Why I Am Grateful I Graduated Without an Mrs. Degree
January 8, 2017
“Sometimes there are emotions and pains too sacred, too pure to describe. Innocent hopes that when crushed bear the bittersweet scent of a bloom crushed in the bud. Though it is encouraging to realize that my heart can still feel something so pure and powerful as my disappointment over ----------, I am tired of this. I am weary. Dear Lord, I know I am so far from perfect but how many more times must I be required to give so trustingly of my heart and mind. How many more times must I hope in your promises and believe I am seeing them fulfilled only to see them dashed?”
Exactly five months later I was walking across the stage at BYUH to be handed a fancy little paper with three important letters on it, BFA (well technically a letter promising me that paper), and a couple other fancy sounding terms like Summa Cum Laude, Honor Roll, And Honors Society. But no where on that paper or any other piece that I would be handed that day or in the days following could you find the letters “MRS.”
Was I proud of my straight A’s (minus the one well deserved C Dr. Kammerer gave me)? Most definitely! Was I proud that I finished what is usually a four and a half year degree, and served an 18 month mission in 5 years? I am not sure how I even did that. Was I proud that I earned a full tuition scholarship for 8 out of 9 of the semesters I attended and worked three jobs at the same time to pay the rest of my bills? (Thankfully my parents let me live at home so I was able to make ends meet.) Most definitely! Was I proud to be the first woman from my father’s family to graduate from an American University? Most definitely! Was I proud that I had produced two solo art shows in one year, gained campus wide acclaim for them, and sold many of the pieces from those shows? Most definitely! Was I proud that somehow between all of that I had learned how to dance hula and ballroom, took voice lessons, continued to teach myself jazz piano, and traveled the world? Most definitely!
But no matter how much I knew I had accomplished I still had to fight back a nagging fear that I had somehow failed society. That I had missed the mark while shooting for my purpose.
I had graduated from a BYU.... single.
I knew that the main purpose of going to college is to obtain a degree and I had accomplished that with flying colors but it was hard to ignore both the ingrained attitudes in my own mind, and the jokingly sarcastic but cutting remarks of friends and family. Comments such as:
“You focus too much on school. You should do less and date more.”
“You are graduating single, there must be something wrong with you…. Hahaha jk….”
“Have you even been dating at all?”
“This is your last semester, you really need to find yourself a man, or what are you going to do after you graduate?”
“You’ve been home from your mission for two years. What have you been doing with your life?”
“Look at so and so, they got married, why can’t you?”
Surprisingly it wasn’t the logical fallacies, or cultural flaws behind these statements that hurt the most, it was the fact that I HAD tried. And I had TRIED hard. Maybe I hadn’t gone to every single dance or walked around with a shirt that said “Mormon, Single, Ready to Mingle…. And by mingle I mean get married tomorrow”, but I was making consistent conscious choices to meet people, be open to relationships, and pursue men I found interesting. Despite what people seemed to perceive of my life, I was dating, and dating with determination and purpose. Heck, I threw tradition to the wind and started asking guys on dates.
I went out with, and in some cases dated, everyone from your average Samoan fob to that basic white guy, to the not so basic asian guy, to Ivy League Graduate lawyers, to naval cadets, to professors (not at BYUH), to surfboard toting Peace-building majors, to doctors, to tech entrepreneurs, to (if you count the summer after graduation) bond traders on Wall Street, to that guy I sat next to in Sunday school.
Almost all of them were LDS, most of those were active RMs. By my last year of college I was averaging a date a week. Most of them were one time events but over the course of those five years a few of the connections I made blossomed into friendships and small handful even into love of some sort.
But yet here I was soaring through my time as an undergraduate as single as I walked in because all of these encounters had one common thread. Sooner or later, they ended. More often than not, these “endings” seemed to be worse for me. Not that I didn’t break a few hearts myself, I know that, despite my best efforts, I was the cause of hurt and disappointment for some. Yet it seemed 7 out of 10 times I had given my time, energy, patience, and even love only to have handed back to me, sometimes not all too kindly, or worse to have it taken and never reciprocated or acknowledged.
Now I don’t want to paint the picture that every man I crossed paths with was a self serving misogynist, because many of them were good, caring, and honest men, but in spite of what good intentions there might have been on both sides, 5 years of dating had left me emotionally exhausted and broken yet still questioning if I had done enough and was doing enough.
Fast forward six months, a semester of graduate school, and another failed relationship later, I met Steven Christiansen. Though the beginnings of our relationship were a bit unconventional (Mutual…#mormontinder) It only took me a few weeks to realize there was something different about this man. Luckily it only took a few more weeks for us to both realize that the something different we saw in each other was something we never wanted to let go. The more I fell in love with Steven and all he is, the more I realized something else, I was grateful I had graduated single. But not just because Steven would probably not have been in the picture if I had.
I was... I am, grateful because I realize it is because of the disappointments, tears, and frustrations that I recognize what a blessing Steven is to my life. Because I had tried to live and love with-out trust, consistency, faith, commitment, and vulnerability being offered to me, I immediately realized how precious and rare they were once they were offered to me in a complete way.
All too often (I believe more so in Mormon culture), we find the attitude that women are priceless, holy, innocent creatures that must stoop to love a man and grace his life with their presence. This attitude engenders phrases such as “How did YOU get HER!” “You don’t deserve a woman like her.” “No, guy is good enough for her.” “The wife is always right.” “Just say, ‘yes honey’”
While I have come to a deep and wonderful understanding of my unique intrinsic worth before God as a woman, I have also come to realize that this does not elevate me above another regardless of their gender, and thus I am not entitled to the love, or reverence of a man. Am I entitled to respect? As a human being, Yes. But servitude? Not even remotely.
Instead, God, in all his wisdom, has given me, and all of his children, the opportunity to experience full eternal joy by choosing to love and serve another human being and receive the same choice in return. I don’t know how many times I have heard people say, “I hope Steven knows how lucky he is to have you.” But I have yet to hear someone say “I hope you know how lucky you are to have someone like Steven.”
The truth is I know how lucky I am, and I will never forget it because only I know the storms I had to weather to find him. I know what rarity of a man he is. I see now the point to my disappointment. I am grateful for the prayers that weren’t answered and the tears that were shed, not only because they led me to the love of my life, but because they taught me to recognize how priceless that love was when I found it.
Most of all, through them, God prepared me to love and value my future husband as an equal.