Limitations Are Just Social Constructs

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Illustration created by Lauren Piraro

In any social situation a college student finds themselves in where they are being introduced to new faces, it’s become customary to ask a specific set of questions. These particular go-to questions include: “What’s your major?” and then the subsequent, “Oh, cool. What do you want to do with it?” Some will admit that they are not sure exactly which path they want to take, others find comfort in feigning certainty, and a select few will know exactly what they want. In any case, you are being ask to define yourself and your careers goals in a few short words as if that could ever sum up a lifetime of achievements and adventures.

As many students believe that the major they select in college is the area in which they will be working in for the rest of their lives, it is important to understand that any and all limitations in life are social constructs to be overcome.

Many college women are feeling the sense of inequality that they must face in comparison to men. Ashley Mason, a third year Parks and Recreation major at Cal Poly, believes that women have a certain kind of pressure to graduate college sooner than men as dictated by society.

“Women are pressured to graduated college sooner because they are on a time constraint trying to ‘beat the clock.’ Men can leisurely go through their education because they don’t have to deal with balancing children and a career down the line,” said Mason.

Annie Wald, a third year Photography major at Cal Poly, sees an imbalance between how both men and women are viewed in the work force and how it contributes to the lack of perceived dimension of career women.

“Women are seen very stereotypically in society which affects how they are treated professionally,” said Wald.

A very poignant example of someone who overcame limitations within her own life is Joann Lisberger, a Women and Gender Studies professor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Lisberger has taught at Harvard, Brown, and the University of Rhode Island, only to name a few. She is currently teaching a writing workshop at Cal Poly aimed at giving voices to young writers.

In college, Lisberger was an Anthropology major, but figured out late in her college career that she would have rather studied fiction writing because “it wasn’t afraid to admit it was subjective.”

It was a combination of familial and educational influence that made her realize just how short life was and the importance of grasping an opportunity with both hands.

“I married the man I met during my freshman year of college,” said Lisberger. “I put him on a pedestal and I didn’t have space in the relationship to be strong and independent. I realized what I needed was warmth, play, and flexibility.”

Lisberger holds a specific quote by author Robertson Davies close to her heart: “It’s not what you do that matters, it matters who you are.”

“If you know who you are, you can do anything,” said Lisberger who found her voice through writing. She is a published fiction writer and, whether she is aware of it or not, inspires students around the country with her brave wisdom.

And what is Lisberger’s advice for college students who get asked the dreaded question of what they want to do for the rest of their lives?

“They should think not about what they want to do, but what they want to do next,” said Lisberger. “I often say cats weigh eight pounds and have nine lives; they too will have many lives.”

Illustration created by Lauren Piraro

Illustration created by Lauren Piraro

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