Being the bright kid at 30
May 17, 2008 8:18 PM   Subscribe

I would like to be the bright kid again, but I've just turned 30. What should I do?

To make a very long story short: I was always the bright student, the one who'd have an amazing future, study in the best universities, get the highest paid jobs and be rich. I was also supposed to discover the cure of cancer, or at least have enough money to pay somebody to do so. Jokes aside, now.

During primary & high school, I studied in many different cities and schools but my results were the same: a perfect GPA , many compliments from teachers, many prizes, etc. In my country we must take a mandatory exam for each college you're applying to. I have applied to one of the best and got in without much effort.

During my first two years, still the bright kid: straight A's, few friends, "the one with the bright future" and all that crap. Then, in the 3rd. year of college, I decided I'd had enough of that sh*tty course and dropped out, going to work for an Internet startup instead.

Forwarding it to the present, so I won't bore you to death, I made a reasonably successful career as a software developer, working curently as a systems engineer for one of the greatest companies in the world, earning a decent (not fantastic) salary, and as I had some time to spare in the past 3 years, I finished a degree (with the same low level of interest) so I could have a diploma.

All seemed well, but a couple of weeks back I was flying to the U.S. reading my fave magazine ("Economist"), and took a more detailed look at its jobs section, which features many great jobs at the world's most prestigious companies and organizations such as the UN, European Comission, etc. Then I was struck by a lightning, having instantly realized I wasn't qualified for any of those positions. I got depressed.

The following week, I was in Boston for business and as I had a free Saturday I decided to have a look at the Harvard square. Pretty nice place, but I only got more depressed realizing I will never be part of such a community because I stopped being the bright kid the moment I dropped out of college, 10 years ago.

I am very proud of having taught myself everything I know, professionally-wise: English, Spanish, computer programming, etc. However I became very sad since this last trip, as I realized I'm just one more in the crowd, my predicted "bright future" didn't happend and I'm here having a standard corporate job, which I tolerate (but don't love), when I feel I could be doing much more with my life, had I followed the path "originally" planned for me.

I have already tasted having a normal life with a normal career. I'd like to see what my life would be if I become again the bright kid I once was.

How do I do that?
posted by dcrocha to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
 
start your own company in your bedroom.

'least that my personal path to redemption. I'll tell ya how it goes.

alternatively, you're not too old to get that Masters.
posted by tachikaze at 8:25 PM on May 17, 2008


Grad school. Or a second bachelor's degree, if you can work to make it happen. Seriously, could you apply to Harvard as an undergrad and put yourself through four years there? Maybe it sounds insane, but you could probably start from scratch if you really wanted to.

Apply for undergraduate admission at a few of the nation's best colleges. Know what you want to study. Make a strong case for yourself as someone doing just what you've said here that you want to do. You have a decent career behind you that can back up your application. And while you might not be eligible for the same kind of financial aid as you were 12 years ago, you now have the skills to do some freelance work to put yourself through school.

Of course, that would mean making some major sacrifices and working really, really hard. How badly do you want to be the bright kid again?
posted by brina at 8:30 PM on May 17, 2008


I was the bright kid too, but I kept on with studying and got my masters. And I am in a position similar to yours. I 'm 28. Where is the greatness we expected for ourselves?

I still wanna be great a make a lot of money too, but I don't really know how yet. Hopefully soon my ship will come in.
posted by spacefire at 8:31 PM on May 17, 2008


What do you WANT to do? Seriously... you have a degree, you have (or so it sounds) a perfect GPA, you have great job experience... it seems like you can do whatever you want. If you want something that requires more education, go and bloody well get it! Lots of people go to grad school after they've been in the workforce for a while (indeed, work experience is often looked upon favorably for grad school).
posted by paultopia at 8:33 PM on May 17, 2008


I think this something that a lot of people go through as they get older. I can sympathize because I used to be that kid with a lot of potential too. But the truth is as you grow older and make certain choices in life, other choices become closed to you. Not forever perhaps, but not without a lot of effort. To give you an example, when I was a kid I though sometimes about joining a start-up like you did but in the end I chose to complete college and go to graduate school. That was my choice. I'm unlikely to become a multi-millionaire by the time I'm 45, but I have to live with that door being closed to me. In the same way, you made a choice to join a start up and have been making money while I was slogging through college and now graduate school. So certain doors are open to you that are not to me and vice-versa. But that's true for everyone who's past a certain age. I do miss that feeling though -- that there were so many things I could end up doing -- maybe I'd write a book by the time I was 18 -- maybe I'd think up an amazing invention and make millions off of it.
If you truly want to take a different path through life, think carefully. You might just be having a major case of the grass is greener on the other side. Consider going back to school for your masters or an MBA. That might open a lot of doors for you. You can be that bright kid in whatever route you choose -- you don't necessarily need a graduate school degree for it.
All the best.
posted by peacheater at 8:35 PM on May 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


This is what happens to prodigies. Eventually they get old and everyone else catches up. Stop worrying about being the "bright" kid and figure out what you want to do with your life. Because, I gotta tell you buddy, eventually you're going to be 50 and then you REALLY can't be the bright kid anymore.
posted by nax at 8:45 PM on May 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Although I'm a different personality, I really relate to this need so I recommend two books.

See, the thing is... your ego is suffering, and you're struggling through one of many major transitions in your life. In other cultures, people went through rites of passage when they'd go through different ages but we don't do that so instead we just wander around lost without understanding the beginnings, middles, and endings of the different phases we are going through. Right now you're trying to compete with who you were when you were younger, but you might want to look at yourself a bit differently. What will make you truly happy for the long run really might not BE getting the best job or being smarter than other people. You can still do those things, and they might be great, but there's probably a desperation inside of you that you feel you need to fill up right now. You're comparing your present self to your past self... but you are a different person now. Don't be hard on yourself for that, find out more about who you really are and want to be instead of competing with the illusion of who you THINK you are supposed to be. You may find an even better and happier place for yourself in the world than you ever considered before.

I went through some serious depression over this kind of stuff because I too was one of those people who had a "bright future" and felt like I didn't accomplish what I should've in some ways. The transitions book really helped me to see that I needed to be more patient with myself and with life, that I was fine and would be even better in time. The second book helped me to realize that my insecurity about stuff was all coming from my ego and I needed to turn that off in order to find out who I REALLY want to be and just mellow the fuck out. It gave me a lot of clarity and now I'm on the verge of accepting what may possibly be the coolest job of my entire life. I probably wouldn't have even applied for it had I not read those two books and mellowed out about who I'm "supposed" to be. But wow, I'm a lot happier now that I've stopped fighting within myself and judging myself compared to what I thought my potential was.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:57 PM on May 17, 2008 [18 favorites]


Believe it or not. lots of people graduate from Harvard and fail to the "bright future" predicted for them when they got admitted. (Harvard, in particular, only admits people with star potential.) Generally the best way to be successful is to do work you love. That will give you the energy and dedication that is one critical element of success. However, luck plays a role in those kind of big successes as well. The difference is that if you are doing work you care about then whatever you do accomplish will be something that you can be proud of because you are working on something that you care about. And furthermore life can surprise you so that what seemed like a very average career may suddenly turn into something special when you are 40 or 50 or 60.

Furthermore, if you look at the very large number of students with potential and very few people who become truly famous, then you realize that at some point most people have to adjust their definition of success. I think that is a very normal part of growing up.

My advice - don't worry about the labels - being the "bright kid", being "successful" by some outside, social definition of success. Think about what would be meaningful work and figure out how to get yourself on track to something satisfying with your life.
posted by metahawk at 9:00 PM on May 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Welcome to the prodigy nose dive. Having seen family members and friends do this, the key is to learn to define yourself as more than 'the wiz kid'. Nobody says you can't go back to school, but just make sure you're not doing it for the admiration and to prop up your self esteem, but because you want to.
posted by Phalene at 9:02 PM on May 17, 2008


Here is a more practical suggestion: Read Barbara Sher's book I Could Do Anything I Want If Only I Knew What It Was. As a follow-up, her book Wishcraft will help you figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be.
posted by metahawk at 9:04 PM on May 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


You used to be a big fish in a relatively small pond (your school). Now you're an average fish in a huge pond (the world economy). You can be "the bright kid" again amongst a smallish group of people, but unless you're incredibly motivated and innovative (e.g. the guys who founded Google), you're not going to captivate the world. If being the smartest guy in the room is really what you want, then any average job will do. But you've had that, and you want more. There is really no magic shortcut - you have to DO more. More education (formal and self-taught), more work, more ambition. If you're finding it tough to get motivated, well, you've joined the human race. Most of us don't live up to our potential. If it's truly a pervasive problem that causes you a lot of anxiety, seek therapy.
posted by desjardins at 9:06 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think nax has it right. You have to ask yourself where you want to be. If it is a "captain of industry" or discovering the cure you talked about, certainly you will need more formal education. If all you're looking for is to be happy, that can certainly be solved more simply. The working world gives us a competitive drive, a longing to succeed, but ultimately life isn't all about getting the most, or the best, or being the brightest. I find myself at the most content and happy when I'm helping others. Perhaps at this point in your life, you're ready to give back. Maybe a new career teaching others, or non-profit charity is in the cards. First though, you have to decide where you want to be and what you want to do.
posted by netbros at 9:08 PM on May 17, 2008


I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific. -Lily Tomlin

It seems to me that you want to succeed at something. You want a bright and shining success, something that people can marvel at and know that you are, indeed, a wonderful and extraordinary human being. Something you can be proud of.

Awesome.

So... what's it going to be?

If you're going to succeed at anything, you need to know what your goal is. Specifically. Once you've got that nailed down, it's simple; take inventory of what you have, make an estimate of what you need, make a plan to make up the difference, and set out. The clouds part, the world rolls over and smiles for you, and you go out there and move mountains.

You know how it feels, because you've been there, you've done it. School is an environment where you get specific goals set for you, and you get feedback on exactly how well you've met those goals. You've got experience in the business world too, so you know how to adapt to more nebulous goals and less direct feedback. You miss success.

Look through what interests you, what changes you'd like to see in the world, what sort of work makes you stay up until late at night, perplexed and frustrated and totally happy, and use those as guideposts to finding your goal. Look at the people you admire, the ones who've made the kind of difference you'd like to make, and think about what they'd be trying to achieve right now. Hell, if they're around, ask them.

Once you've figured out what you want to do with the world, you're going to light up like the world's brightest Christmas tree. Everyone you talk to about your dream will have a piece of the puzzle for you; everyone you talk to will catch fire with the dream themselves. You won't have to wonder about being the bright kid anymore, because instead you'll be a man who's going to change the world.

Pick a direction. Set out. Do good.

Good luck.
posted by MrVisible at 9:10 PM on May 17, 2008 [17 favorites]


Doors have only opened up for me since the age of 30, but then again I don't aspire to get hired by one of the companies advertising in the Economist.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:04 PM on May 17, 2008


"Mind the gap...It's just the distance between life as you dream it, and life as it is"
- Notes on a Scandal


I think a lot of this is a case of unrealistic childhood dreams. You ask 10 year old kids what they're going to do with their lives: everyone's going to be a popstar or a football player, or an actor or a millionaire or or a writer or a politician.
Not that many make it.
They get jobs as estate agents, carpenters and accountants, but at the back of their minds the dream is always there. Then, one day, they realise life hasn't turned out like they thought, and that it never will. I think a lot of growing up is recognising this, and recognising that it's OK.
So not to tell you that you're a hopeless failure and always will be, just that don't let your adolescent self be the one who dictates your life. There is a lot of great advice in this thread about striving for your goals, but I think you have to ask yourself if that great job is really what you want, or if it's just a lot of social status bullshit that you feel pressured into wanting.

P.S. On a massively hypocritical note, only yesterday I was reading the job ads in The Economist and thought to myself "If I ever get one of these jobs, I'll count myself a success." Here's hoping.
posted by greytape at 12:30 AM on May 18, 2008


@greytape

I think the problem lies with the job ads in The Economist then! Cancelling my subscription right away :)
posted by dcrocha at 12:40 AM on May 18, 2008


Perhaps it's time this former wunderkind did some work on his personal life?
posted by Carol Anne at 4:37 AM on May 18, 2008


A little bit of encouragement: Julia Child didn't learn to cook until she was in her late 30s. As for launching the genre of television cooking shows - that came even later.
posted by jbickers at 7:23 AM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another perspective from someone who was not a prodigy, and seconding miss lynsters very insightful (as always) statement. One of the things I have found as I went through these life stages is that you really do need to define FOR YOURSELF what constitutes prodigality and success. Now in my 50s I find myself in the strange position of being one of the bright stars-- something I never have been. But it's not based on some talent or gift or mental ability, it's because all those bright young things, for some bizarre reason that escapes me when it's not scaring me to death, look up to me.

In other words, I, the classic also-ran, find myself mentoring all the young prodigies, every one of which could "smart" me out the door . It's pretty cool. So there's all kind of success. You had a brilliant early youth and you should just be really proud of that instead of worrying about recapturing it. You can't recapture it, but you can make something new. Here's a slogan for a cheesy inspirational button-- tomorrow is the best day yet.
posted by nax at 7:30 AM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're only 30. That's young. If your lack of an advanced degree is holding you back from the career you want to have, go back to school. Even if you don't get the degree until you're 40 years old, that still gives you 20 or 30 years to work in the field you want.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:10 AM on May 18, 2008


I think it might help if you could explore what you yourself really want to do in life. Therapy might help in this, or maybe reading some self-help books if that's not your thing.

I have been in a similar position for a while - loads of accolades at school without all that much effort, and then after finishing school, feeling aimless and worthless because school provided goals and feedback in the form of grades and awards. I'd never really given much thought to what I wanted to do in life - I just reacted to whatever school-provided goal was coming up, or I thought about things that I didn't feel strongly about but that sounded very cool or successful (like working for Prestigious Big-Name Company or living in Interesting Foreign Country).

That was something that jumped out at me from your post - looking over the Economist ads for prestigious companies. Do you actually want to work at them? Or is it more that working at that kind of big-name place is like an award in itself and indicates your success/brightness? I hope that doesn't come off harshly - I'm speaking from personal experience here. I'm also speaking as someone who has been tempted back to school from time to time just for the sake of getting a degree and feeling like I've achieved something.

I know people living astoundingly fulfilling lives who never finished high school or who work at bitsy little no-name companies. I think that it might help if you can take a step back and somehow explore what you really enjoy and what fulfils you, rather than chasing prestige and artificial feelings of brightness that come from other people's accolades.
posted by cadge at 9:21 AM on May 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dude, you still sound like the bright kid to me. I'm your age, was the bright kid, and I've spent my post-college career doing data entry (thank you, recessions) and considering myself LUCKY to have that. Compared to me, you aren't a loser. And hell, there's bright kids that are worse off than I am on the "I never lived up to my potential" scale.

Bright kid life gets taken over by reality. That's just how it goes.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:01 AM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ive seen this attitude in many people (hell, theres at least two mefi threads about this) and its difficult to say but honestly youre not special. Grade school, high school, and undergrad are pretty easy. Getting good grades in them isnt a big deal and you didnt even finish undergrad. How many people graduate from Yale and Harvard every year? How many of those people have you heard about? Thems the odds. I highly suggest you work on a life that isnt measured strictly by material success and the expectation of others.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:32 AM on May 18, 2008


Hey. You sound a lot like future me. Hi.

I've always believed I was meant for so much more. But as I grow up and wisen, my ambition takes a nose dive. And I've become happier with each year. I no longer want to write a book, be known widely or be a multimillionaire. Now I feel totally content hanging out with friends, joining random clubs, studying for my first bachelor's and watching sunsets in the evening. I've learned that it's not changing the world that would make me happy—merely a part of it, namely being accepted and recognized by people I accept and recognize.

I can sympathize with a lot of what you say, so see if this works for you. If you're unhappy because you set yourself goals that are unreasonably high, there are two ways out—either you struggle endlessly to reach them or you lower them by changing your attitude towards life. Best of luck!
posted by semi at 10:47 AM on May 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bah. Don't get bogged down by that "kid with potential" crap. They just told you that because you were a bit smarter than the other kids around you. Had that not been true, you would have been "the future athlete" or "the future star" or or something else. Grownups have to tell you things like that to encourage you to do your best.

I wouldn't sweat it, though - the people made you "the kid with potential" are proud of you even though you didn't cure cancer.

You say that you're a software engineer? That sounds like a good, useful skill. Perhaps you should find a new job or pick up a new specialty in your spare time. It's important to have a job that you feel challenged by.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:35 PM on May 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Many years ago I was in a similar boat, bright kid, future in front of him and for one reason or another I just burnt out pushing myself to hard to keep that up. I felt that my future was going to be judged by my skills and what I do for the world and then a few years ago it dawned on me the only person I was trying to impress was myself so I took a step back and had a look at where I was in life and decided where I wanted to be and what really important for me and where I wanted to be by the time I turn 30 (28 now).

I wanted a challenge so I started my own business and I've been doing that hard for 4 years now and I feel that I've done a damn good job on it but if it failed and fell apart I know I've done my best and no-one could take that away from me. But you know my goals have changed again because I started to think in 10 years time who is going to be interested in if I closed this business deal or I learnt this new great skill. You can never be the best at everything so I try to be the best person and can be for the sake of one important person in my life and thats my daughter.

My wife and I now have a lovely 9 month old daughter and what makes her happy is me playing peek a boo and giving her tummy blows. Nothing has made me as happy as hearing my daughter laugh for the first time or when she crawled over to me today for the very first time. She doesn't care what daddy does, what his IQ is or where hes going in life. All she wants me to do is blow my nose again because thats funny to her. She wants a dad who loves her.

So now I'm at a point in my life where I can look at my daughter and know that within the next few months I'm going to sell of the business, take the money, pay off the mortgage and be able to watch my little darling grow up without having to worry if she will have a roof over her head, food in her tummy or wondering if her daddy will be home in time from work to read her a bed time story. and you know what I think that makes me a bright kid at 30...
posted by rus at 2:39 PM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I suffer from some of this myself sometimes, and I've found the very thoughtful and articulate responses in this thread very helpful. Sometimes I have to knock some sense into myself when I get down thinking about how I was on top of the world in high school, and now I'm a lowly clerk. In my case there is mental illness and years of instability and depression to look back on, making the simple gentle happiness I have now something I greatly appreciate, but sometimes it does get me down that I haven't done something better with my life.

You don't talk about what your personal life is like. Maybe you would find great satisfaction in a loving relationship and possibly children as well, which might offset some of your dissatisfaction with your career ambitions. There are many venues to succeed in life. Maybe you could even get really into a satisfying hobby of some sort - that's another way people can feel a sense of accomplishment.
posted by marble at 3:30 PM on May 18, 2008


Speaking as yet another "smartest kid in school," I can relate. Lately I've started to feel a bit more sane. For me the trick has been to renounce that ambition and try to focus on what I really care about. Every time I feel that sense of power and personal exceptionalism that I absorbed at some point ("I could start something totally different! I could be the best! I could change the world!"), instead of getting high off it, I try to come down. I focus on how much work any idea really takes, and how many people's help it would take to really succeed, and what would make it worth working on to all those people, and what will happen to the idea over the long run. Will I get tired of it, and if so, what happens to the idea then? What is so worth doing that it would stay worth the effort over the long run? What is so worth it to me that I'm willing to stop trying to be the brightest and instead settle in to be an average member of a (good) group? It's something like this quote:
Anything is one of a million paths [un camino entre cantidades de caminos]. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you. (105-06)
-- Carlos Castaneda, Teachings of Don Juan (1968), quoted here
posted by salvia at 9:32 PM on May 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would like to be the bright kid again, but I've just turned 30. What should I do?

Realize that you are still young, and you are still the bright kid if (and it's a big, important "if") you put yourself into the right environment and pursue the right opportunities. Being the bright kid is contextual as much as it is something essential to who you are -- it comes from working with other people, in certain environments, towards publicly identified goals.

So yeah, if you want this, you will have to go outside your comfort zone and risk failure in a big way. The chances of you actually failing are pretty slim, if you are as bright as you say you are, but you will have to take on that very real risk of failure.

If you wanted a job in the Economist (which actually encompasses a vast range of jobs, from entry-level to most senior), there is a very clear path you would take to get there. First you would do what it takes to get into a relevant graduate program at a top-tier institution; a masters or MBA would be ok, but a fast-track PhD program would be better. While there, you would need to treat it both as a serious endeavor at which you will do well, and as an extended opportunity to network for your career -- this means being strategic about your adviser, your research topic, scholarships and grants, and so on. Take advantage of summer internship programs and the like, with those same places that advertise in the Economist, as a way of not having to apply as a nobody off the street.

30 is not at all old to start what I've just described. MBA and PhD programs are full of people just like yourself -- who spent some time working, and realized that they needed additional qualifications and education to be able to pursue specific opportunities. However, even in top-tier programs, a really surprising proportion of students don't take things at all seriously, and don't do well at all. By showing up every day and working hard, you will again be the bright kid who stands out from the others.

So saying "waah waah I'm too old" is just an excuse and a cop-out. If you really want this kind of reward, there is a straightforward path to getting it; if you don't really want it, then you've received some really good advice here on reducing your desires and expectations and finding a meaningful life in the place where you are. That's honestly probably the smarter approach, because getting a job out of the Economist isn't some end-goal -- once you get there, you'll find that there is another tier above that (senior positions, or moving from one kind of institution to another) that the really bright kids are doing, and that you don't have immediate access to without going back and getting more education, or needing more connections, or whatever. You can't ever catch up with the Jonses if the Jonses keep changing, you know?
posted by Forktine at 6:08 AM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a question that brings up a lot of difficult considerations. Here are just some miscellaneous thoughts flitting across my mind as I think about it:

-- Are you motivated by people perceiving you as a "bright kid"? That does not seem to be a productive way to live your life, and, in fact, could be positively counter-productive. You're at the age where you need to be motivated by the internal rewards of activities, rather than the external rewards of approval by other people.

-- There is a lot of freedom in not having people expect a lot of you. You sound like a smart person, with some powerful skills and abilities. If you want to be the "bright kid," why not pour those passions and energies into a project that is private, idiosyncratic, in tune with your passions, and that could pay off some time in the future? I have noticed, in my years in U.S. academia, that a lot of the brightest people (the Harvard grads, or students who win prestigious overseas fellowships) feel constrained by people's expectations for them. They end up pursuing rather stilted careers that are "expected" of people like them. That is, they don't end up doing high-risk things; they end up going to law school and becoming attorneys at big firms, because that's a low-risk career path that is sufficiently prestigious that they can't be called a failure. They end up pursuing public policy related things, because that's a generic "bright person" thing to do. You hardly ever see those people become artists, or pursue something really risky with a high possibility of failure.

-- A lot of people that I admire the most are people (creative artists) who started in positions of no prestige, no expectations, and in that space of no expectations, forged an identity and a career from nothing. Think of William Faulkner ... a high school dropout, laughed at by townspeople as Count No 'Count, who privately developed his way of depicting the American South from his own fascination with European avant-garde writers. Think of Jean Michel Basquiat, another high-school dropout, who turned his odd street art into a meteoric painting career. These are people who weren't considered "the bright kid," but were basically written off by people who knew them. The identity of a "bright kid" can be crippling.

-- If you want to be perpetually the "bright kid," don't get hemmed in by family responsibilities. A lot of people, when they marry and have children, become more focused on making a living, and not growing intellectually and stretching themselves ... after all, those things are risky.

-- Keep in mind that "bright kids" have the space to be bright, to experiment, usually because they are not supporting themselves. They are the high school kids who are supported by their parents, or they are the college students living with parental help and student loans. You can't go through life expecting to have the level of creativity, freedom, and dynamism that students have. As long as you are responsible for supporting yourself, your ability to be the "bright kid" in the idealized way you imagine will be tempered by the necessity of making a living.
posted by jayder at 9:01 PM on May 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


Your problem, I think, is relativism. As children, we have no understanding of societal and class boundaries. That is, I think, a good thing, because our eyes don't get closed to possibilities and it gives some the chance to not only reach for the stars but to actually reach the stars.

Even were you to get to a place in your life where you were qualified for some of the Economist jobs, there would still be positions you would be unqualified for that were even higher up.

And, conversely, the thing you need to realize is that there are people in the world who, for them, your state of affairs represents either their goal, or even their unreachable ideal.

It is a bit hackneyed to say count your blessings, but in this case, it's not entirely inappropriate.

One of the solutions to feeling you haven't accomplished enough is to realize what you have accomplished and assign greater value to those accomplishments.
posted by WCityMike at 10:15 AM on May 20, 2008




We were all geniuses headed for amazing lives...It's probably best to just look at yourself honestly, without thinking about what other people might think. You can do whatever you want whenever you want. Finish up your degree, if you want, and if you don't, it doesn't matter. You make money, you pay taxes, etc. Not having a degree isn't a big deal, especially if you're already financially successful.
posted by onepapertiger at 2:13 PM on June 18, 2008


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