As I’m approaching the end of my trip home, I’m realizing that I needed to come home. Despite I have always had mixed feelings about the South, it is home and it’s where I grew up. I think there’s something cathartic about coming back to a familiar place with familiar faces like the cashier at Publix who’s worked there forever or my dad’s neighbors who bought when we did. Going home gives you the time and space to reflect on what you went away to do (in my case, education). It’s hard to reflect on where you are in life without removing yourself from your current state.
These are thoughts I’ve grappled with the last few months. Coming home has allowed me to frame the last two years of my life in Edinburgh in a different way and gain perspective on what I’ve actually accomplished. I don’t think that I reflected or applauded myself on my masters at Edinburgh enough (or for that matter my BA) because I remained in Edinburgh and started another postgraduate program almost immediately after. I don’t regret the way things played out and I wouldn’t change it if I could; however, I think a little more time in between the programs would have allowed me to acknowledge my progress, which is something I needed to do and have only really done now.
It’s good to reflect and be proud of yourself and applaud your own accomplishments because I believe that it helps you be satisfied with the present. Confirmed by other friends of mine who did further education as well, it’s easy to feel like you’re behind in the world if you stay in higher education past undergrad because then you begin comparing yourself to those who went out and got jobs immediately after. You think, “Wow, I should have a job now and be making money. What do I have to show for myself?” But that is really wrong. Everyone has a different path they go down and things happen at different times for everyone. That’s actually a really amazing thing that we can decide how we want our lives to play out if you think about it. It would be dreadfully boring if everyone followed the same exact formula in life, wouldn’t it? (to a certain extent, that happens in a homogenized society, but nevertheless…).
A large component to this thinking though is the concept of comparing yourself to others. That’s a very dangerous thing to do. It’s like playing with fire, but the fire extinguisher doesn’t work quite right. It’s very hard to stop comparing yourself to others once that’s your line of thinking, so just don’t! I think everyone is bound to do it at some point and it’s sort of human nature to do so, probably out of survival reasons, but it will get you nowhere.
The other day I was discussing this with my boyfriend and he said something that really made a lot of sense to me (as he often has kernels of wisdom) that I’d like to share. He explained that although it’s not good to compare yourself to others, if you are going to, it should be a fair comparison. What he meant by that was I often look at young entrepreneurs like YouTubers that now own their own companies or bloggers with massive fan bases and think that I’m massively behind. My boyfriend kindly reminded me that this is not a fair comparison. Most (I know this is a generalization but life is made up of generalizations so go with me) of those people won’t have attended university and spent six years like I have studying. If I had been in university, I probably would have accomplished different things (maybe not being an app creator, but I was never destined for anything to do with algorithms). But I chose to study because THAT was important to ME. Do you ever find yourself comparing yourself to people like that and you’re like “What the heck, those aren’t even my goals???” And that’s why it really does seem so stupid.
A fair comparison, however, would be to think about the kids in my high school class. Right after my boyfriend said that, it made perfect sense. Having the same background, we had the same privileges and exposure to things (I still think that varies a great deal from person to person despite my school was fairly homogenized, but nevertheless). Isn’t that the point of high school reunions??? To see how you’ve done in comparison to your PEERS. Peers being the keyword. To see after high school, who took the road less traveled by and who lived the life everyone thought they would. That seems almost unkind in a way, but it’s true.
If my high school reunion was today (thank God it isn’t), I think I would feel like I had done all right so far. I’m content with where I am, and although I don’t know what the future holds after this last year of my studies, I’m all right with that. I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do thus far and I don’t think that will change.
With that said, when I get back to Edinburgh, I would like to make a list of goals for this next year. Some personal, some professional and academic related. Home has reminded me why I began my postgraduate studies, if no other reason than to give me time to write so that I can one day share my words with people in print. For now, my blog will have to do.
Do you think going back to where you came from helps to reset your focus? Do you ever play the comparison game and how do you get out of it? Share your life philosophy with me in the comments since I inflict mine upon you once a week.
Thanks for reading,