Some people I know were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Others received a plastic one. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. I’ve wondered why couldn’t I have been born lucky, and thought that if I had all these advantages, I’d be X, Y or Z. I’ve contemplated enough what-ifs to make you headbutt oncoming traffic. Truthfully, it’s not fair, but you know what isn’t fair? Life. That’s why you gotta make your own magic.
It used to bug me a lot more. Many of my fraternity brother’s families were quite well off. College was a vacation for them before the real world; a time to make connections and take those trips to the Caribbean during spring break. They never cared if they got shitty grades because they could repeat it next semester. I dreaded most breaks because I knew I’d be doing shit work at my part-time job. Many of my friends never had to worry about dues, where their tuition money was coming from or how fucked they were six months after graduation, as mommy and daddy had a cushy job at the company awaiting them and their bullshit degree.
I think everyone eventually comes to the “life’s not fair” realization; it’s part of the maturation process to adulthood. Life being unfair is nothing new to me, but I worked hard, did well in college, participated in clubs and volunteered. I never thought life would be as hard as it is. It was and is ignorance and in this case, it was best to find out the hard way. Accepting that life isn’t fair is the first step in becoming a self-aware adult and damn is it a long road.
The nice part is, now with piece of paper in hand, you can carve out a niche for yourself. Those nights staying up studying (never had one until grad school), projects with idiots that never did anything and weight gain from binge drinking and eating wing buffets will eventually pay off. Really, the only thing your diploma does is get you your first job. Everything else after that is on you. It’s the metaphorical first plank in the bridge you build to a better life. Sure, there are tons of people that get by, do well and will make more money than me without a degree, but that certainly is an exception rather than the rule.
One of the best pieces of advice given to me was “make yourself useful.” My old boss/good friend Andrew taught me the importance to become invaluable and it is quite true. Recently, my unit lost funding so I had to find a new job. The new job is not something I enjoy (and came with a slight pay decrease), but there was opportunity, namely antiquated technology and excessive red tape. I knew how to automate their survey intakes so that they did not need to hire students to do data analysis. It saved time and money and made everyone look good.
The reason I mention this is because there are opportunities to make a shit situation better. Reviews of the program went from 55% positive to 90% positive. I went back through all the evaluations, noticed a trend and fixed it. Now I’m applying for other jobs and my boss is trying to pay me more to keep me from leaving. I even get a few cool notes on my resume. Once you do something like that, it’s there forever.
A lot of life boils down to what you want out of it. “There’s always a bigger fish” will always be true; there will always be someone bigger, faster, smarter, better looking, luckier, whatever. Work on things that you can, identify what you want and do something each day towards that goal. They can be big or small, but as long as you’re moving in the right direction, you’re making your own magic..
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