Small Midwestern Liberal Arts College Insecurities January 27th, 2010
It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Ivy League Insecurities, does it? But it’s where my head is lately.
Several months ago my parents and sister were in town for a weekend visit. One evening we spent a couple of hours nibbling on hors d’oeuvres and sipping cocktails in the lobby lounge of my parents’ hotel. Between talk of holiday plans and IEP’s latest party tricks, the conversation drifted to our collegiate alma maters.
Mom and Dad both attended state universities. So did my sister. GAP and I attended the same teensy-weensy liberal arts college here in the Midwest. And, for the most part, we all had highly successful experiences in undergrad. We learned academic lessons and life lessons. We each experienced fun and failure in its various forms. And we emerged into the “real world” as adults capable of providing for ourselves. Mission accomplished.
Almost everyone else in the discussion felt good about their school selection in retrospect. But I have always had something of an inferiority complex about my alma mater, which is not something that I’m proud of. It’s a school that is moderately well-known in this part of the country. People who have heard of it generally think it to be a good school. It is known for professors who care deeply about their students and spend more time teaching than researching; for an active and devoted alumnae community; and for a student body of reasonably intelligent upper middle class kids from a roughly 5-state radius.
As for my experience there… Well, I loved it. I loved every moment I spent on that campus. I was an extra-curricular super girl. I was involved in the Greek system and student government. I sang in choirs and led a Bible study. I was the upper-class mentor to a group of 15 freshmen and a resident advisor in a women’s dorm. I rarely missed a class and made good grades. To put in plainly, I flourished in college.
To look at my life today, I am hard pressed to find any aspect of my life that has suffered at the hand of my alma mater. I met my husband there. I made some wonderful friends there. My first two jobs were landed with help from a fellow alumnus. And today I’m in a challenging and rewarding career that suits my interests and talents.
So why on earth does it matter to me now how much name recognition my college has?
I should count my blessings that it was a wonderful experience that I remember fondly. I should appreciate the connections it afforded me. I should be grateful that GAP and I crossed paths there so many years ago. And I do all those things. But secretly, in my heart of hearts, I wish they’d all happened at a school with a national reputation.
If that were the case, though, how different would my life actually be? Vastly different? Probably not. I might have matured in slightly different ways; shaped by a different location and a different set of experiences. But those differences wouldn’t necessarily be for the better. Sure I might be bolder or more assertive. But I might also be less confident and self-possessed. No matter the subtle variances that may have manifested themselves in me, I am still me, not someone else. The way that I approach life, people, and decisions is uniquely mine, and would not change substantially based on four post-adolescent years.
This “what if” game doesn’t really accomplish anything. Quite frankly, I’m likely wasting time wondering when I could be out doing something purposeful. The fact of the matter is that I made my choice and it has served me well. I will never know how my story might have unfolded if I’d made a different decision. So why, oh why, does this little insecurity plague me?
I suppose we all have insecurities about little things that buzz around in our minds. We all think about the path not taken; risks not taken; chances not taken. We wonder where we might be today if we’d picked door #2 instead of door #3. Might we have found fame and fortune? Perhaps. Would we have found happiness? Who knows? At least for me, I always think about these scenarios with the assumption that the path not taken would have resulted in something better. But I’m probably remiss in that assumption. My life today is pretty great. And while I’d be a fool to wish away anything that I have, that little “what if” helps me remember to constantly strive to make more out of my life.