About a year and a half ago, maybe more, I had a conversation with a man I used to greatly admire. By societal standards, he’s a “success” and is undeniably very clever, so his words held a particular meaning for me, at the time.
At this point, I was taking a break from my degree and pursuing a job in an entirely unrelated field. He was in town and we spent an evening talking over drinks and dinner. He asked me what my plans were with regards to my degree: was I going to complete it? I really didn’t have an answer for him or myself at this point, so I shrugged at the question. I told him that I had toyed with the idea as of late but I hadn’t reached any definitive conclusions one way or another.
“You should,” he responded nonchalantly, “Because I would hate for anyone to immediately judge you upon meeting you, simply because you haven’t finished it.”
Now, this may sound completely naïve, but until that point, it really hadn’t crossed my mind that people may gauge my intelligence based on whether I had received a piece of paper from a University. Some of the brightest and most successful people I know never completed a degree. Some never desired one to begin with. Was it possible that without a degree a whole segment of smart, interesting people may never like me?
I won’t pretend that this conversation alone drove me back to school. That’s ridiculous. But after several similarly veined discussions, in combination with pressure all around me to prove academically what I already inherently knew I was capable of, back to school I went.
I tend to not look at any experience like it’s a waste of time. Not only is it unproductive, but it’s a dangerous, cyclical mindset. I will say though that the most beneficial thing going back to school offered me was the realization that I do not want a career in academics, nor do I want a job where placing a BsC on my résumé will be of any help to me whatsoever.
Lately I’m restless. I need a change, and being the moody, impulsive creature I am, that means I need a big change. I’ve had the great pleasure of spending time with someone recently who is easily one of the most successful and wonderful people I’ve ever met, and he did it entirely on his own. Naturally I pick his brain as much as he tolerates me, particularly for advice about going against norms, or the “easy route” in life. I repeated to him the conversation I had a while ago, as mentioned above, and told him that I was worried. Worried about never fitting in, worried about choosing something I don’t really want because of social fears, and worried people won’t view me as intelligent. He took it all in in his very patient manner, and said simply;
“Why would you want to spend time with people who gauge you by your degree or job title?”
How come I had never asked myself that?
The truth is that nothing we ever do will be good enough for everyone. And I’m tired of trying to live up to someone else’s standards. What I do know is that the things that are important to me are different than the things that are important to my parents, friends, and past boyfriends. And that’s okay. Now all I have to do is figure out what exactly those things are.
To do that, I think I need an extended vacation from the rat race here. I want to slow down, to make sure I’m not taking anything for granted. I want to get more acquainted with what I value the most, and what I want from myself in the next 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years. How can I expect anyone else to really get to know me, if I don’t even truly understand myself?
In a stroke of luck, my aforementioned wonderful friend has been watching my internal struggle and suggested I spend some time with him in Belize. I immediately jumped at the chance without even thinking about it (as mentioned…moody….impulsive) and then found myself alone in my apartment, pacing, at 3am recently pondering the change that it will pose. Me being the considerate person I am, I contacted said friend to calm me down.
“Do you think I’ll like it there?” I asked, “I’ll like it, right?”
“Well…” he pondered, still half asleep, “It’s very different from what you’re used to. I’m not sure how you’ll react. Things are…simple. And many of the everyday distractions are eliminated. It seems to be more about enjoying the small things, and who you’re with. Not what you have.”
What he regarded as dissuasion was actually all I needed to hear. It sounds….perfect. I can figure myself out slowly, without rush, and in the meantime have amazing company and the opportunity to create memories. Time to pack 😉
Wish me luck.