I recently encountered one of my former schoolmates in one of the towns of this country while on my attachment. How I remembered him and how he appeared was so different that I did not recognize him at first. He had been a shy, retiring and introspective young gentleman of the flavor that can be easily forgotten. He was now more confident, walking with shoulders straight, an easy smile, and once we got to talking, very certain of his opinions but open to ideas.
I was impressed, here was this young man for whom I could never have spared the time of day before and here I was now, secretly hoping he would be asking me out before the night ended.
So we got talking, and landed on the subject of campus and how it had affected him. One of the things he said that stuck with me is that ‘Apart from getting a presentable degree in campus, I got the confidence to be me and be able to talk to people I considered superior to me because I finally realized everyone has their part to contribute to the world and if ever I keep considering what people think of me, I’ll end up hating myself. Realizing that was my most successful moment.’
I kept wondering what exactly would make me conclude that I had made a success of my college life. Would it be getting a first class, getting the love of my life, having fun till I dropped or finally being able to be me, privately and publicly without being ashamed of it?
In Eighteenth century England, your class determined every aspect of your life, from birth till death. Children of rich people had tutors. The boys were prepared for college and the girls went to finishing school. But real progress occurred when the middle classes demanded a higher standard of success from themselves, which led to the diminishing importance of the titled classes. Mothers sent daughters to finishing school and success was decreed only when the girl was socially acceptable and deemed ‘good marriage material’. Women’s suffrage demanded that girls and young ladies demand more from themselves than just being marriage material leading to where we are today.
I ended the evening a bit awed of this person who before had never once crossed my mind and I promised myself that I would sit down and outline exactly what I would consider success at the end of college. It called to mind something on of my icons Nelson Mandela once said, that “….as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same…” So, how will you define your success? Will it be based on social equanimity as in eighteenth century England or will it be based on your own, thought-out standards? Will your success let others achieve theirs? Think about it, and have a good one.