When I find myself thinking, “If I knew then what I know now,” I admit that I feel a bit regretful. My younger self was full of ideas about the ways that I was going to change the world. I was excited about the possibilities that I had before me, and eager to embrace them.
When I think back on the arrogance of my younger self, I often feel ashamed. I was so busy thinking I knew it all, to see that I knew nothing. This year I will turn 40, an age my younger self saw as established, together, and complete. While my life is good, the unsettled feeling of not completing my coveted degree makes me uneasy, but also seeds the desire to pursue it.
I knew it was time to return to school when I was not only passed over for an open position, but not even considered for a promotion. I love my position as Head of Children Services at a local public library, but there are times when I am ready to do the next big thing, and the lack of a degree has held me back.
Without conceit, I can say that I do fantastic things within my position, but until I have those letters behind my name I will have to be satisfied with where I am and right now I feel a bit stuck. I graduated from high school in 1991 without ever thinking I would end up in a field anywhere near education, and within the last six years have found a job that I love and want to make a career.
When I graduated from high school, the idea was to go straight through college, but due to my poor study skills, some financial hardships, and just a lack of time, I have been attempting to earn a degree ever since. I will admit that at times I have not worked as hard as I could or should, but in recent years working two jobs and attempting to take care of my daughter has made me realize that I need – want - something better than what I am doing at this moment.
College was tough for me. I had a bit of a plan for what I wanted, but the reality was I was not prepared for everything college was. I had poor study habits, the financial hardship for my family was devastating, and I had no plan for how to help myself. After a year and half of school I dropped out, thinking that I would be taking a few months off to earn money, but those months turned into a year. Later, I drifted in and out of school. At the time my career goal was in the sciences, something I thought I should pursue because smart people did science, and I was smart. This smart person was determined to become a registered nurse or a physician, because going into the medical field meant that I could help people, plus doctors and nurses were so well respected at the various hospitals I worked.
Meanwhile, I met a man whom I would eventually marry and had a daughter. During my pregnancy, my daughter was diagnosed with a genetic disorder and instead of doing my homework and school readings, I researched ideas to help her succeed when she eventually started school. Even though I was doing something important for my daughter, I was saddened by the realization that my heart was not really into the sciences. I believe that “science” people are smart, and they help. I didn’t understand how a life not dedicated to science, a field I admit that I didn’t have a passion for, would allow me to serve people.
My daughter’s father and I eventually divorced, and I found myself working in a public library. I thrived there. This job seemed to have been created just for me. I enjoyed going to work daily, I loved the connections I made with the library customers, and I had access to all of the things I needed for my daughter.
Today finds me still at the library, but instead of the passion I used to feel, I feel stuck. I still love what I do, but I feel limited. I know this limit, while mostly self-placed, is also due to the lack of completing my degree. When I earn it, I will be qualified to take on more responsibilities, and open to more opportunities. I can move to larger libraries and create the roles that I desire.
My younger self may not appreciate the route my life has taken, but she would be happy to see some of the fire and excitement return. I would tell her to be patient with herself. She'd probably like to know that her desire to change the world would stay, even though the methods and environments changed.
Now? I want to continue to transform any feelings of inadequacy about not finishing my education, or about being where I think I ought to be by now, into this delicious feeling of anticipation, and a strong plan for moving forward, at my own pace.
This post is part of BlogHer's Success Tips For My Younger Self editorial series, made possible by Kaplan.
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