I recieved a tiny amount of money in the mail this weekend from the university. It was from a travel grant I applied for to help fund a trip I may not or may not even go on in April, but it’s intended to help cover some portion of the costs associated with the trip. When I opened the envelope and I saw the check I got a little excited, I mean money is money right? Looking over the rest of the paperwork, there was a small 2 word phrase in the tax information section that made me take a step back and really give myself a doubletake and think…. In the small space where the name of the income source or purpose is typically given it was printed “research award.”
I understand that a tiny amount of money from a student friendly program at a small state school isn’t exactly a tremendous fellowship or anything, but it gave me a real sense of what’s possible. Confidence so to speak. But that little bit of reassurance makes the world of difference to me these days.
For a long time I’ve struggled with balancing the notion that I am plenty smart enough for academics against the insecurity that convinces me that I’d be in over my head and would slip into mediocrity. It’s a rough balance, especially when i know that the insecurity is bullshit. Something clicked when I opened that envelope though. Something about the words ‘research award’ just confirmed for me, internally, that the academic endeavor really is NOT beyond my reach or my capabilities. If I choose to pursue higher education seriously as a career I know I can do it successfully.
With this bit of reassurance I can rest a easier in the face of the career options I have in front of me. When I apply to a graduate program, I can do so without hesitation, understanding that when I’m accepted I can be completely awesome. If I eschew a doctoral program, or am otherwise turned away, I can engage in the job market and whatever fortunes it bears, comfortably and without regret because I feel that I could succeed in academia and won’t have to live out my life just wondering what could have been. I can move forward.
Of course, I’d rather the program simply accept my application and we go on from there (with financial aid and a fellowship to boot ). But like the man says, ” you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you’ll get what you need”.