“So I held my tongue today and owned up to my past-“

A story from last Friday:

Today a colleague, yet another one, asked, “Did you go to Stanford?”

“Huh?”

I peeled my eyes away from my monitor, distracted, only to notice, like he must have, my Stanford Engineering mug. “Oh,” I replied properly this time.

I found myself about to add on an annoyingly familiar sentence despite no one asking, but wisely held back. Last year I’d add, “But it doesn’t mean anything anymore – nothing I learned there can be applied here.” False and false.

My experience there and the overall 6 years I spent as an international student in the US is truly a bygone era and irrelevant when we speak of ‘now’ – but those years weren’t without meaning. Don’t. Even if they hold no weight now; they’re places I’d been and was briefly part of. Don’t deny them. They mean something.

And I can’t believe – I’m embarrassed – it took me an entire year (an entire year!) to at last realize that though my technical knowledge has no landing where I am now – I admit, sometimes I fear I’ve in fact forgotten everything I’d once slogged and suffered to learn about – other forms of knowledge and skills gained in those years are now put to use. Not a surprise to those who’ve spent years in the working world I’m sure, but yes – adaptive communication skills; creating effective slide packs ( ha!) and ultimately, the understanding of a larger picture despite not grasping details. ‘You don’t have to have all the answers to solve a problem’ – wise words; it’s true.

So I held my tongue today and owned up to my past. “Yes I did,” I answered, “For grad school.” Then I turned my face back to my monitor to continue where I left off, to address my present.

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