Sunday, March 22, 2015

Why I Got a Degree That I Have No Immediate Plans to Use

Lately, gatherings with family and friends have brought about a question on my current studies and if I'm job searching. The short answer is that I graduated and no, I'm not job hunting.

The slightly longer explanation is that this was a back up plan, I did it for my family and myself, but unless circumstances force my hand, it's not really what I want for myself, day in, day out.

As that has gotten more bewildered looks and, "what?" or "um, *awkward chuckle* okay," responses, here is the more in depth explanation for inquiring minds:

As with most choices, my reasons for going to school to be an EFDA (Expanded Functions Dental Assistant, for those in the know, or rather, not) just 6 months on the heels of earning my Associate's Degree in science was layered.

I was getting a little bored being at home so much after steadily working about 30+ hours a week since my early teen years, and going to school full time for the last three years. I had gotten used to that pace and after one semester off (winter no less), with no one to keep me company but my four cats, I started to get restless. I could think of no job opportunities that appealed to me, in healthcare, secretary work, or even getting a cashiering job at a place I liked. And I had no interests in growing my degree into a Bachelor's just because I could. Up until then, thanks to grants, I actually got paid to go to school. But as I couldn't acquire a Bachelor's at my local community college, I'd have to transfer to a university and pay them. Unless something I was passsionate about required it, I wasn't going to throw my money and time away.

So after praying about it, a family member introduced me to the idea of working at a dental office. I did some research into positions and schooling and got hooked up with a shadowing opportunity to ask questions and see what typical days were like. I was interested and, unlike most other aspects of healthcare, could stomach the invasiveness. Being an expanded functions dental assistant, comparable to a nurse in my book, was a stable position with good income and fairly normal hours. So I picked a school, enrolled and started classes a few weeks later.

A lot transpired over the course of the year and I definitely learned a lot. In the end, I'm happy I stuck it out when I wanted to throw in the towel. I'm happy to have earned a diploma for something that I feel like I could support my family on if ever called to. But unless it was absolutely necessary, the dental field is not an environment that I would choose to place myself in longterm. Just like in medicine, this branch of doctors has reputations too, which I've witnessed the truth of firsthand. Though I would survive, with my personality type, I don't believe I would thrive.

Fortunately, after all of our sacrifice and hardwork, our family situation is not one that I need to work anymore. And though I'm American, I don't subscribe to the American ideals that define people and their worth by their careers, their rung on corporate ladders, their titles and their income. Being a teen mother, I had an insecurity about education, and as a result I worked my butt off earning my AS and now my dental assisting and xray certificates. But I feel like I've proved enough to myself and the world in general. I am not a statistic. I'm comfortable with myself, my abilities, and my choices.

I'm still waiting for God to reveal His plans for me. He has given me a glimpse of some opportunities that are not at all commonplace, but are formed for my heart. I hope they become a reality. I work hard to make myself spiritually and physically ready to answer His call whenever it comes, but I will likely always be a work in progress. And I try to keep my eyes open in the meantime for things He wants me to respond to. I have a few hobbies that bring in a small contribution to our family, but nothing that I would use to define myself the way our culture does with careers. Right now, the biggest resource I have to give is time, which is a nice change after all these years. I hope to be able to support my husband in different paths he pursues. I still take classes part time because I love to learn and because it costs me nothing and defers my student loans. But mainly, I spend my time pouring into people and supporting our family by being a stay at home mom. I don't expect it will be permanent, just like I don't expect whatever interests, hobbies or projects I take on later to be permanent. I'm okay with that. In fact, I welcome it. I've always loved change and new challenges. And I'm learning to embrace whatever season of life I'm in, be it calm or chaotic.

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