Knocks Door: Opportunities and Learning When to Answer

Photo:  AdobeStock

Photo: AdobeStock


With Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other forms of social media we are able to see what everyone else is doing. And because we can see it, it is even easier to compare yourself to whatever someone else is doing. This comparison then makes you think you may not be doing enough. When you feel you are not doing enough, you can begin to act irrational, grasping at everything to try to add to your CV/resume. And this is the point of this post: Every Opportunity is not Your Opportunity.


Slow down, I can hear you yelling at me now: What you mean every opportunity isn’t my opportunity? Are you saying I cannot do it? No, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is, just because there is something available does not mean that it is the right time for you to apply or take advantage of it. I am here to tell you that you are doing enough and you do not need opportunities to validate your existence. Do not get me wrong, I know it can be hard. I know that sometimes it seems like you are going nowhere fast, but that doesn’t mean that you have to force things to work. Hear me out! Do you know how many conferences are out there that probably align with your research area? Let me tell you, A LOT! Do you know what it would take to submit something to all of them? TOO MUCH!


And for me, as a social scientist there are not that many fellowships available at the masters level. So when I first started graduate school, I wanted to apply to everyone that I came across. But it was not until last week that I realized that everything ain’t for me and that is just fine! How did I realize this? Well, I had a sticky note next to my desk about a fellowship application that I needed to get done by June 15th and I noticed this sticky note reminder on June 15th. I thought to myself, I could easily  get this application completed in an hour max. However, what was it really going to require of me if I got it? And I think that’s where we all get caught up. We do not think about what will happen if we are actually selected for the opportunity that we are applying for.


This particular fellowship would pay me $500 but I would have to go to Chicago for a week in October. And although I have never been to Chicago and this would be a cool opportunity to be around some like-minded civically engaged folks, I looked at my calendar and thought “I really do not have a week to give in October!”


In that moment, I had to have a conversation with myself with what was more important and pressing. $500 instantly? Or getting my doctoral applications in and preparing for a conference I am presenting at in November (with the programs I am applying to for my PhD)? How much would I really gain from that $500 and another thing on my CV? As I thought about it more and more, I realized that I really wouldn’t gain that much AT THIS time by submitting my application. I even asked myself: why was I going to submit this application?


We often get so caught up of doing things so folks can see our accomplishments when in reality we should only be focused on doing what is going to better us personally and professionally. And growing in those areas means learning to recognize when the time is right, recognizing that every opportunity is not your opportunity.


And that realization will hit you like a ton of bricks but it’s a hit you can bounce back from. It’s an easier hit to take than being burnt out from trying to get everything that has an application open. And trust me, graduate school will wear you out without the extra stress that you bring on yourself.


It is something my dad calls “delayed gratification” and I am sure somebody’s Granny somewhere has used that phrase as well. Honestly, I did not understand what that meant until I was a junior in college and it was not something that I began to implement until graduate school. The truth is, deep down you know when something is not for you. We just think we have to keep up with everyone else around us. And that is not the case. We should just be keeping up with ourselves. It reminds me of what my coach asked me when I used to run track: "Why you looking to left and right? That slows you down." The same is true when it comes to academia. Looking to the right and left, seeing what everyone else doing, just makes you slow down your own progress.


Every opportunity ain't your opportunity and that is okay. Everything is not for you, and that is okay too. Understanding what YOU need and not what everyone else thinks you need is more important than what is on your CV and how many pages you can have by the time you graduate. Quality vs Quantity as the old adage goes stands in this scenario as well.


About the Author

Joy Melody is a Master's Student at the University of Iowa who studies the sociology of sports and health communication within the education system. When she is not busy completing work for class she enjoys writing for her blog, running with her dog, and hunting down guests for her podcast. She is a native of Fort Worth, TX.

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