Life Lessons of a Non-Traditional Graduate: The Good, the Bad, and the Unstuck
This year marks my twentieth high school reunion — yikes, where did the time go? It also marks my completion of my doctorate degree — woo-hoo, where did the time go? Many of my high school chums completed various graduate degrees all before we hit the quintessential age of “adulting” — 30. I’m a late bloomer compared to some. Notice the key words: compared to.
Undoubtedly, comparisons reek havoc on our unique destiny. Comparisons can cause us to take the wrong path, follow frivolous pursuits, date jerks, marry abusers, waste money, lose time, and even get stuck. Unfortunately, I know this first hand. I actually dated someone who had the audacity to verbalize he felt my pursuing a higher degree was a waste of time that competed with his career interests. Since when is someone’s “bae” competition! I mistakenly thought I was “behind the ball” in the court of public opinion and as a result made mistakes… many, many mistakes. But the mistakes are not the moral of this story.
Life Lesson #1 of a Non-Traditional Graduate: Stop Comparisons
Instead, I realized that the seasons of our lives are fleeting — tomorrow is not promised. Things, people, and places rarely stay the same. I began to cultivate a deeper appreciation for each season of life, especially because some seasons of life, including time with loved ones, may expire unexpectedly.
Although by some standards, I may have been behind and needed to pick up my pace, I actually have slowed down to relish who and what is here and now. I drive slower to see the scenery (don’t worry if you are behind me, I’m not quite a “Sunday, super-slow driver”… yet).
I also made a commitment to see my family as often as possible (often multiple times a day using Skype while even states and continents apart). When my dear granddad (with who I have fond memories of eating Cracker Jacks, adopting an abused puppy, and sneaking away from the rest of the family for ice cream) literally had fallen ill unexpectedly, Skype took me to his hospital bedside. I visibly saw and cringed at his labored breathing. Immediately, I fought for the unthinkable — a leave of absence from my degree program mid-class (well beyond the drop deadline), and hopped on a thousand dollar, red-eye flight to the anger and disapproval of some (“why not wait for prices to go down?”, “who’s going to pick you up that early?”, etc.). Within less than an hour of my arrival to my granddad’s bedside, he passed. I was grateful to God that the man, second only to my dad, who has imparted so much of this own time, energy, money, character, and love into me waited for me to arrive for a final embrace.
Life Lesson #2 of a Non-Traditional Graduate: Make Time for Who and What You Love
Over this twenty-year evolution, I have shed goal-envy, which is where you simply set goals that _____ (insert your pressure point a.k.a. mother, friends, TV, ads, etc.) says you should accomplish by X age. Nevermind that these goals do not actually speak to your interests, giftings, or talents. Goal-envy leaves us in a horrific holding pattern of dreams deferred, fervent frustrations, and insipid insecurities.
“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” — Langston Hughes
I now realize that our uniqueness (and the ensuing dreams and goals) is the very thing that will keep us moving forward. Our God-given individuality does not need to be stifled, boxed, altered, or eclipsed (anyone else picturing the Stepford Wives?). This is not just my random, ill-advised musings. For my doctoral research, I was able to survey and study how some of the most successful people in my industry (real estate) do it by simply being themselves (learn more about these research results in Profit with Your Personality).
Life Lesson #3 of a Non-Traditional Graduate: You Were Born an Original, Don’t Die a Copy
Twenty years later, graduation day for me no longer means the end of torturous schooling but rather the continuation of a well-lived and loved life.
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Originally published at www.learnwithlee.realtor.