“The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.” (from Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, spoken word song by Baz Luhrmann)
Yesterday my father learned that one of my friends from college has been working for the United Nations and gets to travel the globe regularly. He nonchalantly asked my mom why I didn’t get a similar job. I wasn’t present during the conversation, and learned about it only later from my mom (who of course defended me by throwing the same question back at him, lol). Either my father meant well and wanted to nudge me a little towards getting a more lucrative career, or he sees me as a failure for not getting such a fabulous job.
Which now kind of puts me in a defensive position. I wanted to say that I have probably accomplished way more than what most of the people I know have. I wanted to boast that I have actually traveled to about 10 countries in Asia, Europe, and Australia, not to mention most of the major islands in the Philippines. I wanted to brag that I have both a master’s and a doctorate degree, that I received those degrees before I hit 30, and that I am an alumna of the most prestigious university in the land and an imperial university in Japan (equivalent of Ivy League schools in the US). I wanted to flaunt that I have published in international scientific journals, and am known by and have worked with some of the best people and scientists in the fields of ecology, environmental science, and conservation, and have mentored countless students who are now successful in their respective careers.
If you look at my resume, in all its multiple-page, font 11, single-spaced glory, you would maybe hesitate to question my success in life.
But alas, different people use different rulers to measure success, and unfortunately, one’s annual salary seems to be the most common ruler.
Like many of my friends and family know, I quit full time teaching and research, and am about to become a freelancer. This is completely uncharted territory for me, as my life up until now seemed to have been patterned after a typical college professor’s career track. I am not guaranteed a stable source of income for the next (hopefully few) months, and will live off the small sum I have in my bank account.
I feel like Commodus in the movie Gladiator, when he said to his father Marcus Aurelius,
“You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: Wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance. As I read the list, I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition. That can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness, courage, perhaps not on the battlefield, but… there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family and to you. But none of my virtues were on your list.”
I have other virtues, but they probably are not on everybody’s list. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my father and he loves me, even though he can be tactless at times, and we sometimes don’t see eye to eye).
Just the same, I am not going to live my life trying to measure up to people’s expectations. I try not to give a flying crap about other people’s opinions of me. (It’s a struggle to do this sometimes, as I grew up trying to make everybody like me, and if you know of a good way to exercise this, please contact me asap).
If it were up to me, my resume would read something like this:
• Saved hundreds of animals from certain death
• Helped save the planet by living a clean and green life
• Planted hundreds/thousands of trees and other plants
• Can tell you the scientific names, common names, and other taxonomic details and descriptions of hundreds of species of plants and animals (and maybe a few protists, fungi, and bacteria)
• Loves her family and friends very much
• Has had a very colourful love life (I had to write this, lol)
• Plays a little guitar and ukulele
• Loves to sing and knows the lyrics to hundreds of songs from the 50s to the present
• Can eat a bowl of Lucky Me pancit canton in 30 seconds flat
• Makes a great cup of coffee, and amazing vegetarian sandwiches
• A student of life, and eager to learn about the great truths of the universe
When I was 22, I felt like I knew what I wanted to do. But I will be 40 in roughly 4 years, and I am now not too sure what I really want to do! But according to the Baz Luhrmann song, it’s ok; at least I will be a very interesting 40-year old! 😉