I know a lot of people who went to grad school. Comes with the territory I suppose. Some with me, many and most, not. I like working with, collaborating with, and checking in with my grad school cohort from time-to-time. We’re all doing quite well in life-happy, healthy, employed, and it’s really nice to be able to say hello, send a friendly text, email, or smoke signal in the form of a snapchat.
I’ve recently started noticing a few things. Some of the people in my life have what I’d like to call “Al Bundy Syndrome.” Remember Al from Married with Children? The show was a bit crude but our friend Al Bundy did nothing but relive high school for the duration of the show, it was one of the themes. He obsessed about his high school football career, fantasized about girls he wasn’t ever going to be near, and “won” the trophy at least 50 times.
On one hand, Al Bundy is my hero. He could constantly see himself in the best light, only to come around and realize that his kids were brats and his wife was lazy, albeit a hilarious ensemble of personalities. On the other, I felt bad for Al. His life had not gone the way he’d planned and instead of facing reality, he chose to head off to fairy tale land as often as he could. I’ve got quite a few people around me lately that have headed off to fairy tale land. While it’s fun to reminisce about times past, it can be great to catch up with old friends and fellow grad school survivors, I caution this because sometimes, it can become a detriment.
This might span more than just grad school. These folks think that it “WAS THE BEST TIME EVER” so much so, that at least one has returned with no job and no degree to just “hang out.” This might be indicative of a larger problem beyond what I’m discussing here. Others will constantly post on social media about how great it all was, how they hate their current jobs, and how they’d do anything to just come back here and ‘re-live those days.’ It’s fun to quote S*^t Academics Say and follow #whatshouldwecallgradschool on tumblr, but when reality sets in, coming back to grad school town and trying to relive those days would be an utter disappointment.
Grad school is a stage in life, not a perpetual lifestyle. It’s an experience like no other. Meaning, it’s the polar opposite of a jimmy buffett concert.
If you’re always saying how great it was, you’re missing out on the present. Al Bundy missed out on life, even if it wasn’t what he imagined because he was too busy trying to go back. There’s lots of value in reflection but at some point, we have to keep moving forward.
The rose colored glasses are nice, but they’re not permanent. If you’re stuck with those rose colored glasses on, is everything ok in your current ‘present?’ Sometimes, when we’re eager to stay in the past, it’s because something is quite wrong in our present. I have a colleague who does nothing but say how great every other place she lived was so great because she is very unhappy right now but while I knew her in grad school, she hated it but loved the prior places. See how this works? It’s a pattern. It’s ok to wear those rose colored glasses for a while and put them on, but taking them off is equally important. I’m not saying you should break those glasses into a million pieces, but sometimes, we avoid the present because it’s not going well.
If grad school was the best time of your life, then I’m jealous and envious of you. I liked many parts of grad school, but as a whole experience, it wasn’t my best time in life for various reasons. I can reflect now on the positive AND negative aspects of it and yes, I like catching up with friends as much as the next person, but I’m also eager to move forward with my professional and personal aspirations.
To make a long story short, don’t be like Al. Life might be super sucky right now, but was grad school really any better?