Determinations of success

With graduation just around the corner for this year’s seniors, many upperclassmen have started looking forward, thinking about their careers and what real life will bring for them. When planning ahead, most Washington University students consider the prospect of having a family without a career or becoming some sort of activist to be an anathema. But just because you aren’t successful in business doesn’t mean you are “wasting” your degree.

Many people attend Wash. U. (or similar institutions) as a way to set themselves up for a future career. Whether it be in business or medicine, a large chunk of students here have polished, with intricate detail, their five- or 10-year plans. I am one of those students. I like planning things out.

But, I recognize the fact that my plans probably will change, and life will throw just about anything my way. I recognize the fact that my time here is about more than setting myself up for a career. It doesn’t matter what I ultimately do with my life; my time at Wash. U. will have been well spent regardless of what my work is. Even if I live at home to take care of the kids, I think that would be OK.

A college education isn’t all about making sure that you are going to get a good job. A college education is about bettering yourself. It’s about learning information about the world, experiencing life and a way of thinking, and spending time with some of the greatest minds in the world. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m not more successful than other people.

Success is defined by so many other factors than just the monetary. We don’t always have to be the best at everything; we don’t always have to be world renowned. I say to be successful, you just have to find something you love—regardless of what it is— and do it. Your goal shouldn’t be to make the most money. Rather, it should be to enjoy your life as much as you can and to try to contribute a little bit to society, a goal that can be reached in any profession.

I’m not saying that you should strive to be a house-spouse if you don’t want to. But if the situation arises in which you are one, you shouldn’t think that you have “wasted” your education or that your time at Wash. U. was any less valuable. There is inherent value in an education outside of what kind of success it brings you in the real world. An education is a way to enhance yourself, to improve who you are as a human being. That is valuable in and of itself.

I say if you find a situation in which you are doing something that makes you happy but isn’t under the conventional definition of success, more power to you. Don’t listen to other people when they say that you aren’t successful. Value isn’t determined like that. You are a Wash. U. graduate, regardless of what your career is. You spent four years learning about the world and the way it works, and you have a higher level of knowledge than most people in the world could ever hope to attain.

Does that necessarily need to be applied all the time? No. I think that having a degree and working at a job do not go hand in hand. If you can be happy somewhere, you should do it, regardless of whether or not you are making boatloads of money in the process.

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