Return On Investment

This morning I read an article about college degrees with the lowest “return on investment.” Among those listed were degrees in sociology, theology/religion, fine arts, education, and psychology.

It is no surprise that median salaries in fields related to the aforementioned studies/degrees are not in the top income bracket. I also know that not everyone chooses a field of study and a degree based on earning potential. However, I’m stuck on the concept of “return” as monetary.

Granted, this degree-to-salary ROI is pragmatic and serves a useful purpose in career-planning. The financial reality of the cost of living comes as a mind-bender to young people who haven’t explored such facts of life.

I’m not taking issue with the reasons for examining the ratio of earnings to cost of degree. I am, however, ruminating on what is considered a good “return” on investing in a college degree.

If a degreed woman chooses the role of stay-at-home mother over a career outside the home, how would her ROI be determined? Would she need an income—let’s say from her spouse—for the investment in her college education to be deemed a positive return? Would the amount of income from the spouse determine the value of her ROI?

If an individual with a degree in religious studies earns only a small stipend while he builds a school in Africa to educate previously unschooled children, is his ROI negligible?

If a social worker with meager income from a non-profit organization establishes a food pantry that feeds hundreds of hungry persons in the community, would the ROI on a degree in social work be determined solely by earned income?

If a person with a degree in business, finance or accounting never realizes an income within the projected salary range for those studies, would this be viewed as a negative return and/or a bad investment?

I can see that I’m mixing apples and oranges—value of degree vs. value of education; “return” in terms of dollars vs. successful effort, personal satisfaction, and making a difference.

I’m just ruminating.

A Writer’s Friend

I think I understand why some longtime writers still use an ancient typewriter. Until this very moment of recognizing my old desktop computer as a familiar friend, I assumed that writers using archaic machines were resistant to the learning curve of new technology. I failed to see how anyone could not appreciate the shortcuts of copying a typed document onto disk, CD, flash drive, or simply transmitting electronically to another site. But I’ve experienced a light-bulb moment.

For many years, I’ve used a laptop with internal mouse at the office, and at home for research and general communication by Internet. I also have a tablet device. But when I want to write, to get in the flow, to escape into writing, I use my old desktop with external mouse and a keyboard that my fingers touch as if connecting with an old friend, a tactile sensation that is familiar and comforting. I’ve developed a habit of caressing the keys when I’m searching for words, as if the keyboard will respond to being petted and deliver the words for me. Maybe it’s a subconscious gesture to try to stimulate my brain, or perhaps just a fidget. I can’t say that this habit renders productive results, but my fingers like it.

The monitor at eye level gives a sense of communicating with someone. I look at the screen as I write, and I’m telling you my story. You are the reader, and I’m sharing my thoughts with you.

Unlike typing on a compact laptop, eyes and hands directed to a few square inches, sitting before my desktop feels open, natural, and less restrictive.

Some writers still pen in longhand on paper. Really! I actually know someone with that habit. I suppose this, too, is a familiar position for the body to assume when in creative mode — a favorite chair, a particular writing pad, a certain pen.

At one time, pen and paper were my writing tools. And then my new best friend was an early-generation notebook computer, pre-Windows, pre-mouse, pre-Internet, smaller than the laptop that now feels confining. So maybe size doesn’t matter. I would likely still be connected to that special friend, except that it became obsolete, unusable, and went to a computer graveyard.

What does matter is the distraction-free haven that lets me visit the creative zones of my mind, and the familiar electronic friend that records my thoughts and facilitates the creative process. I stroke the familiar keyboard and words appear on the screen. I’m in my studio. I think. I write. It feels good.