I had the opportunity to hear Amy Tan at TCU’s 2010 Fogelson Honors Forum this past week thanks to two dear writer friends. I was actually just as excited to see them as I was to see Amy Tan but don’t tell them that. Ms. Tan, a best-selling author, was an entertaining speaker and I tried to hang on her every word. But I couldn’t. I was too distracted by the heady atmosphere of the college’s Ed Landreth Auditorium and the youth of the honor students who handed out brochures and collected question cards. Did they realize how lucky they’d been to go to a college of TCU’s caliber? Did they realize what amazing opportunities they have in their futures – opportunities that I could only have dreamed of when I was their age?
But I never had those dreams of an amazing future or opportunities. For some of the early Baby Boomers like myself, our parents still considered college a waste for young women. My mother wasn’t one of those women who thought that the little woman belonged in the home or that only men could become successful in business. But she did think that the only reason for a girl to go to college was to find a husband and she had learned that husbands could disappoint. Her own secretarial and business skills provided for us when my father couldn’t. She wanted the same for me which meant business school instead of college. But it also meant no dreams for me of what I could be.
She also believed that it wasn’t a college education that got you somewhere; it was hard work and good work ethics. Her secretarial skills got her a good paying job; her intelligence and work ethics earned her the opportunity to join forces with an attorney to start their own company and corporation. She’d never had the mentality that she couldn’t do something because she didn’t have a college degree and she never felt less for it. While I learned from her that I too could do anything, be something, I never learned not to feel less for not having a four-year degree.
My mother proved herself right. When I ended up divorced and a single parent, I didn’t moan and wail about how I could provide for my family. I knew I could and I did. I take joy and pride in that as I should. Still, there are times, like last Tuesday night, when I realize what I regret the most – the dreams of youth.