What do you do with your Harvard degree?
I graduated from Harvard in 2013, just 1.5 years ago. There’s a lot I can say about my experience, how much I’ve learned and grown and changed from those four years there. I am sure that no matter which college I went to, I would have learned and grown and changed as well.
But there’s a phenomenon that happened to me, that I only realize now. It’s this pride that was lurking in my subconsciousness, that I adamantly insisted I didn’t have. You see, when you get into a name-brand college like Harvard, after a few months or years, you get jaded. You forget how excited you were, on the verge of tears, when you received that acceptance letter. Everything becomes about how sucky that problem set is, or how you’d rather just stay in and sleep instead of meeting the Prime Minister of some foreign country at a dinner.
Even so, even after I realized how truly blessed I was (and I had to remind myself of this so many times), after I’ve graduated, I feel like I have some kind of responsibility. A responsibility to live up to society’s expectations: “Wow you have a Harvard degree! You must be really smart!”
What is “smart” supposed to be, anyways? Getting straight A’s? Testing well? I know so many people at Harvard who have graduated to become head of some awesome start-up, or working at Goldman Sachs and Deloitte and BCG, or going to Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Medical School. They’ve gone to Yale Law or work as part of an NGO. So many awesome things that they are all pursuing, and yet, you never hear about the silent leaders.
The ones that go into teaching, to mobilize educators around them, in their school. The ones that go into art or film or architecture, because that doesn’t bring in a lot of money - thus less prestige. Those that go into ministry, or create a travel blog, or whatever it is. When people from Harvard break out of the “traditional” mold of what is deemed successful, it’s an anomaly, and some may even judge them as failures, as people who weren’t good enough, didn’t have a high enough GPA to do the traditional track, or even people who couldn’t handle the pressure.
I don’t get it. But I also do. Because that’s what I tell myself all the time. I’m currently a dental student, 2nd year, and I realize that a large part of why I’m here is because it’s expected of me to go into a professional school. It seems, on the outside, to be a stable career with financial guarantees. Sure, I’ll take $400,000 in loans for school, never mind another $100,000~$300,000 for a business loan. But is money really everything?
And if not, then is pursuing something for the sake of “living up to the Harvard expectation” worth it?
If I were to quit right now, I know there are people in dental school and my peers from Harvard who might think that I dropped out because of failed academics. Or because I was emotionally weak. My will wasn’t strong enough. They don’t voice it, but it’s all a part of an expectation — Harvard or not, all of those name-brand things aside. People expect everyone to want what society deems to be “successful” and when someone says, “Actually no I’m going to do something I’m passionate about,” they remind you of all the practical reasons why you shouldn’t, why it’s so risky, why it’s not as stable.
Who are we living for?? People? Society? Family, children, spouses? Ourselves? NO. We’re living for God, and if I can serve God better in another field, another “less respected” or “less stable” or “less lucrative” job, then why should I hesitate if I trust God’s provision, His will?
Because of a lack of faith that only God can restore.