03/15/2005: "a bell curve perspective"
Last night I went to an intimate St. Patrick's Day warm-up get-together. That I attended a thinly-veiled drinking party is in and of itself an extreme rarity, but the company I was keeping was pretty unique as well. Out of the seven people in the room, at least one is a doctoral candidate, and two others tenured university professors. They are the nicest people you'll ever meet, but boy, hanging around in a crowd like that can sure take the shine off your ego in short order.
I don't consider myself the smartest person in the world by any means. I could never even qualify for Jeopardy, and Mensa certainly hasn't been begging for my membership, but I do like to think that I'm well-rounded, fairly well-informed, and generally intelligent. Lemme tell you, that belief peels off quicker than an amateur stripper when you're in the company of academia's finest.
I did have an excellent time, lest you get the wrong impression. I got to play snooker for the first (second, and third) time in ages (even if I was vicously trounced in all but one game), got some much needed dog time with a very cute, beautiful, and nippy Lab, drank some very fine English cider, and generally enjoyed myself. Sadly, rubbing elbows with members of the local intellectual elite left an old wound freshly bruised.
It all goes back to my own university days. I was a near-excellent student in highschool, but quickly fell below "average" in university to hover somewhere between "mediocre" and "acceptable". I obviously got through with my degree, but graduate work certainly wasn't (and isn't) in the picture. Although I didn't seem bothered by it during school - at least that I realized - I now see that it's given me something of an inferiority complex, or at the very least a fear of academic and professional inadequacy.
All that probably would have simply faded away with time, were it not for my being fired from my job back in 2002. That was a pretty painful incident in and of itself, further exacerbated by not being able to find real work for 13 months afterwards. Those wounds will eventually heal as well, but now that I'm once again looking for work not even 3 years later and I'm already 4 months into my search with only one current lead on the go, my professional ego has been battered and bruised.
There are two ways I can see to boost my self-confidence again. One would be to finally land a job I really enjoy, perform well at, and stay at for 5+ years. The other would be to go into business for myself. While being self-employed is always riskier, I get a great feeling of accomplishment by actually doing things, so building a business could be extremely rewarding. Of course, neither of these fixes are by any means quick, so it's going to be some time before I'm feeling self-assured again. The only quick fix would be to win the lottery, ditch working altogether, and tinker my time away. Sadly, my tickets simply don't co-operate.
So, what did I learn in all this? I shouldn't have driven. I drove myself, and therefore limited myself to one excellent English cider when I got there. It gave me a nice buzz, which I allowed to wear off before I left for home. Next time, I'll get a ride or take a cab so I can keep drinking. My snooker game will improve, and my brain won't give a flying leap about professional or academic self-worth for the evening.