’’OK this may not be the most prestigious major, but it’s noble, a good career path for a woman, not too stressful and it suits my character. Some aspects might be a challenge, but challenge accepted!’’ Well, that was the wrong challenge. I ended up quitting halfway, despite all the pressure to continue. And you know what? No regrets. My family agrees with me now. I hate that I suffered, but I wouldn’t change the past if I could, because this experience taught me some valuable lessons.
#1 Working below your level can lead to bad results and even depression
Before, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of underperforming. ‘’If it’s easy then you’ll do well,’’ I thought. But now I get it. If the content is superficial and the required level of thinking too low, you won’t feel stimulated to learn more and do your best. You’ll feel bored while you’re busy, but because you’re busy, you don’t really understand what’s going on. You just dread getting started. You dread that tomorrow will come. You dread everything and wish you could do something else.
In my case I wanted to ‘’just think’’. Back then I couldn’t fully grasp this weird desire and thought I was just tired in a socially very demanding position (being an introvert and all), but in hindsight I see that I was yearning for more than just recharging my battery. I needed mental stimulation.
The result is that you procrastinate everything and don’t put in any effort. And when the difficulty is mostly in doing the work rather than the brainwork, you end up with mediocre results. Not that it hurt me though. I became apathetic to grades.
#2 This is not me
What did hurt, though, was when teachers sighed, rolled their eyes and made passive aggressive comments in my direction. It wasn’t their opinion that hurt; it was the confrontation with my current self that hurt.
‘’I wish I had a class full of Linas’’ were recurring words throughout my life, like a motif. I was not exceptionally talented or very active in class, but I had good grades and a pleasant character in such a way that I still hear these words when I run into old teachers. I went from memorable to a sigh. It felt unreal, like I was watching someone else. This behavior didn’t match me. I was doing it all wrong. I felt ashamed, towards myself and Allah. And that hurt the most.
The good thing is that I can still be the real me. The honest, analytical, motivated me. I can still thrive under the right circumstances, which brings me to my next point.
#3 Don’t focus on improving your weaknesses
I learned down the road that the things that really mattered in this field were not my strengths, while the things I am good at didn’t matter in the evaluation. After years of practice I would become ‘’good enough’’, while my natural talents remained underexposed and underdeveloped. I realized too late that I wasn’t just supposed to have certain skills; I was supposed to be a certain person. And I was not that person. I felt painfully unappreciated.
Sadly, we live in a world that shames quitting. I felt such tremendous pressure to continue that I focused on my weaknesses for too long. This TED-talk about strategic quitting really hit home with me.
‘’If you spend your entire life to compensate your weaknesses, the only thing you are left with is a large set of strong weaknesses.’’
Absolutely. You’re a package that consists of your personality and talents and this should be your starting point. Focusing on your weaknesses is a waste of your potential to be excellent. In order to excel, you must focus on your strengths.
It’s time for a new chapter. It’s spring.