I confronted a ‘first’ for me the other day. I recently changed careers and I am working on what’s next in my life. Before making the career change I thought a lot about what I wanted to do next and came to the realization that I love mentorship, education, and creativity. Feeling a sense of urgency, I entered two graduate programs...because why not? I took a lot of heat for this. Specifically, the people in one of the programs thought me to be unreasonable in my ambitions. I explained to them my work ethic, drive, and determination would overcome any adversity.
I’m six months into the programs and you’d be amazed at how much I’ve learned about myself. Mostly, I’ve learned my interests are, well, expansive. I’ve cast a wide net and have been lucky to snag some great relationships and opportunities along the way. Not wanting to deny these relationships and opportunities, I’ve taken on more than I can chew. Currently, I’m taking seven graduate classes at two different institutions, attempting to startup two companies, and recently accepted a position to serve on an advisory board of another. That’s the background.
This leads me to last Thursday. One of my two programs is taking up over 80% of my daytime hours and it’s extremely limiting. I just left a job where I was not satisfied and, just one year removed from that, I refuse to fall into the same trap. I want to explore my interests. I feel bad about this but I approached one of my graduate programs and I asked to graduate early. This was a first - I asked for help. I reached out in a vulnerable state, knowing my reputation will be negatively affected, and did something for me. While I do not see this as defeat, my graduate program does. They are disappointed and frustrated. Of course, I don’t blame them but I wish they would listen to my story. They see me as a number in their program in terms of grant money and not a person on a journey...even though I know they have been on a similar journey in their lives. In the end, my reputation will take a hit and I will not be able to defend myself. But guess what, I’m okay with that. This is one of the first times I have ever decided for myself and while it feels embarrassing (my reputation means a lot to me), it also feels liberating.
Here’s the last thing I’ll share. This is the second time I’ve “left” an organization and people are always disappointed. They don’t understand why you don’t share the same mission as them and tend to claim you inferior because of it. Well, that’s not really true. I’m glad people are passionate about their line of work and want others to join, but we should also promote people to explore their interests. I’d rather be working in a field driving me to be better than in a position of discomfort trying to please others. I have a long way to go on this journey but to be honest, I’m learning a lot. I feel everyone should experience these emotions at some point to enable deeper understanding and empathy toward one another. It’s hard to hear someone else’s story when we are so fixed on our own.