Friday, September 16, 2011

To Naphtali, with love

You know how your mind can be on one seemingly mundane thought and then as rapidly as a few blinks of the eye, multiply into a dozen trails of thought like a cell dividing, and it stuns you a little, how you get here after starting there, with that thought? Yeah. Our minds are crazy things.

I'm pretty sure my original thought yesterday was about whether or not I should do this writing program after finding out it costs twice as much as I thought. From there, I started thinking about grad school, feeling some of that guilt of the well-educated who aren't "using" their degrees in the manner in which they originally sought, wondering how responsible it would be to pay for more education, even if it wouldn't put me in debt, even if I'm not gainfully employed in my field of study. Wondering if I even deserve more education when I've had so much.

And I got to thinking, even without being employed in the mental health field, is my Master's degree a waste? If it never earns me any money, will I regret that I went through the program, invested the time and money in the education? I wonder, what exactly makes an education "worthwhile"?

I'm accustomed in our culture to looking at the merit of education predominantly from the standpoint of monetary pay-off. Money. That's what matters, isn't it? Did you pay for your education through obtaining a well paying job as a result of said degree? If that is my justifies my education, then I admit, it was apparently a wasted investment. I should have done something else...

Unless there is some other measure of worthwhile. Something that no price tag or economic value can be placed on. My mind continued multiplying this thought, and the thought that emerged was a picture, actually.

The face of my dear friend, Naphtali.

If I were never in grad school, I would never have met Naphtali. We became friends pretty quickly. I remember sitting in the same section of the classroom as her, admiring her full head of dark chocolate curls. She was quiet, maybe even shy, but I saw glimpses of something else in her that peaked my curiosity. Here was this quiet girl sitting in lecture, every now and then muttering hilarious sarcastic comments very few ears could hear. She's feisty, I thought. I wonder what else she is. Over the next two years, I learned that she may be quiet in groups; she may not be quick to open up, but when she did, I felt such deep honor, like I was invited to witness some part of her that not many people were able to experience; she was one of the most incredible listeners, so perceptive and intelligent and full of wise counsel; she possessed a sharp sense of humor and quick wit, and when we could laugh until the tears pooled in the corner of her eyes, the sound of her laughter was the greatest thing.

Just after grad school ended, my Papa went into the hospital. Eight days in a coma. I didn't call many friends up, but that day he fell, I called Naph. And she came. She made me dinner that night, the longest day of my life, and sat with me as I tried to catch a late-night nap. We talked every day, and if I needed her, she came to the hospital. If I needed some break from the sadness, she helped me to smile. She sat with me by his bed, witnessing my pain, spilling her own tears, entering into this nightmare with me. She was with me even as he took his final breaths. I will forever remember this great sacrifice of love and friendship. How could I ever put a price tag on Naphtali's friendship? Were I to say grad school wasn't worth the money I paid, the time invested, it would be like saying her friendship wasn't worth it.

And so my mind finally settled on this profound thought: knowing Naphtali is of exceedingly more value to me than any monetary argument I could make for justifying my education.

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