It’s been a little over a month since I’ve left neuroscience graduate school to pursue a new career. My journey is currently facing the double edge sword brought about by change. Early on, I quickly realized that with avid support comes great cynicism. Handshakes and hugs are equaled by looks of misunderstanding and intimidation, and admiration is met with jealousy. And yet every morning I face the world with a smile, my head held high as I keep on truckin’, because after all, America assures us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” -Bobby Kennedy
My biography is about as unorthodox as the trail that I’m currently blazing. Born in Moscow (Russia), my family and I moved to Munich (Germany) at the age of 4. I spent my golden years of childhood there, years that pass too quickly we can all agree. Before my 10th birthday I was back in a foreign land, finding myself outcast, deaf and mute to my English speaking surroundings – welcome to America!
Middle school memories consist of agitating teachers and being afraid of the word gay. High school transformed a football playing freshman into a guitar loving hippie graduate. College brought about clippers, a polished resume, and a straight path to graduate school. Sound familiar? Yes, as soon as I moved to Indiana, I found my spot in the assembly line of suburban upper middle class.
And so I remained an average straight shooter headed to grad school, convinced that the white picket fence I was heading for would lead me to ultimate happiness. As soon as I got a taste of East Coast freedom however, I knew it was not to be. I veered left, put on my sunglasses, and never looked back.
[Flash Forward: Part 3 – From Stress to Success]
Nowadays, I hardly believe that a resume on steroids is the key to personal success. Sure, a Harvard education and an MBA will never stand in your way. But through the stories of my friends, through passersby’s who have shared words of wisdom with me, and through a democracy that enshrines its people, I am convinced that a clear vision, good values, and hard work will ultimately reward themselves in success.
True, it is hard not to be deterred by the obstacles in the road. My lack of environmental experience doesn’t offer me much hope. The flood of blogs on the web seems to drown out my own ambitions. I’ve started a new job and the hours leave me feeling tired and unmotivated. But I have no time to worry; I know I am only another victim of my own humanity. No matter how hard we work and no matter how polished we seem, ultimately our aspirations in life rest in overcoming our human insecurities and finding peace within our hearts and minds. The key to success is therefore welcoming and overcoming obstacles as they come. As long as we do not allow our positivity to be taken over by the shadows of despair, we will be just fine. The American dream is not rooted in a resume, it is rooted in optimism. The seeds of hope ultimately lead to happiness, but seeds do not sprout if we do not water and nourish them.
And so I hit the open road, convinced I am going somewhere but having no idea how I’m getting there or where I am. Already, the detours, road blocks, and dead ends make my journey seem endless. But my ride is brand new, and it has a lot of miles to go before it breaks down. What I’m really looking for is a pit stop. Somewhere that I can call home for at least a few months; show my ability and passion, get my hands dirty, recharge, and refuel. Maybe acquire a road map that will help direct my way. I’m working to find that pit stop soon and I can sniff it coming my way. In the meantime, my journey carries on. I will continue to attend public lectures and environmental events in the hopes of meeting a mentor. I will keep independently expanding my knowledge by reading and writing. And maybe, just maybe, one day I will get that opportunity to change the world.
What ended up happening to me? Read Part 3 here, the conclusion.
Why I quit my PhD Program. Read Part 1 here, the beginning.