I am the product of an elite education. Dalton. Yale. Columbia Law.
The point of this post is not to remind you of my scholastic pedigree. No. The point is a lot more complicated. And decidedly more vulnerable. The point is hazy, but it exists. And here I sit squinting, trying to see it. Because this blogging gig? It’s not just about hawking my words and sentences. No. It’s about excavating my own neuroses. It’s about analyzing my own anxiety.
And I know better. I know that I am Me. That I am knee-deep in said neuroses and awash in said anxiety and no matter how hard I try, I probably won’t be able to arrive at an objective diagnosis. Of course not. But that won’t stop me from trying. I like a good challenge.
And I know better. That it’s one thing to have an exquisite education and glittering opportunities and incomparable connections. But it is another thing to talk about these things. And yet another to put them in writing. These are things to be thankful for, but things that should not be discussed. No. These are trappings of privilege. And privilege is a taboo subject.
Never talk about privilege.
You know what? Like so many of you, I am a bit sick of should. I am a bit perplexed by social strictures that seem a bit stiff. I am interested in honesty, in universality, in cracks. And I have cracks. They aren’t even tiny. They are big and bold and jagged. Stuffed with genuine worry, authentic questions, and notable insecurities. So maybe I am being imprudent here, but I am going to talk about the cracks.
I loved the schools I attended. Loved. And maybe this is not customary. But my experience was positive at each alma mater. I remember particular teachers. Particular books. Particular papers I wrote. Particular seminar discussions. My school days were bright and busy and, frankly, I miss them sometimes.
At school, I worked hard. Hard enough to get A’s and a sprinkling of lesser grades that made me sweat. Hard enough to graduate with an accolade or honor here and there. Hard enough to make that resume shine. Hard enough that graduation days were rich celebrations, beautiful bridges between one great place and the next. Hard enough that at the end of it all, I passed a very hard and miserable exam, and landed gracefully at a high wattage Manhattan law firm.
And at that law firm, I did just fine. I was an efficient and ebullient cog in a well-oiled machine. I got decent reviews. I got along well with my colleagues. And then I fled. And fast.
And now. Now I am home. And working. And mothering. And writing.
Worrying about a lot of things because this is a parent’s job. But worried from time to time about one thing in particular that I have been prudent enough not to articulate to myself. Or to the masses.
Sometimes, I worry that I have wasted my education. And I know this might seem silly. Or even offensive. But sometimes I feel that with my particular degrees from my particular alma maters I should be doing more. That I should be doing something moremeaningful. That I should be helping more people, or solving environmental or political crises, or rising in the ranks at some major uber-powerful institution that does good things. Sometimes, I worry that I took plum spots at stellar schools that could have been filled by others who were a bit more hungry and a bit more ambitious to alter the flawed landscape of our world, to fix the problems that need fixing, to amount to some more conventional glossy greatness.
This is why I gave this blog its name. Because though Ivy, I’m quite insecure. (Maybebecause I am Ivy, I am particularly insecure because I am particularly aware of, and strangled by, shoulds?)
This is why I am treading tricky trenches here. Risking something. Talking a bit more openly.
Because as time passes, my own worries are becoming less opaque and I want to explore them. Because I think that in tracing the contours of my own insecurity, I am surprisingly gaining confidence. I think I am beginning to believe that my education hasn’t been wasted, but has been put to very good use.
I learned to write at these fine schools. I learned to think at these fine schools. I learned to ask questions at these fine schools.
Maybe that’s why I am willing to go there. To that raw and risky place of things not to discuss. To utter sentiments that might provoke. To ruffle pretty and peaceful feathers.
Maybe that’s why I am willing to come here. To this safe haven. To confess shards of complicated truth. To expose cracks.
Because I am finally realizing that I worked so hard, that I continue to work so hard, for a reason.
The reason? This.
This life. This family. These words. This story and its infinite and unfolding chapters.
Or maybe I have wasted it all and I am making big, bad excuses that are clever and well-told.
But I don’t think so. I don’t.
- Looking back, how do you feel about your education? Overall, was it a positive or negative experience or somewhere in between?
- Do you think you have made the most of your opportunities or do you sometimes wonder? Do you think you have succeeded because of your education or despite it?
- Do you ever have this sinking and shaky feeling that you have wasted something? Time? Love? An opportunity—educational or personal or romantic?
- Do you think that someone with two Ivy League degrees should be engaged in something more “serious” than raising kids and weaving self-indulgent words?