December 24, 2005


We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I've been having a nagging feeling lately that I wasted my education chances. I had excellent grades in high school, and I got a full ride to college. I could've done anything with my four years that I wanted to, and I had two paths I could've followed. I could've studied French, which was easy for me and fun. Or I could've studied physics, which I found extremely interesting but took more work and application of my brain. I chose French.

As I sit in Germany with no job, I realize that neither degree would've done me much good here. I only use French to write Christmas cards to my elderly French relatives. By the time we move to our next duty station, it will be time to start discussing plans for children, so I'll never have much going for me in the way of a career. I can't help but feel that if my degree is only going to end up being for my personal enrichment, then I made the wrong choice.

I always thought it was strange that European youngsters are pigeonholed into careers far earlier than we Americans are. There's really no such thing as an "undecided major" in Europe. But even though I waited until the ripe old age of 19 to decide my major, I still feel now at 28 that I should've chosen wiser. I chose French because it came so easily to me, and because it was the smallest major at my college, which would afford me more electives to play around with. I looked into the physics minor, but it turned out to be more hours than the French major, impossible if I studied abroad. So I let it go, and now I'm disappointed in myself.

28-year-old Sarah can't get President Kennedy out of her mind. I wish I'd chosen physics because it was hard. I should've worked and stretched my brain and forced myself to acquire new skills. I should've tried to do something I really wanted to do instead of taking the lazy route.

I should be an out-of-work physicist instead of an out-of-work French speaker.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:48 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
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1 Sarah, I'm 47 years old. I have a Master's degree. I got a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at 21 and my Masters at 38. It is never too late to learn. As a nuclear trained submarine officer, I went to a Navy school to learn nuclear engineering. In my class there was a Commander who had been out of college for 17 yrs. It was the first time he had to study hard since he left school. And he struggled because he was a History major. But he passed the exceedingly difficult course and became a nuclear engineer and went on the be Commanding Officer of the Nimitz and COMNAVAIR in the Pacific (3 star Admiral). It is solely dependent on how badly you want it and how hard you can work for it. My son is studying Civil Engineering now and he hates it. I don't think he will end up finishing. But it doesn't matter to me. As long as he finishes college, that is all that is required. You should recognize that after living with the military for so long, it is not what you studied in college that makes you successful. It is how hard you work at what you do. Take some risks, and the gains will be worth it. A degree in French is merely a license to learn, and is no better license than a degree in nuclear engineering. I know. I'm living it right now, and still having to learn new things. You are already a success, gal. It isn't how much money you make. It is what you do with the time you have on Earth. And you are doing better than most of us. You support a man who defends us, you support a widow who gave her husband for us, and you have taught many children what a responsible adult in this world is supposed to do. God bless you for that. Merry Christmas, Sarah. To your whole family. Subsunk

Posted by: Subsunk at December 24, 2005 09:35 AM (6RsXX)

2 Sarah, I'm 31, and I never picked a Major in college. I never really went to college. I had a few things that I wanted to do but never really went down those paths. I went straight to work full time and made lots of money without a degree. Then I got married to a solider, quit my job and had babies right away. I guess what I'm saying is that you never know what path life will bring you. It was hard for me to quit my job and hard for me to decide to have children right away. But I did it and now I couldn't be happier. I know you've made difficult decisions in you life. Some were hard and some were easy. Don't feel upset because of the path you chose. Be happy that you were afforded the opportunity to go to college. That is hard in itself Miss you in the USA! Ang D

Posted by: Angie D at December 24, 2005 12:03 PM (SA3c9)

3 Miss Sarah, You are far from "out of work" and for that matter, you are far too quick to pidgeon-hole yourself with labels like "physicist" and "french speaker". Whether you realize it or not you have chosen the more difficult path. You have chosen to be a military wife, and as you mentioned you may chose to be a mother. I have watched my Bride for the 15 years of our marriage and am constantly amazed. You could label her and call her an social worker or and accountant. She is academically trained in those fields though in all our post college years toghether she has never worked more than a year in any of those fields. Those labels fail to impress. They mean nothing at all. What matters is that she is my Bride and the mother of my children. I have it so easy compared to her. I get to do fun stuff, sail on fast ships, go to exotic far away countries, play with really cool testosteron impregnated toys but she as my Bride and Mother to Chaos, Mayhem and Entropy is the foundation of everything that I hold precious and dear. I am sure you are that for you husband as well, though we are often remiss is reminding our Brides of their true worth and value. The road you have chosen as a Army Wife and in time maybe a mother to a Soldiers children is one of the most difficult and challenging paths you could have chosen and in my mind one of the most valuable. All other achievements and titles mean squat. To The Tyrant Never Yield R/ Ed

Posted by: Ed at December 24, 2005 02:01 PM (OjVMB)

4 Sarah, Your commenters (before me) are providing good advice. Learning in college is more about learning to learn - that sounds silly, but I really know very few people who are doing what they thought they would based on their college choices. And I am in a technical field! So... just keep on learning, about yourself and the world around you. You should not EVER value yourself based on the external benchmarks. And you can always pick up a Physics book, right? (BTW, I simply admire that you made choices to be able to enjoy the college experience. I chose a tough major, and slogged through. Did not have fun until the last semester, when the end was in sight!) Merry Christmas!

Posted by: JCK at December 24, 2005 03:28 PM (J9ixV)

5 I work at a firm where all that matters is where you went to school and what your current title is. I look at the lives of all my bosses, with their big titles and their multiple degrees and see how miserable they are. I started my college career like them, first I was Pre-med (which is what my mother wanted) then I was Pre-law (which is what my father wanted), then I left the private ivy league university I was in (because I didn't want to incur a debt and be forced to complete a degree in order to pay back the loans). Instead, I went to state college in the evenings for awhile taking courses trying to figure out what I wanted to be. I even stopped that because I felt like I was wasting money. Learning, studying wasn't a problem; making a committment wasn't a problem; finding something I loved to do, now that was a problem! One day I was walking around in a bookstore and I accidently stumbled on a workshop being given by an author who talked about all the different jobs she'd had and all the different courses she'd taken only to realize that what she was finding out about life and herself. No one in her family had gone to college so she didn't know how to go about finding a career. She learned that by trial and error and noticing the things she liked to do and those she hated, she was able to figure out what she enjoyed doing enough to make it into a career. She now loves what she does; it doesn't pay much but she said she was happy and it truly showed. As a result I went back to college in the evening taking courses from math, computer science, chemistry, physics, & anatomy. Then one day, at age 36 I sat in a class and it all clicked for me and I discovered what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It took me 2 more years to finish and I decided to go straight to grad school in a PhD program. One year into Grad school, at age 39, I got married and at 40 I gave birth to the wonderful unexpected surprise gift of a baby boy. I left school (my choice) because I wanted to be there for my son and instill in him my values. In the end I chose to delay going back to school because I know that I'll be back. In the mean time I use my education (the ability to learn how learn and teach myself) in many ways. I've had positions where I use some of my education and learn other things that will help me in the future along the way. All this is to let you know, it's never too late and if you love what you studied you'll find ways to use it! From reading you what I hear mostly is how critical you are of yourself. I would suggest intead of flogging yourself figure out ways you can use your language abilities. Being completely fluent in 2 and having knowledge of a 3rd is essentially what got me the job I have today. Your degree shows not only that you can learn, and that your smart. I would focus on the positives and the opportunities than what you didn't do or havent accomplished, you're too good of a person for that! I really hope this ramble helps!

Posted by: Michele at December 24, 2005 05:52 PM (beN4P)

6 Sarah... Don't look at the unemployment necessarily as a negative, think about how you can use the skills that God started you out with and what you've learned along the way. You're a good writer, have you thought about exploring that venue? You're an American in you think that you might be able to help a European company do more business with Americans? Many times while "they" might speak the lingo...they don't understand how we tick. That's where you come in... Other things to think about would be to write for travel magazines/industries...volunteer your literary skills for the unit's family support groups, etc. Hang in there kiddo, you'll land on your feet. A Merry Christmas to you and yours! Have a Happy New Year filled with good health, much luck, and prosperity. Email me offline if you're interested in more about the writing gig. I can recommend a few books that might help you out. MajorDad1984

Posted by: MajorDad1984 at December 24, 2005 07:45 PM (tdEnf)

7 A message from your mom: You sell yourself too short! Remember what your dad has always said, "That piece of paper that shows you've gotten a degree only matters when you get your first job. After that, it doesn't matter." I remember when you taught ESL at U of I. As I recall, you were very happy doing that, and you were also very good at it. I ended up being a stay-at-home mom for 28 years and always thought I'd be a teacher. Having a home and children was what I really wanted to do. Sometimes it was a pretty tough job, but t was the most rewarding endeavor of my life. I think you kids have turned out pretty well. You don't measure success by your career or how much money you make. You are successful if you love what you do and make a positive impact in the world, both of which I feel you have accomplished. I admire you so much for being a good military wife and supporting Russ the way you do. To me, your blog is one of the most inspiring things a person could do. You don't realize how many lives you touch each day, whether it's writing about a deployment, the trials of a new puppy, a friendship, your love of our country, and the countless other things that you write about. Whether you make a person stretch his mind, make a soldier's wife know that she's not alone, or even show the world that you too have weaknesses or doubts, you are helping people. To me, that is a successful life. Being our firstborn, you were a high achiever and a pleaser and always tough on yourself. It's time you realized that you have alot to offer doing exactly what you're doing now. It's time for you to pat yourself on the back! Since it's Christmas Eve, think about our favorite movie; what if there had never been a Sarah? I love you and am proud of you. XOXOXO and Merry Christmas! Your Mama

Posted by: Nancy at December 25, 2005 03:12 AM (Z+RCN)

8 Good advice from everyone. Here's my two pfenning: it doesn't matter what you learn in is entirely possible to go to college and not learn a darned thing. Some people have remained in college all their lives and are still totally clueless, especially outside of their chosen profession. College isn't really a place wher eyou learn new can be, if you take the graduate and postdoc courses, but that is where the real learning is done. What college offers you at its most basic is a *way* to learn. This is the lesson I missed when I was in college, and dropped out and joined the army. See, in college I zipped through everything and was rapidly bored in my first semester. I could study and regurgitate, math wasn't all that particularly hard and much of my chemistry lab work I could predict just by knowing what the reagents were. What I didn't learn was what I called later the power of the outline. College teaches a methodical means of learning and research. I had to learn that myself, ad-hoc and inexpertly over the years, much to my dismay. A standard college degree shows that you have mastered this methodology, more advanced degrees show that you have managed to apply it. This isn't to say its the perfect method of can fall into the trap of the academics where your postulates will be out of whack, say, due to ideology, and your conclusions, while well reasoned, will be utter crap. (lots of examples of that, as I'm sure you know) But withthe proper postulates, you can apply this methodology and then you can really learn something new. Don't sell yourself short! You have accomplished something here and walked away with proof of that accomplishment. Don't lean too heavily on what you haven't learned, because you won't get anywhere that way. Instead, take what you have learned and apply the method, you will, through time and effort, succeed. You've already said it, its not worth doing because it is easy...but because it *is* hard. Merry Christmas from Texas. Has it bothered snowing in Vilseck? I still shudder to remember slogging it up that hill to the motor pool at 0 dark thirty for the morning run in the slush!

Posted by: Jason at December 25, 2005 12:34 PM (e31/e)

9 Sarah, listen to your mother. (smile) I was told by some very wise people to get the word should out of my vocabulary. And your mother is right, you don't know how many lives you have touched. Mine being one. I've reached the age where there are a lot of things that I could regret having done, or not having done for that matter, however I can see looking back that my paths have been right for ME. I love your postings, and feel honored to have glimpses into your life. Thank you.

Posted by: Maggie45 at December 25, 2005 02:32 PM (vgHYt)

10 Hey, ummmmm.... What is "...and do the other things?" What are these other things. Incidentally, my life went backwards. National Merit Scholar. Future engineer. Fight with dad, suddenly an enlisted blue-suiter. Taking college, almost perfect AFOQT score looking forward to bootstrap or OCS. Bang, suddenly a family, out of the AF and again a silly villian. Oddly, I wouldn't change a thing. Changing things would mean I wouldn't have my wife and children (or the dumb dog), and I've found that I'm generally very happy now. Kalroy

Posted by: kalroy at December 25, 2005 08:36 PM (9RG5y)

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