my 20 seconds of glory.

But then, I also differ from you in that I loathe study and I had to escape uni to get away from the stress of not studying.

But anyway ... for what it's worth, congratulations! I believe you are smart, but then I already did before so I guess it doesn't prove much after all. Still worth it ...?

Femina said...

It's not nobility - I am incredibly insecure and hate the thought of being the centre of attention, even for 20 seconds. I would have needed extra counselling sessions before and after! :)

I loathed studying things that didn't interest me, or studying subjects facilitated by horrible lecturers. I was fortunate that for three years the tiny little Classics department was a one-woman show, run by someone who is funny, incredibly intelligent and a very engaging teacher. When her nasty, vindictive, possibly mentally-unstable boss was appointed in my third year and took over my language subjects I dropped Latin as quickly as I could.

Long dark hair, blue eyes said...

well done on finishing your degree and receiving your certificate.

Hippomanic Jen said...

I guess there is that aspect of proving something to ourselves (and possibly others), but if you loved it and chose it and completed it it's still a major accomplishment. Well done.

By the way, does a BA prove you're smart? Wow, I'd better remember that in the future (it was my first degree that got me into my planning course, and I loved the Ancient History, too)

Femina said...

I think my motivation at the beginning was different from my motivation at the end, which is why I was able to say, "You know, I don't think I will finish Honours right now" and NOT feel like a failure. It would have been a different story if I'd needed to stop part way through first year. I went into it feeling the need to prove something (at least partly) but later on I was just enjoying it and didn't care why I was there. I knew I didn't want to end up in academia and there's not much else to do with a Classics degree... so I had to be doing it for the love of it! :)

Oh yes, an Arts degree means you're very smart. We can read. And our highlighting and underlining skills are first-rate.

Hippomanic Jen said...

One of my lecturers went further than the hightlight skills. He always used to quip "You students do realise that the act of passing a book over a photocopier doesn't mean you've actually READ it, don't you?"

All too true.

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