I once spoke to a friend, a college graduate of some years with a promising career, about my own plans after graduation. When I said that I intended to go for a doctorate straight after obtaining my bachelor’s, she looked at me incredulously. “Why are you wasting your talents on graduate school?” she asked. “You’re creative and smart, go find a job.”
To me, her view displays some common flaws that we often use when viewing others’ life choices.
From many an outsider’s view, I’m putting my life on hold. My peers will be accepting real jobs and making real money that will go towards their first homes, new cars and vacations, while I’ll be living off a graduate student’s stipend and for all appearances be stuck in school for five to six more years.
What my friend didn’t see in my master plan of life is an ultimate career goal as an industry researcher – one who designs computing products and solutions every day to improve lives and change the way people think about human-computer interaction. However, such a position requires intensive training in research methodologies, human psychology and principles of design – training that is best obtained through, you guessed it, an intensive doctorate degree program and the research experience that comes hand in hand with it.
Sometimes, in order to achieve your goals, you have to backtrack a little, or take a path that to others appears like you are settling for less. Maybe you chose to stay in-state for college for financial reasons; maybe you had to take a lighter course load so you could work part time to pay for your education. No matter how large or small, some choices are inevitably seen as inferior to others simply because they aren’t the “best” option. However, as long as you are certain that your choices are leading you towards your goals, why care what others think? They don’t know the full story. You haven’t given up. You’re simply doing what’s best for the short term, establishing a firm foundation from which you can climb to even greater heights. After all, the only one who can truly make your journey through life a fulfilled, contented experience is yourself.