So, here’s the thing.
I didn’t get a diploma (at first). I got a job instead.
Eventually, this little thing called the “Internet Bubble” (poorly-named in my opinion) burst, and that left a lot of people – talented or otherwise – without a job.
At 25, I was married, had a mortgage, a shiny Corvette (I’ve since discovered that I’m more of a mid-engine guy) and… debt that I wasn’t really aware of. When you’re 25 and people keep writing checks, one might assume that you can spend what you make.
At 45, I can say: DO NOT DO THAT. I’m an engineer. I’m fairly-decent-mostly-okay-some-of-the-time-but-I’m-a-pain-in-the-ass-to-work-with at my job. I’ve made some really cool stuff at a few places, currently got a really awesome gig in the AI space with a phenomenal team. If luck prevails, this will be the place where I spend the rest of my career.
So, the title. Why should you frame your diploma?
A friend taught me many things. A few are:
- They don’t print your GPA on your diploma.
- I’m busy, why would I bother framing that thing?
He’s right, and very successful (and rightfully so).
There are times – like, several times a day – when I’m working on something so involved that I’ve lost track of daylight. Not in the “what time is it” sense, but more “which way is up because I can’t find the bubbles.”
I’m chatty – really, really talkative. Verbose. Loquacious. A flibbertigibbet. This annoys many people. I’ve found that a) hey, it’s me, you get what you get, and b) it works out more often than not.
I also suffer from frequent bouts of self-doubt. My story is not boring (or so I am told) and I have earned whatever measure of success I’ve obtained. But, I still feel inadequate / under-qualified / unprepared several time a day.
My job is difficult. There aren’t a lot of people who do what I do, and I’d have a hard time explaining it to anyone that doesn’t already understand it. But, I love my job. I love my team. I believe in our organization & company. And, it gives me the best perk ever:
I still get to pick up Gwen from school at 12:45 every day, take her to ABA, and then pick her up from ABA at 5 pm. Those few minutes are the high point of my week.
So, back to the title: why should you frame your diploma?
My friend didn’t really see the point. It hadn’t bubbled to the top of his priority list. To me, the diploma was a sort of validation: something I could show to others and say “SEE! I DID THAT!” For him (at least I think), it was a step, something he’d already done and he was on to the next task.
Part of the difference comes from being at different stages of life: ~10 year age difference, marriages, career trajectory / obligations, etc. But, a big part of it is attitude.
If you look at your next goal as a finish line, then that’s where you’ll stop.
If you see your next goal as a step, that’s where you *might* take a breath and a drink, and then keep marching.
I admire my friend greatly. I’m not sure either approach is really the best.
But, back to the post title: why should you frame your diploma?
When I get bogged down in a problem and start to think “I am simply not capable of this,” I have a visual reminder that I Did Something, and that Something was REALLY REALLY HARD. (Which is Latin for “Electrical Engineering.”)
I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m pretty good at what I do. It’s nice to have something on the wall – diploma, kids, friends, LEGOs – to remind you that you are human, that you existed, that you kicked ass and took some names and that, at the end of the day, there are some things that no one can take from you.
- Your mind
- Your passion
- Your accomplishments
- Your pain
- Your experience
Whatever you’ve done and been through: you’re stuck with it. Celebrate the good, mourn the bad, but own it. And hang a picture, a plaque, or a certificate or a diploma on the wall so that, the next time you see it, you know:
I did that.
I am still here.
And then move on to the next step. What comes next is entirely up to you, just like it was yesterday. And the day before.
Eventually, a wonderful woman found me and gave me four(!) amazing kids. Whatever else I’ve accomplished since is in no small part due to her support & encouragement & occasional whack-to-the-back-of-the-head. My steps are no longer framed in terms of finance or recognition. Rather, “success” means “what makes US happy” and “what can WE do.”
It’s a great step that comes with lots of things to hang on the wall. The diploma is there, but at some point it’ll be buried behind the rest. Just as it should be.
Cheers. Happy 2022 (or, as I call it, 2020 part 3.)