When I was living in San Francisco, unemployed during the dot-com bust, I had more than one recruiter tell me I wouldn’t get a job because I hadn’t gone to an Ivy League school. I was in my mid-twenties. What were these recruiters expecting me to do? Find myself a nice man, get married, and call it quits? If that’s the life I wanted to build for myself, I would have married the promising young medical student I was engaged to when I was twenty-three, who I was sure would go on to be very successful.
Luckily, I eventually found an employer who was willing to entertain the idea I might have something to offer, notwithstanding my educational shortcomings; though the recruiter’s words stayed with me. It didn’t help matters that in San Francisco, as in many metropolitan areas, I was living amongst highly educated individuals not at all representative of the average population. I carried my perceived shortcomings everywhere I went. “If only I had…then maybe right now I would be…” And so went the self-talk – the “what if” reality I lived in my head until I was accepted into Columbia for graduate school. Finally, now things were going to be different. The dreadful black smudge which blemished my resume would be erased. I was going to be good enough.
In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, a colleague from Columbia, we lamented our perceived lack of achievements. I told her this story, which I’m sure she’s heard before and that have I now told to you. “We’re just going to have to accept that this feeling will probably never go away. We’ll forever be striving for what’s next; we’ll likely never feel like we’ve arrived. And that’s okay. Besides, if ever we did arrive, what would we do with ourselves then?”