I started a graduate program a few days ago. It invigorated my spirit to be in a classroom again with like-minded people, but the thought of driving to school and staying up late reading dense articles about Psychology also clobbered me.
Throughout the day, I noticed how I've changed as a student from ten years ago. There are certain things I no longer panic about – speaking in front of classmates, asking several questions within the same hour, and sharing deep reflections.
My concerns now as a "mid-career" professional (older person) are around time: can I juggle this and also keep time for my other commitments, like my family, my colleagues, and The Business of Young, this fantastic engine of thoughts I want to build up for the young people I have the great privilege of working with.
My insecurities around this question crept up during a class discussion I had on Monday night. I found the teaching assistant, who is essentially a junior professor, leading the session to be very open, approachable, and honest about her experience as a graduate student.
I asked so many questions about feeling insecure and worried about the workload, working while going to school, and good (and bad) study and work habits, that I felt it was necessary to send her an email thank you-apology after my first day for being so vocal. I was positive I had annoyed the entire class!
So I sent her a note the next morning thanking her for being so great for addressing my insecurities – yes I have those. She responded later that day to thank me for being vulnerable and authentic in class, and asking questions that a lot of other students probably had, but maybe didn't feel comfortable asking. Here is what she shared with me:
I was very thankful for your vulnerability and your presence in class. This is so important in the grad school space where a lot of shame thoughts like “I should know this but I don’t” find a way in. So, thank you for creating space. I find a lot of joy in communicating that people can show up authentically in any space. – CP
If was so affirming to have this exchange with my teacher, and I want to pay this vulnerability forward with some advice to my resident young people.
It pays off to press into your vulnerability and share it with others.
We all feel insecure about experiences in our lives. When you take your armor off and face someone, you inspire them to do the same, and that's when that human to human connection happens.
Sharing my authentic self with this teacher and student made me feel more confident, and it's a conversation I will likely revisit when I face challenges at school.
I know now that I have someone to turn to – a kindred spirit who knows that I am coming from the deepest and most vulnerable part of myself, and who is there to receive it with kindness and help.