“Oh honey, you can never be too educated.”

A few years ago, one of my traditional South Asian relatives, whom I care for deeply and who had been supportive throughout my life, said I was “too educated.”

There may come a time for you, as it did for me, when there are those who understand and support your decisions until one day you veer off the path that they or a society envisioned for you, particularly as a woman. For me, that person’s vision was steeped in an outdated way of thinking that no longer allows that individual or a society to control a woman’s actions.  It was a rejection of everything I had worked my life to become.

Indeed, there are some traditional South Asians who believe that a woman can be “too educated.” This belief is not based on a woman having many degrees, but rather a woman who’s been exposed to the world. The idea is that you will become independent and make decisions that are not in line with that person’s or perhaps even that society’s or culture’s vision of what you, as a woman, should be or should do.

For me, apparently being “too educated” was the combination of both degrees and experience. Traveling, reading, and obtaining an advanced degree all have broadened my mind, largely in part by introducing me to others from a variety of backgrounds, including ethnic, financial, and racial. Having this exposure has made me thankful that I have lived most of my life in a society that does not teach its girls that they shouldn’t become “too educated,” or rather “too informed.”

When a loved one chooses to no longer support your life decisions, you will be heart-broken. It’s too early to know if that pain ever fades. You learn that those who you believed to be without flaws are human, too. I don’t know if the sadness from this realization dissipates.

I could share more with you about how painful that time was and still is, but it would serve no positive purpose.

As I said before, you don’t need your friends and family to co-sign on your decisions. I had to understand that if I wanted to live a life that allowed me to be honest with myself, one not dictated by others, that I had to follow what felt true to me.

At this time in my life, I was thankful to be working for a woman who, after I shared this story with her, said to me: “Oh, honey, you can never be too educated.” Indeed. And as we observe five years since my paternal grandfather passed away, I know he would have agreed with her.

You can’t live your best life if you’re living life according to someone else’s rules, no matter how much that person means to you.

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