I was the first woman in my family to move away and live on my own; the first to 'see the sunlight and moonlight'*. I was the first woman in my family to go to college, and graduate. I am the first woman in my family to get a graduate degree. None of these are necessarily my accomplishments; I would be lying if I said my family didn't have something to do with it.
My motives to get an education were not that noble. I was filling a void that had consumed me most of my life. I started reading like a child possessed around the time I was six, because as I explained to the school librarian, I felt like an empty bowl that needed to be filled and only books could fill it. Unfortunately, I never read anything useful that would help me make money (an astute observation only a father can make). Nor did I read with the intent to put my knowledge to material or social use (there is little to brag about when your favorite genre is the history of the French Revolution--when you're 12). I just read, because it brought me joy and made me feel the tiniest bit less empty.
My college education was a bit of a fiasco, considering I stayed in the US promising to study pharmacy and get a respectable job in that field in Iran after graduating. I am not a pharmacist and I live in the US, so that's one of the promises I have made which I failed to keep. The majors I chose instead were a compromise (in my mind) that would please my parents (science is semi-respectable) and myself (I had to read British literature, how bad could it be?). Unfortunately, imaginary compromises fail to please anyone. My parents still remind me of the broken promise (and financial fall-out of not being a respectable pharmacist) and wonder why I wasted my time on an English degree that I can't do anything with. At this point, I had wasted years of my life, thousands of dollars and the opportunities life had granted me for for nothing. Yay me.
My graduate degree was another ill-planned compromise. I chose a field that virtually guaranteed me riches (at the time) and I was interested in because it would allow me to support myself and find outlets for my less lucrative interests. With the dotcom bubble bursting and my degree taking significantly longer to complete than I had originally planned, that didn't work out so well either.
Now, I am the proud owner of a B.S., a B.A., a M.Sc and a professional certificate. NONE of which can help me find a respectable job that requires me to do more than copy, paste and order lunch. All of this education, and I will barely be making more than a high school graduate doing the same thing I am doing. At this point, I don't even trust myself to make any decisions about anything.
I am not very proud of myself today.
*An old expression in Farsi, used to refer to women who were no longer innocent and often used their experience against men to get the upper hand. Generally not used as a compliment.