Yesterday was my day at the United Nations. The World Health Organization had scheduled an event for World Health Day that included discussions with some very credentialed individuals -- the associate director of WHO, deans of colleges, heads of UN committees, and other highly experienced professionals. I had heard about it through my doctoral program and attended as an adjunct instructor. I have two extremely opposite feelings and reactions to attending events like this.
On one hand, I love these events: being immersed in a social policy issue that is near and dear to my heart; hearing people who have been out there in the field for years; meeting people with more experience and training in their little finger than I have in my whole body. My god, what's not to like, to revel in? This is what I want in my own future, after all. In fact, it's what I want now, right this very minute. It's just too hard to keep thinking 'some day, some day.'
Yet, on the other hand, these events are also the quickest way to major feelings of inadequacy. Although most of these people are my age or not much older, they are so much further along in their professional journey that I can never hope to catch up in my wildest dreams. Hell, I didn't get to go to college till I was 30, and since I've had to do my Ph.D. part time, that alone has taken me six years so far.
Yes, I know, I've come so far from where I started, and all my friends hasten to point that out when I start obsessing. But lots and lots of people have overcome odds much greater than mine, and even they are far ahead of me. I took a step backward in my career to go from the Executive Director of a small nonprofit to become a lowly research associate at a large university. Yes, I know I made that change because the other job was challenging my doctoral studies in terms of time. But it was still a lousy move in terms of my future career. Not only was it a downstep, but it took me completely out of the social welfare policy arena. It just doesn't fit well on my resume.
And that's when I begin to question myself: who do I think I am to think I can teach well; what makes me think I'm any kind of writer, that I can succeed in that realm; I'll never get to where I want, need to be in my professional life. And really, it's not so farfetched to think it is beyond my grasp. I'm easily running 15 years behind most of the professionals in my field in terms of experience. And it makes me wonder what it is that separates me from them. It comes to mind that it just might be the drive. I begin to wonder if I have the drive to succeed as a writer, professor, policy analyst. Can I really do this? Hell, can I even write a bloody dissertation that will get me by? When I procrastinate so in the writing of the dissertation, it truly points heavily toward what must be a lack of drive.
And so, I ended the day with that dual struggle heavy in my mind and on my heart: wanting to be there now, and yet wondering if I ever will be.