What Education Means to Me

Every first day of school throughout my life, I had the same routine: throw up and sob uncontrollably. You see, I never much liked school. My anxiety around it was all consuming- hence the sobbing when it was time to go back. I even feared attendance being taken. My maiden name began with an “s,” so I was in the later part of the roll call. I spent the whole time clenched up wondering what I would say to announce my presence. And, without fail, I froze up every time.

So, even though school was never my favorite thing, education and going to college was a given in my life. My parents worked hard to send three of us to private schools growing up and clearly valued education and what it would offer us in the future. Accordingly, I just thought of it as something I had to get through. I was unguided in college as to what I wanted to study. And eventually graduated without a true direction in life. I knew one thing, though, that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people.

Therefore, after college, I worked at a residential treatment center for adolescent girls where I was able to do just that. However, after five years, I made a decision I once would have believed an unthinkable one: I went back to school.

This time it was different, though. Deciding to get a master’s degree in clinical social work wasn’t part of the expected educational trajectory of my younger years. It wasn’t an obligation I was just fulfilling. Instead, it was an opportunity. Everything started to click. I loved what I was studying and yearned to learn more.

It was a liberating force that allowed me to do my passion of helping people at a higher level. Ever since then, that’s what education has meant to me. I realized that even though school was a struggle, education was a gift. Since becoming a clinical social worker, I’ve become an autodidact, staying up on trends in the field and best practices because educating myself allows me to act and leave an impact on the world. In the final analysis, to me, education has been empowerment.

About The Author

Kelly McAdams, MSW, LICSW