Real-life events that have transpired this week:
1. I went to a professional networking event and had no title/organization to put on my name tag. I was suddenly hit with the realization that I couldn’t claim the safe-haven that is student status anymore. During introductions, I panicked and introduced myself as a musician, which by virtue of degree, I am.
2. As part of an on-going debate that I’ve been having with my medical student brother, we’ve been discussing the concept of prestige. Work titles, degrees, school rankings, awards, traditional measures of success–merit badges if you will. And I, while a jack-of-all trades, appear to be the master of none.
3. I got added by a beloved high school teacher into a Facebook group chat. He was interested in seeing what his students from the last 10 years were up to. While my peers rattled off accomplishments left and right–no shade, I am genuinely very happy for them–I was very tempted to write, “currently unemployed, living at my parents house, writing blogs, #millenialdream.”
Before I get too far down the rabbit hole, I would just like to say that I am happy. Even though I am in a period of transition, I am working towards my goals and pursuing new ideas. I do not regret any of my choices or experiences. I would not be who I am today without them.
Although, I need to admit that there is a part of me that cares about prestige, otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about it at all. For better or for worse, there is a part of me that is ambitious. I’ve always wanted to do my best, to be original, to stand out from the crowd.
But what does that really mean? Does that mean going to a fancy private school? Does that mean winning the most competitive internships and fellowships? Does that mean graduating with the MD, PHD, JD, MBA, MPH alphabet soup? Does that mean earning a six-figure salary?
Sure, maybe it does for some people, but for some reason or another, I can’t seem to hitch my wagon to any of those things.
I’m a woman of color and a daughter of immigrants who graduated from a large public university with a degree in flute performance and a desire to serve my community. It’s been hard enough for me to find people who I relate to and who do the things that I want to do. If I can’t see it, can I still do it?
I often feel like I’m going down a track that isn’t clearly marked and there are times when I not sure that it’s even the right one. All this aside, I try not to let moments like the ones above make me question my abilities and worth. I continue to follow my instincts.
Recently, my instincts have told me to invest time in myself outside of a classroom with things like being kind and listening to others, trying my hand at new skills, being creative and resourceful, being genuine and approaching others without ulterior motives, and of course always doing my best with the task at hand.
These things are so basic, yet sometimes I think they are easily forgotten. In the end, I need to remember that my worth can only be defined and regulated by me. I shouldn’t be scared to say that my feeling of worth comes from a place where I value my own confidence and capabilities. I take comfort in the fact that I am with good company when I say that the measure of worth is so much more than what you achieve.
And, above all, that which both men and women must realize is that now is the time to prove that what is really important is the fundamental character of the individual and the personality. A man may be a success as a husband, and a father, a neighbor and a citizen, even if his earning power at the moment has shrunk to almost nil. Just now frequently we are brought up against the fact that what a man can earn has no relation whatsoever to his capacity or his worth as an individual, but we ought to realize as never before, that if a man or a woman can face the present situation with cheerfulness and fulfill obligations in the daily contacts of life, he or she is really showing an amount of fortitude which should make us respect and admire the character which makes it possible.
-Eleanor Roosevelt, It’s Up to the Women