The plan this week was to tell you about that one crazy afternoon I caught myself browsing through medical school options for someone my age and with my circumstances. (In other words, old and not a financially feasible investment for anyone, with terrible maths and physics foundation.) That reverie lasted a good hour. It ended as abruptly as it started, with a laptop screen shutting down this fictitious ?and worrying? spin-off. All dreams of medical school eventually fizzled too. And off I went about my days, on some wondering how different my life would have been had I gone to medical school like a ?normal? student. But then also appreciating every moment that got me to the point where I considered medical school at five decades? experience. [I really want to start using experience to refer to age.]
And then came last night.
A brief conversation with a friend left me moved ?shaken and stirred. I asked her how her son was settling into his first year of high school. My friend has a truly gifted son. I tell her he is like a wise old man trapped inside a child?s body. He loves learning, and dives deep into everything that intrigues him. He is not like most other kids and our expectations of them. (You can say he is like the person I would be now at medical school, only with much better skin.) He enjoys real relationships, and that makes them few. He would much rather spend time at home hanging out with his mother, or reading, than the obligatory weekend outing of superficial conversation, selfies, and social media stories. He is perhaps a little serious. He seems to be on a mission, to create. Recently, he announced he was running for an executive role in student council elections against a popular senior following the conventional handbook to adulthood I imagine. My friend?s son was running because he truly enjoyed working on the student council, with no thoughts of a careful construction of a college application resume adorned with half-hearted activities and empty pursuits to fit into whatever box is expected of high school graduates. He simply wanted to work on the student council. His speech was delivered from the heart. He was comfortable ?at long last? with being himself. ?Himself? won.?
And so when I asked her how he was settling in his new school, I thought I saw tears of pride and gratitude in my friend?s eyes. Or maybe it was my eyes that were welling up. He was thriving. Inside the walls of his newly adopted high school, this young man has finally found the ground on which to stand. He is unstoppable.
They call this ?the right fit.? In the job market, this is about matching one?s talent with the right job. In economics, it is referred to as ?the right match.? It?s also used to describe all relationships, including marriage.
For me, it is the compassionate path.
Two days earlier, my other friend was considering the same question about her daughter settling into that first year in the same high school, within the same walls. Her daughter was struggling to respond to the social pressures around her, fighting to fit into whatever box she imagined she needed to accommodate to survive. There was no solid footing to support her. This was obviously not the right fit. It has been a battle. No one wins battles.
Three years ago, my eldest daughter chose to accept the offer to attend Queen?s University. She spent a year in misery. She disliked the town, the campus, the social life, and her classes. She could not wait to transfer out of there. This year, my other daughter accepted her offer to attend Queen?s. She is loving the town, the campus, the social life, and her classes. She has no interest in taking a weekend away. She is too busy thriving to pay attention to the state of her dorm room carpet.
It has made such a difference for me to look through the lens of fit when I consider events around me. It has allowed me to soften to other experiences, move away from judgment and toward observation. This lens is useful for both short and far-sightedness. For what in life is so clear-cut anyway? Nothing is good or bad, except when it comes to inflicting harm on other beings, the earth included. [I know what you are thinking. ?Fit? could apply to nutrition. And it does in a way, but as long as we don?t inflict harm on ourselves and other beings. That settles the general guidelines.]?
In our rush to judge and prove ourselves right, we often fall into the trap of dismissing places, people, pets, and things that have not been a great fit for us. We go to a restaurant and not enjoy our meal? We declare the place must be closed down. We have a bad experience at a university? We make sure every student we know avoids this terrible place.?
A book? Same story. A film? Same. A person? Definitely the same. Sometimes, we are just not a good fit to others. It is that simple.
Why is fit important? I believe it has to do with efficiency. There is a conservation of valuable energy that takes place when we feel we are in the right environment. This, in a way, allows us to direct the energy we would otherwise use to fight and struggle to more productive purposes like the business of growth. ?Fit? is the stable footing on which to stand so we can propel ourselves forward.
?Fit? is the stable footing on which to stand so we can propel ourselves forward.
This has nothing to do with facing obstacles and failing. In his book The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday illustrates through lessons from the Roman philosophy of Stoicism how the road with the obstacle(s) is often in fact the road that is best taken. My added piece of wisdom is to take the first step powered by the energy of the ?right fit.?
Here is some more wisdom while I am at it. The power I mention is that real, full breath one draws from the soles of feet that are firmly rooted and thriving in the fertile ground where we belong.?
The right fit has no box for us to squeeze into. It is itself malleable and soft, moving and bending to accommodate our well-being. The right fit is a land on which we don?t react. It is the grounds from which we breathe, pause, ponder, and respond with confidence and compassion.?
I wonder what the world would like if education were free, and there was no conventional age limit to formal learning. (I know there isn?t, but seriously, medical school at 50?!) I suspect as the experience [years] goes by and we settle into ourselves, we easily recognize what feels like the right fit, and the right timing. Maybe the world will have more colourful doctors and creators of wonder.