I’ve come to appreciate those lightbulb moments that make you pause and contemplate your life. Recently, after two weekends of work I decided that I needed to get away for a bit and go on a road trip. It wasn’t really planned but I knew that I wanted a change of scenery and that I didn’t want to drive too far away. I drove to the next state over and found myself at my alma mater. I guess I should give the background story. My college experience was the first time that I had ever lived away from home. Outside of staying with my grandmother for a few nights, I had not been allowed to spend the night anywhere else. I packed way too much stuff and had to send most of it home. I was incredibly studious and was hyper-focused on making sure that the balance of my school bill was paid. I took a lot of classes and worked several jobs so that I would finish my degree as soon as possible. I lived in the library and sang in the choir. I knew a lot of people but was never invited to a party or asked out on a date. It was so nostalgic to walk back on campus eight years later with three additional degrees and years of professional practice. I had the opportunity to speak to students in the same classroom that I was taught in and it felt incredibly weird but full circle to be introduced by the title of “Doctor.” I was reminded of the fact that I’ve learned so much over the years and as a result my worldview has shifted a bit. There’s nothing like being reminded of where you came from and I think that acknowledging the past can be a way to give ourselves permission to create a future that we want.
Getting a doctorate was to date one of the most stressful projects that I have done. I balanced school with multiple jobs, moving across the country, and also trying to have somewhat of a social life. My dissertation class was a Pass/Fail format and there were a few times where I didn’t know if I would pass the class for the quarter. I would plan to get a lot of things accomplished every quarter and it would be so difficult to stay focused and write in the fact of competing priorities. It was the end of year four and and I hit a wall. I was tired of looking at a computer screen, reading articles, trying to sound intelligent, and keeping up with discussion posts. I don’t know what the final straw was but I was done. I wanted to quit so badly because it was just too hard. But one thing that I remember was the fact that I had spent so much time, energy and money that not completing would be a complete waste. Not to mention the fact that I would still owe money in student loans. I realized that I was getting in my own way because I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do next after I finished. I knew that I wanted to teach but I had no idea about what the next steps would be. I was sabotaging my own progress because I had a fear of the unknown. Once I figured it out everything made a lot more sense. I gave myself permission to finish without knowing for sure what I would do afterwards. After this realization the road got a lot smoother. I finally started to get the approvals that I needed and things started coming together. Within a year and some change I successfully defended my dissertation. I say all this to say that a fear of the unknown keeps a lot of people from their potential. It paralyzes them from taking the next step because there are no guarantees. But in life there aren’t any do-overs. We have one shot to get it right and it only makes sense to give our dreams 110%. Go hard or go home.
This past week I had the chance to relax but also define some goals for next year. I learned a lot about myself and also managed to have some fun. Cruising remains one of my favorite means of travel.
As this year of my life starts to come to a close I realize that there’s a lot that I want to do. While I have definitely had some milestones this year that included finishing my PhD, I’m not satisfied yet. Working in a hospital again has reminded me of how short life really is. I’ve had numerous patients who have passed away without any warning. I’ve had a lot of major changes that were unexpected but I also got hired on to my dream job (at least past time). So far I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel a little bit and I’ve visited 8 countries. I’m hoping to develop a good work life balance in the coming year and maybe flex my entrepreneurial muscles just a bit. The whole dating thing has absolutely been a bust so far so I figure I’ll just set goals around what I can control. Here’s to bigger and better things.
Selling things has never been one of my favorite activities. Growing up we had a homeschool business. It was supposed to teach us responsibility and how to run a business. The idea was my mother’s. Granted, the business was never something I cared for and I often found that it was more trouble than it was worth. Fast forward to my life after high school. Finishing at age 17 caused me to evaluate my life. I decided to take some time off and enroll at a community college for a few classes before going away to college. During this period of time I decided to get a job. So I found one selling knives. It wasn’t a bad job for people who are naturally a bit more extroverted or have the gift of gab. I had neither. The job involved going to various houses and demonstrating the product and taking orders. While I didn’t care for it, I did sell several thousand dollars worth of knives. It wasn’t a horrible experience but definitely a reminder that selling knives was not my calling in life. Neither was cold calling people asking to come into their homes for a demonstration. But I survived the experience and vowed to never ever sell anything again. As I’ve gotten a little older I’ve come to realize that so much in life depends on the way that you can sell yourself. While you don’t have to be cocky, there’s a way to communicate that you have the knowledge and skillset to complete a task. I think that’s why first impressions are so important. Once that happens, it’s a lot more difficult to challenge perceptions of you that have already been formed by that first impression. I think that’s why it can be good to cultivate the appearance of a calm demeanor. People want a calm person around them because it feels emotionally safe as opposed to someone who is frantic all the time.
Not too long ago I saw a post from a friend that said that there is no such thing as having new friends of the opposite sex. If you haven’t been friends with them for at least two or three years then you’re just out of luck. The first thing I thought about after reading that post was that there may be some truth to that. Depending on the situation, most people of the opposite sex don’t meet people just to be friends. There are ulterior motives that include networking or additional “benefits” that motivate people. I’m not saying that no one meets new friends of the opposite sex but I doubt that is always the primary motivation. People meet other people for personal gain as adults. Things aren’t as simple as it is when you have friends as a kid. I’ve met a lot of people in the last few years. However, the process of making someone of the opposite sex a “true” platonic friend is much more complicated than it used to be. There’s always something that one person wants from the other and very rarely does this include “true friendship.” It’s just the way of the world. Friendship is often given as a consolation prize or a compromise because both people aren’t on the same page. The point of all this is to say that it’s rare as an adult to be absolutely 100% friends with someone of the opposite sex from the very moment you meet them without thinking of what they can do for you, who they know that they can connect you to, or if there’s a chance for some additional personal gain in some way.
So many times we think of success as something to be attained instead of something that requires constant movement and action with the anticipated result changing as we go forward. As I get closer to turning a year older, I can help but think about how my definition of success has changed from when I was younger. There are still so many things that I want to do and avenues that I haven’t explored. To me, being successful is having the freedom to do what you want when you want without the confinement of a tradition 9-5 job. The ability to turn down opportunities because you don’t need the money and to travel all over just because you want to. That’s what I want. However it’s important to remember that success requires consistent effort towards sometime specific. You really can’t be halfway successful. You have to be willing to put in the time daily and be disciplined enough to not require constant external motivation.