Having an education and what it means to some
Many years ago I was privy to a conversation that two women were having about their university classmate’s new boyfriend. At the time she was living in Oxford, England obtaining her Ph.D.
They each agreed that she was too good for him based on her extensive education and pedigree. One of them exclaimed, “He doesn’t even have a university education,” as though it was the most terrible grievance imaginable. They went on endlessly about how unimportant, and invaluable to the relationship he was. I couldn’t help but notice that they were judging a relationship that none of them were in.
I remained silent throughout the discussion because I felt ashamed. I come from a working class immigrant family and my father was a barber. He worked extremely hard to raise his family and when I was a child there wasn’t a day where we didn’t have clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads and food on the table. I never knew how hard my father worked to raise five children until I ventured into the world on my own and learned that supporting myself wasn’t so easy.
Why did I feel shame at that moment though? Perhaps because the ladies were unaware of their privilege and because they were ignorant to the fact that one’s education and occupation does not determine their worth. However, as the years went by and circumstances brought us together they did not grow out of these arrogant beliefs; in fact they just got worse.
I spent countless hours listening to them blather on about their home renovations, holiday excursions abroad, and of course, their careers. They harboured a sense of superiority about their lives and those who wanted to be included in their exclusive group had to beg for entry.
Of course, I never cared much for their company and when I was tired of them trying to make me feel inferior I raised the discussion they had in the car all those years prior.
“My father doesn’t have an eighth grade education,” I confessed. “He grew up poor and his dad died when he was only 10. His mother could not afford to send him to school or to pay for his text books and they needed money so he started to work at a young age. I believe that his courage and strength to move to Canada in the 1970s to make a better life for himself was a brave choice. I believe that makes him valuable and demonstrates his strength of character. He is one of many people who were not given the advantages that you were blessed with, and therefore that does not make him any less valuable and worthy of love than your friend who went to Oxford University.”
After that I never spoke to them again. I would prefer to surround myself with individuals who respect those less fortunate than themselves.
It’s worth noting that all these years later their friend is still dating the same person they deemed so unworthy of her many talents. I suppose her happiness is her’s to decide, even if it isn’t something that others find appropriate.