Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Beyond "Simply Understanding": Sociologically Reimagining and Reconstructing the Meaning of My Education

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Beyond "Simply Understanding": Sociologically Reimagining and Reconstructing the Meaning of My Education

Article excerpt

In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right? But here's the secret: in between, we need others as well.

--Morrie Schwartz, quoted in Albom (1997:157)

The word "spoiled" has a lot of connotations, most of them negative. The Oxford Dictionary defines "spoil" as both "to harm the character of (a child) by being too lenient" and "to treat with great or excessive kindness, consideration, or generosity." And most times, at least in our society, it is followed by the word "brat."

It strikes me as rather humorous that our society can believe someone to be treated with "excessive kindness, consideration, or generosity." But of course, a society that stresses hard work, consumerism and wealth cannot really value kindness, consideration or generosity. It is due to this dichotomy that I sometimes wonder if I am spoiled or just very lucky to have lived the life I have lived. My life has by no means been perfect, but I seem to have a way of bouncing back from the bad things that have happened in my life and make things turn out in a good way.

In our society, where people tend to have a very linear and individualistic way of thinking, I should have graduated college years ago, be married or about to get married, live on my own, or with my boyfriend, and have a full-time career. But none of that is happening! And I sense that people often feel the need to bring that up to me. Usually it's people I haven't seen for a while, like distant family or old friends from high school. The reality is that I live at home with my mom and my brother, work part time while taking a full course load at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston and am surrounded by people who love and care for me, without many of whom I don't think I could survive. But I can't help feeling that a lot of people look at me like I am just doing what I am doing because I don't want to deal with the "real world"--like a "spoiled brat" who doesn't want to grow up.

When I began writing this paper, I focused on my packrat "problem," but now I see it as not only a problem, but also another insight into why I am the way I am. I am the biggest packrat I have ever known. I don't mean I keep things for a little while and then eventually throw them away, or keep really meaningful things in a few shoe-boxes to memorialize the "good old days." I mean that I am 99% sure that somewhere in storage I still have the wrapper from the gum I was chewing the first time I kissed a boy--in 1994. And that is probably wedged between an old bank statement and a pair of socks. Part of the reason I have so much stuff is that I have moved from my childhood home and back again a couple times. So many of the stuff that I have are just leftovers from my childhood that I haven't gotten the chance to go through yet.

This may not appear that big of a problem at first glance, but as I prepare to graduate, move onto graduate school and enter the "real world" this problem looms in the back of my mind as I think about how much stuff I have, and that this stuff may represent the very core of my subconscious "rejection" of growing up and moving into the next phase of my life. I have also realized, while planning to write this paper, that this seemingly funny "problem" has connections to another habit in my life: failing to prepare for the future. Both of these habits seem to be related to holding onto the past or some sort of nostalgic attempt to keep things the way they used to be. Using the sociological imagination as a guide, in what follows I hope to analyze the interrelation of these in the framework of a focus on my educational/career goals and plans.

I graduated from high school in 1999. At that time I planned to go to the University of Connecticut (UConn) for four years, graduate, get a job, get married and have kids by the time I was 30. …

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