Our last post featured Katti, a paraeducator and applied behavior analyst therapist who is also a master's candidate in Curriculum Instruction at Merrimack College. During my interview with Katti, I was struck by how clear her goal was going into college: get an education minus the debt.
For Katti, this goal meant making financial aid packages a priority and working full-time. Katti acknowledges that the sacrifices she made came in the form of a barely-there social life, but that ultimately, she was thrilled with where she was now and that she wouldn’t change anything about her journey.
Katti’s college path is unique and it reminded me of how important it is to approach life with an open mind. As people, we often judge. We judge ourselves (some of us way too harshly), and we judge others (often without merit). Deciding what path you’re going to take, making tough calls, changing academic or career directions—all of it comes with the added burden of what I call the “comparison olympics”. We look to our friends, our peers, our colleagues and we think that we’re doing something wrong or should be doing differently based on the successes and directions of those around us.
STOP. We are all coming at this with different backgrounds, different experiences, different skills, and different priorities. Your journey to college, through college, or post-college is not going to look like anyone else’s, it’s simply not feasible. If your number one priority is graduating debt-free, then you’re going to have to make some choices that might look different than someone who’s number one priority is graduating from their dream school, regardless of the debt they might incur. Neither is better than the other, they’re simply different.
Respect your journey, but don’t forget to ascribe that same respect to the paths others are choosing to go down. At the end of the day, the college experience should work for you and your goals. It shouldn’t be a cookie-cutter recipe and to look at it that way is to eliminate any leeway for the nuance that is built into this messy thing we call life.
Katti knew what worked for her and what her priorities were going into college. I admire her ability to hone in on her goal of graduating debt-free and working tirelessly to achieve it. It couldn’t have been easy to juggle a full-time job and a full class schedule, but she did it and most importantly, she did it on her own terms.
I respect her journey, I respect your journey, and I respect my own.