Hello readers! Well the summer semester is over in less than 48 hours. Almost time to breath a sigh of relief!
But until then, I have an entirely un-related post. I guess it’s more about education in general, and my education experience in particular.
A few days ago one of my dear friends from my grad program described me as an over achiever. Part of her, I think, meant it as a compliment, part of it was meant as a bit of a cheeky insult. And it got me thinking about achievement, about all of my different education experiences, and how I have probably not changed much since high school!
So first let’s start with an easy definition of over achieve from dictionary.com:
–verb (used without object), –chieved, –chiev·ing.
to perform, esp. academically, above the potential indicated by tests of one’s mental ability or aptitude.
to perform better or achieve more than expected, esp. by others.
After reading this, I don’t really think this is what I try to do. I think I more try to achieve and to be successful. These ideas though have changed a great deal over time though; what success means I guess.
I went to a very academically challenging high school in Amherst, Ma. I think it’s probably influenced quite a bit by all of the higher education that surrounds the school. We had classes like Southeast Asian studies, economics, Holocaust, Criminal Justice, Death & Dying, Women in Literature, African-American Literature, the Bible as Literature, and the list goes on and on. Kind of reads like a college course offering list.
Most of my friends had parents that were professors, therapists, doctors, etc and were fairly middle to upper class families. Not a ton of diversity (although the town has changed a lot in the last 10 years I’d say).
While I did well in high school there was never any thought that I would go to an ivy school. I mean I guess I could have possibly maybe gotten into one if I really tried but I did not have a huge desire to and I also knew that it wouldn’t be possible financially as it would be unlikely I’d get any kind of merit aid. So I always had the idea that I would got to a lower tiered school that had a strong business program. Obviously I tried hard in high school and I worked hard and I was still in the probably top 15% of my class but I always felt like I was not one of the crazy smart kids. I was an achiever. I did well because it was kind of just assumed that I would. Not in a pressure filled way but more just because, well that’s how it was.
When I arrived at Northeastern, merit-scholarship in hand, I found that I had risen a bit in the academic pool. I was now definitely one of the “smarter” kids, at least in the business program. I was an honors student and found myself being frequently asked questions and for help by others. It was an environment that I thrived in and found myself to feel rather free from the sorts of academic and social pressures that I had felt in high school. That feel that something was wrong with me because I wasn’t going to Harvard or Brown or Yale was gone. And I felt like I had risen to the top a bit in the school world. I also found the 6 months each year of cooperative education to be where I really excelled- I loved working. I found it to be a very rewarding and real experience. And the paycheck was pretty nice. So there was never any question that I would continue to work right when college ended. And while, again, I hoped to be successful, I never felt like I was going beyond was expected of me, by myself and others.
At Goldman I found a whole new sense of accomplishment and success all around me. Here you have people who come from all sorts of backgrounds, not just the ivy schools, and are brilliant in a very different manner. Here, obviously, it was more focused on the creativity and smarts that you needed in order to turn a profit. So again, it was challenging but in an entirely different way. And there was also that pressure of knowing that you had to keep up, I mean this was Goldman Sachs! ha
To leave the world of 50-60 hour work weeks where my brain was challenged, but not a great deal when I finally really got the hang of what I was doing, to go back to school full-time was a huge change. And one I’ve written about quite a bit. But I think what was the most difficult was that again I found myself in an entirely new academic environment. It was filled with people younger than me, many with liberal arts backgrounds, and with knowledge that I just didn’t have from the most recent technology to the “hip” authors to read. So I think I have felt constantly like I have to prove myself academically; to myself and to those around me in the program. This is obviously something I have put upon myself but it is what it is. Especially during the first semester I was constantly afraid I would be found out as a fraud; that I was this corporate drone hiding out in library school. That while I could make money for my firm I had no clue how to write, discuss, etc. So I’ve been trying to fight that, possibly imaginary, issue all year now.
And that may be why it seems I’m an over-achiever. But I feel like I’m just trying to keep up.
Last night I spent the evening with 2 folks that I went to high school with. We were all not super close but it was incredible to hear the opinions that we had all had about each other in high school. Apparently I was one of the “cool kids”. Could have fooled me! But it was interesting to note another impression that someone had of me that I just didn’t see or understand. I don’t think I would describe myself as a cool over-achiever.
Perhaps I should start.