Let’s say you, like me, were an overachiever as a child. You raised your hand, you participated often, your teachers told you that you were smart. Early on, you got placed in advanced classes. Your teachers took you out of regular class so that you could go learn more in the science building.
This continued throughout your schooling. You liked being one of the “smart kids” in the class. You did the extra credit, you went the extra mile, you even calculated your own GPA because you wanted to know what impact your “guessed” grades would have and you didn’t want to wait a week to get it in the mail.
You were, in a word, obnoxious. You looked forward to high school, where you took honors classes, and college-level classes (what are those called? the ones that you get credit for at the end with a test? oh yes! AP!) and you couldn’t wait until you got to college.
You calmed down in college, thank goodness. You were still type-A, for sure. But you were at least somewhat palatable among your peers.
Then you got out of college. You worked hard, you found a job in your field, and you kept working hard. You didn’t feel entitled to anything. You’d taken all the right steps, and you were on your way!
… To what, exactly?
You strive and you strive and now what? For the first time in your whole life, there isn’t an endpoint. It’s not finite, this “work” stuff. You aren’t going to graduate in four years. It’s more like 40 years. And all of a sudden, panic sets in. What if I was wrong? you wonder. What if I’m not where I should be? You look around. Your peers are in their 30s and 40s. Some have been at this longer than you’ve been alive. Is this my destiny? I don’t want to do x, y, z for the rest of my life. This feels like a life sentence.
And then you think, I should go back to school. And then you look. Wow, the technical writing program at the university of whatever looks really fun! Or, maybe you don’t think it looks fun, but it sure is different from what you’re doing now.
The truth, though, is that we want to go back to school, we’re driven to go back to school, because (and listen closely) that’s all we know. School’s all we’ve ever known. School was where people told us how smart we were, and we felt good about being smart. The real world is a place where the smart kids aren’t necessarily the successful ones, and that stings, just a little.
So, if you’re like me, then know that everyone panics in their first year (or five!) out of college. It’s okay to panic. In fact, I would argue that it’s perfectly normal. But I think you need a better reason than panic to go get yourself into more debt by going back to school.
Questions: Does this sound familiar to anyone? Is anyone out there still at their first job out of college? If not, what did you do to combat this panic? If so, did you feel the panic yourself and what are you doing to change it?