I went to high school with a girl (call her E) at a school known not so much for its academics as its artsy focus. She and I were the only two students taking a specific advanced class, and we were friendly, but not the kind of friends you keep in touch with after school. I’ve Googled her before, so I had a sense of what she’s been up to, but something triggered the search again the other day, and I scoped out her latest - after spending two years on the faculty of Well-Known Midcountry School, she’s now on the faculty at Very Prestigous New England University. She’s my age and she’s already been working as a tenure-track professor for three years. I’m on leave from a program I can only hope to finish in another two or three (or five) years.
It’s not the path I want to take anymore, nor was it ever really my path, but even so, it’s hard not to compare. She’s completed her graduate training at a top-notch school, married a colleague, and been hired into not one but two Name Brand Schools. She’s also a rocket scientist/brain surgeon, speaks 20 languages, and can recite the alphabet backwards
in high heels
on a tightrope
over a pit of alligators
who are hungry.
Last week I was a human tissue. Today I was a jungle gym.
I’m not saying she has the better deal, not at all. I’m where I am because this is what I wanted, this is where I put my time, energy and resources, and this is my payoff. And it’s a big payoff. But still, it’s hard to avoid the moment of comparison, the brief imagined trip down another path. What would my life look like if I’d chosen a path sooner, focused on my research, published and presented?