It’s a common mantra that many people emphasize on- do what matters. It’s a nice thing to say, catchy and sensitive, but when you start applying it to your daily life in all the small and big decisions, it has the power to change things.
I finished my Bachelor’s degree a few months ago. From a gal who never planned to go to college and could not meet the basic admission requirements to get in, it was a big accomplishment for me to finish successfully.
But an even bigger accomplishment, I thought, was when I got accepted into Graduate School. It was something I never dreamed of. When I started my undergrad I would have laughed in your face if you told me I would consider spending more of my life pursing another degree. But somewhere along the road in my undergrad I started to set my sights higher… Graduate school, grad student, masters… wow, that sounds prestigious.
I would really “be” somebody, I thought. I would have a great career, I thought. People would be proud of me, I thought.
I thought those things were important.
When I entered the last year of my undergrad people started asking what my plans were. I wasn’t really sure because I didn’t know what I wanted my “career” to look like. I’ve always been a very free-spirited person. I just wanted to spend my life doing the things I loved, I didn’t have career plans that would get me a great job, like nursing, social worker, or being a teacher. I didn’t know I needed a title, so I found myself scrambling to find one.
I started looking into graduate programs that would follow my degree. I looked at the job outlook and pay, it all seemed good. And if I pursued my Masters it would mean being a student for another three years which felt safe.
As I neared the end of my undergrad, the pressure to make a decision was on. 1) go into my masters, and spend three years in intense study while working, or 2) continue to work full time, and finish my novel. I couldn’t make the decision. I was afraid that I would make the wrong one. Afraid if I would regret something. Afraid what people will think, or, won’t think.
There we have it.
The girl who never really cared what the hell people thought about her actually cared what they would think about this.
I won’t lie, it felt good when I got the nod of approval when I told people I was pursuing my Master’s. I felt esteemed when people congratulated me. It made me feel important, it made me feel smart. All the wrong reasons to do it.
I had a meeting with my career counselor a couple months back and she said to me, “…what is your goal when you are done the program?” I just looked at her. “I don’t know.” I said. “What do you love to do?” She asked. “Write. Besides having a job, I want to write full time.”
She looked at me and said, “you have to make the decision, I don’t have a clear answer for you, I feel like you already know what it is.”
The deadline finally approached and I made a decision. I convinced myself to do my Master’s because it felt like the “smartest” way to go. I completed my first class with an A, but it didn’t give me any satisfaction. Contrary to the accomplishment I feel when I complete a chapter in my novel.
I began asking myself many questions, envisioning what my life would look like the next three years being in school. The more I thought about it the more I realized that pursing this degree was not important to me. I asked myself what I really cared about, and doing a Master’s didn’t make the list. I was carrying around something that had no value to me, I had to lay it down.
When you start doing what matters, you start saying “no” to things. You pick and choose battles. You give room for grace. You savor the things, the people, and the days that are closest to your heart and all the other things fall away. Everything else is just extra whip cream; good, but not necessary.
We all have responsibilities and sacrifices to make, but in the midst of that, are you doing what matters? I want to encourage you to think about that. Do you know what’s important to you? Are you spending too much time on something, or somebody that is sucking the life out of you? Is the real you hiding beneath a layer of expecations of what you think society says your life should look like? If you want to be a doctor, do that. If you want to eat cheese in Paris, plan it. If you want to be a barista, go for it. I challenge you to reflect on what’s important, and do those things.
Hi. My name is Sarah. What matters to me is my family, flipping my home, travelling every year, painting in the night, reading at my desk, and working at a job that gives me the ability to do all these things.
Most importatly, I am a writer, and I am enough.