When Does Education Stop?

The title of a 1962 (good year) Michener essay that I recommend. In it he refers to “Big Jobs,” like the novels he wrote, projects that require tremendous amounts of work over long periods of time. While reading the essay I was thinking it would be nice to tackle a big job, but what big job, and could I muster the necessary single-mindedness and stamina to see it through? Truth be told, I get distracted too easily. I’ve backslidden from my three times a day email system, I frequently glance at what the stock market is doing, and as if that isn’t depressing enough, today I’ve been repeatedly checking the weather in the hope I can cycle outdoors tonight. A skilled procrastinator.

My doctoral dissertation, a year-long, 325 page novel of sorts, about a global education high school in SoCal was a big job. So there is a precedent.

Interesting how Michener’s ideas sparked thinking exclusively about my work-life. As a male and the son of a work-centric father, am I less inclined to think about “big jobs” in the context of my personal life? Why, when I was reading the essay, did my “educator identity” trump my “husband” or “father” ones? Building intimate, loving, and supportive relationships with a spouse or children requires tremendous amounts of work for long periods of time. As I’ve written before, when it comes to raising happy, healthy, caring independent young adults, there are no shortcuts.

Eldest hija (Eh) is seventeen and so I can’t use “intimate” to describe our present relationship. She can’t even bring herself to watch her favorite television show (The Office) on the same floor of the house as her mother and me. Last weekend though, we all committed to a grand experiment. We threw caution (and Facebook) to the wind and agreed to spend 48 hours together on the Oregon Coast (a “top ten” most beautiful spot in the U.S.). I’m happy to report we enjoyed one another’s company.

Eh is going away to college in early September. Don’t tell her mom, but I read recently that when young adults go away to college, that’s it, they never come back, except to visit. So the weekend was special, an opportunity to reflect on what type of person she’s become.

Like all parents of seventeen year olds I’m sure, she drives me crazy at times (yes, I know it’s mutual), but in the end, I couldn’t be more proud of who she is becoming. Of all the things I’ve accomplished in my life—beating Lance in the 2009 Black Hills Triathlon, writing a blog post without any spelling errors, driving my wife crazy—seeing the person she has become is the most gratifying of all.

It was a big job well done. Of course her amazing muther gets at least half the credit.

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