Wait–this is a bombshell. Or, it feels that way to me–but maybe you already knew? I think I’m good at keeping a neutral tone, an easy smile and a semblance of inner calm and direction, but maybe I’m an open book (and you know exactly what I’m going to say next), or maybe I’ve called you more than once, frustrated to tears and questioning everything I’ve ever learned and everything I’ve ever decided for myself:
I’ve decided to leave my Master’s programme in Security Risk Management.
Yes, the program of my dreams.
Yes, the coolest city in the world. And the happiest. And bike lanes everywhere and Stan Smiths on all feet and cool, black coats and topknots and huge scarves and beautiful sunsets and rainbow buildings and impossibly delicious caffe lattes in the coziest cafes and the freaking. amazing. pastries. Yes.
It sure has thrown me for a loop. A year ago this was all I ever wanted. I saw this as the straightest path forward and the best path forward. I chose this!!! Maybe that was why I ignored the creeping feeling in mid-November that I’m not really interested in what I am learning and then also the feeling in mid-January when I was packing my suitcase to go back that I am not excited to go back to school at all.
For a few weeks after I came back to Copenhagen I felt more stuck, and more lonely, than I have ever felt in my life. I can’t remember anything, because I did the same things every day, like a sad robot. It rained and it was cold and dark, and I was tired all the time, even when I slept eight hours a night and two, sometimes three hours after class. Almost every evening, when it got dark, I put on my winter running tights, double-layer socks, a thick fleece and my raincoat and ran the same five mile loop through the city.
Though the haze, I recognized that I felt trapped, and I also recognized that the feeling was definitely connected to my studies. I began looking for a way out. I went back to the drawing board, back to the very first time I typed “master’s degree Europe” into Google and I started over again. First I told myself I would probably just re-arrive here, in Copenhagen, because this was truly the best decision. And then I told myself I was just proving that I had truly made the best decision. And then I told myself I would just see if I could switch to another programme in the same department.
Well, I ended up applying to six other graduate programmes. Only one of them is here in Copenhagen. I’m waiting to hear back from two more, and then I should be able to plan my next move.
Lest there be any misconceptions: the SRM Programme at KU is new, and it is still “under construction”, but it is of a very, very high caliber. The professors are visionaries. The courses are complex and there is a common thread: the “Copenhagen School” of security studies and risk management. It’s undoubtedly exciting and it’s definitely “the future”. I have learned about things I’ve never even heard of before. Learning is humbling, and it is never time wasted. This has become my motto.
Quite simply: Dear SRM, it’s not you, it’s me.
To my colleagues and my new friends: you are undoubtedly the most motivated, the most intelligent, the most dynamic people I have ever met. I remember being absolutely floored (and intimidated) on the first day of orientation, by every single one of you. You are so interesting! You have worked in the coolest places! You are so driven! And you are also kind, and hilarious, and smart! I can’t wait to work with you, to read about you, to tell people that I know you!!
Here I am, admitting to myself, as much as to you, that this was not the programme for me. I don’t intend to justify my decision here. I feel like I’ve unraveled some impossible tangle of threads in my mind just to arrive at this point. I sound like an idiot when I try to explain why. If you ask me privately, I will try again.
On the phone a few weeks ago, my mom said something along the lines of: “You can be a teacher! Or a painter! you can be anything you want.” Yes, moms say these things, but bear with me: I know people who are brilliant educators, or on their way there. I know people who make the most beautiful, simple, complicated, powerful art on canvas or on a stage or with instruments. I know people who are going to be singers, doctors, programmers, engineers, dentists, human rights lawyers.
I don’t know what I’m going to be, but to hear my mom say that on the phone snapped me out of whatever rut I was in. She wasn’t saying that I can literally “be anything I want”. She was saying: “Nothing is set in stone.” “You’re allowed to change your mind.” “You’re allowed to switch to plan B.” “You’re allowed to miscalculate along the way.”
What’s more freeing than that?