Earning Titles, Part One

The majority of this post was written about six years ago.  I had not published this two-part reflection but was recently encouraged to post them, so here is the first of two.   

20210825_175208I was first generation college student.  I coasted through high school with decent grades and because I was in the classes with the college bound students I heard about college opportunities and followed along with my classmates in the whole process of college.  I knew college was too expensive and not what we did, but I also believed my adults when they told me if I wanted to go to college they would make sure I got there.  Looking back on that time I realize how difficult that must have been for my adults to know I was headed down a path they did not know and would not follow with me.

I finished college earning my first title, three letters at the back of my name, BSW.  Then I went to graduate school which seemed bizarre but fitting to my adults, and I earned three more letters, MSW.  In five years I had more education than kids from my type of life statistically earned, especially without a child in tow.  My life was so different than what I had expected or been trained to expect from the treatment of my middle school and high school teachers and classmates.  I lay no blame at anyone’s feet, I know where I come from, and I know how rare it is to break those cycles; and thanks to those six letters I have an even better understanding of how rare it is for the cycle to be broken.

I also had a recognition that a dream I had since I was a child could come true.  I was young when I learned that a person could be a “Dr.” without being a medical doctor.  I learned that there was a chance to study so much that you would be considered a person of expertise.  I was enthralled by this idea that I could study so much I would earn the letters to put in front of my name that would tell the world I took my work seriously.  It was like a dream come true I did not even know I had until I learned it was possible.

After earning my six letters after my name, I married my best friend and took his last name.  But I was adamant I would not be called Mrs. unless it was followed by my first name, never his.  Of course, I was understanding of the generational habit that means I still get called “Mrs. his first name” but I wanted to be clear if his title did not change with marriage then neither did mine need to change.  A few years later I earned a title that went before my name, Rev.  Now we were Rev. and Mr.

But outside of our worshipping community I find I am more often referred to as Mrs. or Mrs. “my husband’s first name.”  Each time this happens I remember an interview I watched of Dr. Jill Biden.  The interviewer asked her if she preferred Mrs. Second Lady or Mrs. Biden.  She replied, “Dr. Jil Biden is good.”  There was uncomfortable laughter on the part of the interviewer while Dr. Biden sat smiling graciously then she helped move the interview forward.  I attempt to imitate her graciousness.