On failure and sunk cost [Part 2]
I'm so pleased with the response to my first failure post! It's scary to talk openly about things that make us feel vulnerable, but it seems that we all have a lot in common.
This post is more about academia than the working world, so it may be slightly less relatable, but you can just read on and swap out "Masters" with "big dumb goal" in your head.
Jill of all trades, Master of none
Earlier this year, I registered to do my Masters degree at the WITS School of Arts. I'd applied in early 2016, but been waitlisted (sign from the universe, anyone?), so I was keeping it pretty quiet. However, on the day I picked up my student card, I figured "hey, it's the point of no return! I guess I can talk about this now." I made a big exciting post on Facebook, announcing to everyone that I would be studying part time. I got a ton of positive feedback from friends and family - of course, why else would I put it on Facebook?
After my first class, I was already having doubts. The course was only "part time", our professor warned, because it was so intensive. It had to be spread out over two years because there was so much work involved. We should expect to spend 25 hours per week on our assignments. It made me nervous, but I figured that was normal.
I spent the next week racking up 20 hours of reading for our first batch of coursework. Just reading - I hadn't even gotten to the writing bit. I was freaking out - the texts we were working with were interesting, but so conceptually dense. They dealt with political and sociological terms and precedents that I'd never heard of, so I required even further reading just to understand the vocabulary. The course outline didn't seem to cover much of what I really wanted to learn. None of it was what I'd been expecting.
Was it my own fault for not doing enough research on that specific course before diving in? Probably. It seems ludicrous for someone to want to drop out of a Masters-level course because there is too much reading involved. I think it came as a shock because I knew people who had done their postgrad degrees through the Digital Arts department, where there was a much larger focus on practical course work. Either way, I wasn't prepared and I was panicking. I'd just started a freelance business 6 months earlier! What made me think I could handle a commitment like this? The person I could relate to the most in the world was G.O.B. from Arrested Development. I'd made a huge mistake.
And so it was that almost exactly a year since my last ridiculous life decision, I dropped out of Masters in the first week. Is this my life now? Have I been allocated one (1) Dumb Thing™ to do once a year, every year, until I kick the bucket? Man, January 2018 is going to suck.
I've always been one of those people who cares a little to much about what people think of me. I'm working on that, but it takes time. So the worst part of dropping out wasn't the admin or even being disappointed in myself - it was the fact that I'd made this big public fuss about starting a cool new chapter of my life.
In my last story, I hadn't made a big deal of the fact that I was moving to Big Agency, so people who hadn't heard what really happened likely just assumed I had moved straight from Social Media Agency to Fitness Job. This time around, I'd gone and tooted my own horn about going back to university, and in my head, I was convinced I was well on my way to gaining a reputation as That Girl Who Quits Stuff.
Naturally, the easiest way to tell people was to just not tell anyone. I only mentioned it to people who asked directly how my Masters was going. I didn't even tell my best friend or my parents until THEY brought it up. In fact, this this the first time I'm just coming out and telling the internet about it. Hello internet. I quit stuff.
I think what made it especially embarrassing was that after my sadness about the Big Agency Incident had worn off, I felt flush with wisdom and badassery. "Look at me," I could say. "I'm a girl who knows what she wants. Listen to your gut, like me, and it will never steer you wrong." It felt like this brand new bad decision was a bolt of humility straight from Zeus. "Hey dumbass!" he said. "You still have no idea what you're doing!"
In reality, y'all don't care. Nobody is going to go home to their families and go, "Did you hear Jess screwed up again? What an idiot. Let's scroll through her Facebook pictures from 2007 and mock them." I am a tiny part of other people's lives and nobody is judging me that closely. Our own insecurities tend to shape how we see ourselves, and dwarf whatever internal judgement we might pass on others. It's kind of comforting, in a weird way, to know that almost nobody will notice or care if you mess up at work, or gain some weight, or trip and flash your butt to everyone at Cinnabon Clearwater Mall. Twice. Hypothetically. So maybe stop beating yourself up all the time.
Come back tomorrow to find out how I'm going to learn from these mistakes and avoid repeating them! So I can make shiny new mistakes!