Like many graduate students, I’ve recently been presented with choices that will certainly define my near future and most likely determine my life path.
What would I choose to research if I had absolute free reign (and reasonable resources)?
How long do I want to stay in school/What is the optimum ratio of time spent in school to benefits received?
When will I finally get to be a “big girl”?
Being the person that I am, I decided to spend a lot of time on TED talks looking for inspiration from people “like me”, meaning that many have similar educational backgrounds and an open world in front of them. It also refers to my bucket list: one item is to be invited to give a TED talk. It’s right below “visit Machu Picchu” and above “scuba dive with sharks”. A girl can dream.
I’d like to share what I found.
First is Brene Brown’s talk about vulnerability. For anybody who is having difficulty deciding how to put one foot in front of the other, her talk is freeing. Instead of talking ourselves out of being our best self, she encourages us to be our biggest fans, embracing the vulnerability that comes with stepping outside of the lines. Whatever those lines might mean for us. Her talks will leave you with a sense of belonging, that you are not the only person who is experiencing doubt and questioning your worth and worthiness. If TED talkers, some of the brightest and most influential people on the planet, go through this, then it’s not a big deal if we do too. In fact, it is what makes us better people.
Similarly, I found J.K. Rowling’s 1998 Harvard Commencement Address. Anybody who knows anything about her story also knows that she is one of the most inspiring people on the planet – that it is possible to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of life. Don’t confuse her, though, because there is no wallowing here. She warns that there is an expiration date on how long you can blame your parents or circumstances for your outcomes. Her speech is uplifting and refocuses the conversation from “how can I check the boxes to be most successful?” to “how can I have a life of meaning?”. A few of my favorite excerpts of her speech from the text version:
“You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.”
“…written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.”
And the most powerful of all, from the lady who experienced and created Dementors:
“If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
Now I have even more to think about, but that’s alright because I’m not alone. If your head is foggy like mine (and this northeastern weather!), I hope that these brilliant minds help to part it – for a little while at least.