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Friday, January 27, 2006


How I Found My Purpose: Chapter 4

WARNING - this chapter is a bit depressing. Read at your own risk.

"But I'm just not HAPPY!"

So said my 19-year-old self to the doctor across the desk, who looked scarcely older than I was. "I'm not happy either," he said, "that's just the way it is."

BOOM. Another misconception crushed. I thought that a doctor might have an answer or at least an idea where to look. I was sure that anyone who had invested the vast amount of time and energy it takes to get qualified as a doctor must have this question figured out. But, he wasn't happy either. And he seemed to have accepted it as normal.

University was a rude awakening for me. I had visions of long days drinking coffee and learning deeply about fascinating things, and long nights drinking red wine and arguing passionately with other students about esoteric ideas. When I got to Manchester I found insipid first-year lectures with 400 people in them, and students who only argued passionately about whose turn it was to clean up between drink-fests. It took at least a year to find my feet, and when I did I wasn't thrilled about what I was standing on.

I was lucky in that I incurred very little student debt and was fully supported by my family - and I thank my mother for convincing me not to drop out after a family crisis and five home robberies in a year. I got the important piece of paper, but I was sure I didn't want to become a scientist. I couldn't relate to my professors; they were all much older, lived in tiny paper-strewn offices, and seemed perpetually distracted. We met the grad students our professors were supervising, and they did not seem to be alight with the love of learning and discovery. They were slogging it out for the piece of paper, too.

By now, I was getting really depressed. Is that all there is? If the smart, fun, passionate, life-long learners weren't at university, then where on earth were they? Perhaps the doctor was right. Maybe my expectations of life were too high. When everyone else was applying for jobs, I was applying for a work visa to go to Canada for the summer before taking up an excellent opportunity created for me by regular my summer employer. It was a good job, even if it was in something I wasn't terribly interested in. If this was as good as it gets, I would have one last fling before settling down to reality.

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----BOOM. Another misconception crushed. I thought that a doctor might have an answer...

I had a similar experience with a school guidance counselor. I went to him, looking for answers and all I got was
"sorry that's not my job, i just keep up with grades and test scores" What a useless activity when he could've been actually guiding kids.
"...love of learning..."

That's part of my definition of an educated person.
I remember a similar moment of disgust/disillusionment. My oldest son was 8 and I was desperately trying to get the school board to recognize his learning ability and admit him into some sort of gifted program...anything to alleviate the hideous boredom and intellectual isolation he was experiencing in a regular classroom. The SERT at his school, was reluctant to test or admit anyone, he did not readily see as gifted. He was certain my son was not. Further he said, if my son was bored, he might just as well get used to it because most people find their jobs and life boring and this experience would be good training.

Ahhhh, the sweet taste of enlightenment!
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