Sometimes we need a push to do the right thing.
When I was a sophomore in college, I realized I was unhappy, both with the school I had chosen and the major I was pursuing. So I dropped out of school, took a job at a restaurant waiting tables, and tried to figure out the next move in my life. As 19-year-olds are wont to do, I kept putting off the decision, because I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to major in. My brother-in-law, who’d graduated from college and also from medical school, saw that I was struggling with my decision. He and I had never been particularly close, but I asked him what he thought I should do.
He asked me what I was thinking. I told him I was actually thinking of returning to the school I’d left. After all, I knew the lay of the land (even if I didn’t like it), and I was part of a fraternity (even if I didn’t like the members that much). I still remember his reaction, because he laughed like I’d told him the most implausible story he’d ever heard. He looked at me, said “Let me get this straight,” and then proceeded to rattle off the reasons why I’d left this school in the first place. Once that had been established, he asked me, “So what exactly has changed? It’s the same school, the same place you disliked, and you want to go BACK there?” He shook his head like I was the dumbest kid in the world, which didn’t seem far from the truth.
Instead of pushing myself to find somewhere better, I was going to settle for the same place because it was a known quantity. Instead of doing the difficult thing and finding a new school — a college where I didn’t necessarily know anyone — I was going to slink back to a place where the familiar made me feel comfortable – at least in my mind, and at least for the time being.
His criticism made me second-guess my thinking. It made me challenge myself in ways I never had. I started researching other schools, visiting places I’d never considered. I thought long and hard about the subject I wanted to major in, found schools that specialized in that field, and then narrowed my options for new schools. My old school soon fell by the wayside.
I ended up transferring to a college that was more 1100 miles from home – more than double the distance from home as my initial school. I’m a proud and successful graduate of this university, and I often think about how easy (yet detrimental) it would have been to take the easy way out and settle for my old school. Thanks to the advice of my brother-in-law, I didn’t settle for less.
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