Emily Young shared this with us recently and was kind enough to grant us permission to adapt it into a blog post. The images below link to info on some of the fascinating women who helped pioneer a place for women inside each of the careers Emily explored. I include them with love- may we each embrace the potential of our shifting paradigms. -hilary
I’ve been frustrated with my fear of returning to school because I couldn’t figure out why I have been so scared. After cataloging my experiences, I have realized that my fear is rational after everything I’ve been through, not an exaggerated emotional response.
Why am I so scared of returning to college? Below are a few of my experiences as I explored various career options:
Dr. Anita Figueredo, cancer surgeon, humanitarian, and mother of nine.
1. As a senior in high school I had plans to be a surgeon, but was told by my YW leaders that by the time I was out of school I would only be able to have one child, if any. They told me my greatest happiness would be from being a wife and mom and choosing the life of a surgeon would hurt my true purpose and make me less happy, so…
Charlotte E. Ray, first female African-American lawyer in the United States
2. I decided to be an attorney. I hadn’t decided on a specific direction to take but I have always loved studying the law. My bishop counseled me that the legal field was a man’s world, a world filled with rotten attorneys and an overall bad environment that is no place for a female. As an attorney, I would not be respected or appreciated. Besides, attorneys are crooked and it’s a job well beneath a righteous, upstanding woman, so…
Inez Milholland, Suffragist who led three marches riding astride her horse.
3. I changed my major to equine studies. I’ve been infatuated with horses since I was little. But in the first week of classes my professor told me that the horse business (shows, events, auctions) all happen on Sundays and, while It was ok for a man to miss church to support his family, it would be better for me to support my husband by taking the kids to church without him when he can’t be there. Sadly there was no point in an Equine Studies degree. He said it was a waste of time, so…
Women’s Land Army, an organization of women who looked after agricultural needs in Britain during WWI and WWII
4. I changed my major to farm/crop management. But the first day of class my teacher had me stand up in front of the whole class and as the only girl in a class of over 40 men, he told the class that, because of affirmative action, any company would hire me over them as men, even though I knew less and had less experience, just because I was a girl. I stuck it out and finished the semester, but no one in the class talked to me after that horrible first day. I decided I didn’t like studying plants enough to put up with such a hostile environment. I also had a tractor maintenance class at this time and, again, as the only girl in class, the teacher had to force this guy to be my partner because they were all afraid I’d pull their grade down. They (the teachers) said they wouldn’t let me work on a tractor because they’re too expensive, so I worked on an old truck. The teacher made a big joke one day by loudly going out into the shop where we were all working, coming over to my bay, and announcing that he wanted to teach me something. He opened the truck door, opened the glove compartment, and made a big show of pulling out a book and handing it to me saying, “THIS is an owner’s manual.” The whole garage laughed. He didn’t know it, but it was my third year of auto shop and I ended up getting the highest grade in the class. He had me read my final paper to the class because I got the highest grade. Unfortunately, it was not to give me credit; he used me to humiliate the boys by saying, “Look. This GIRL did better than you.” I did not like being a tool for humiliation, so…
Jane Addams, pioneer of American social work and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
5. I changed my major to social work, thinking this was a more maternal field that wouldn’t clash so much with motherhood and wifedom. But I stayed after class one day and asked the professor why, if he loved it so much, he was teaching college instead of working in the field. He said he was a social worker for many years, but didn’t have time to get to know the kids, let alone make a difference for them, after all his time was spent filling out paperwork to make sure they were fed and clothed and housed. I had chosen this major thinking I could really help people, but I hate paperwork, so…
Theodora Kroeber, Anthropologist and mother of four, including Ursula K. Le Guin
6. I dug in deep this time. I was so discouraged and tired of changing majors and just wanted a path I felt good about. I talked to family, friends, professors, and school career counselors and was encouraged to study child development, home economics, or elementary education so that if I was married before I graduated, my academic learning would help me in my real life, even without a degree. I thought long and hard about what to do, and realized the only thing I never tired of learning about was other cultures. I spoke to a trusted teacher I admired and told him about my passions and he said what I was interested in was, indeed, a major called ethnography. Our college didn’t have it, but he thought we could combine sociology with anthropology (a double major) and get something close. I LOVED IT!!!! Loved all the classes! I sat in classes during my breaks because I loved them so much. It was amazing! Then, talking to him later about possible careers with this degree, he told me ethnographers go to other cultures, immerse themselves in the life, and then write about it. This sounded like a dream!!!! I was so excited! But, in discussing this with my a close TBM friend later, she mentioned how it would put an undue hardship on God to find me a Mormon man in the bush in Australia, etc., and that, even if I did marry and have kids, it wouldn’t be fair to my husband and kids to drag them all over for my benefit, and it would prevent my husband from being the provider in our home. To top it all off, we probably wouldn’t even be able to go to church.
I went back to my trusted professor and spoke with him about my concerns. He said that it is very uncommon for ethnographers to have families with them, and that it probably wouldn’t work out and, at best, would be very limiting.
So, I gave up. Totally. Completely.
It was only my sixth semester in college and I felt like I had tried or considered every option available to get my college degree in something I enjoyed and still honor and obey my covenants and my role in the gospel. I just couldn’t do it.
SO, that’s why I’m scared of going back. The feelings of failure, frustration, humiliation, confusion, and embarrassment are all part of my college education experience, and this is just the academia side. I left out all the issues with student life, such as roommate horror stories, honor code pressures, having no money for food, etc.
This is not why I left the church, but it is a huge reason why I’m glad I did. These incidents all happened at a church school, but a lot of the issues were because of what was discussed at home and in church when I was growing up. It is so toxic and wrong.
At least I know now why I’ve been so scared. How to start fresh? Is it possible?