I Ditched the PHD for the Argentine Tango or If I’m so Smart, Why Aren’t I an Astrophysicist?

My First Tango Lesson

I thought I should get a PhD. It made sense. There was a professor who asked to mentor me. I wanted to write a book. So, I thought, why not write a book and get a PhD at the same time? I applied. Was accepted into a program. Got funded.

Then I thought. How many years of my life will this take? What if I die just as I finish? Will I be glad that I spent the last years of my life in a PhD program?

Um. No.

So, I ditched it.

I took Argentine tango lessons instead.

I do not regret this decision.

But I know what you’re thinking. If she were really smart, if she were gifted for heaven’s sake, she’d choose the PhD. She’d be a super achiever. An academic superstar. An Einstein or an Edison. An Elon Musk or a Steve Jobs.* 

Oh wait. Did they even go to college?

But I digress.

Maybe you’ve been ruminating like this: If I’m so smart, shouldn’t I get a PhD? Don’t smart people excel at academics? If someone is supposed to be gifted, don’t they become scholars and university professors? If I don’t become an astrophysicist, does that mean that I’m a failure? That I’m not gifted? Will I disappoint my parents, my teachers, and myself if I choose tango lessons instead of a PhD? 

You do tend to ruminate. We know this.

But, here’s what I think.

Yes, some gifted folks choose academia. Some are high achievers. Some even invent things that are “insanely great.” And we love the high achievers. If you are one, we love you.

But you’re not all going to be interested in astrophysics. Or you may be fascinated by it but you also love poetry and violin and languages and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and mycelium, and on and on. Not only that. Schooling might not be so appealing if you had less than fabulous experiences there as a child.

And what does it mean to be gifted anyway? There are so many different definitions. Eminence? Achievement? 10,000 hours of practice? Grit? Talent? Wiring? Motivation? Financial success?

In my world, gifted means rainforest-minded. A human who is bubbling over with intellectual capacity and passion for learning. An effervescent love of beauty. Multi-dimensional creativity. Unending interests and abilities. Intense curiosity. Depth. Finely-tuned sensitivity, intuition, and empathy. A need to make the world a better place and to dance the tango.

A rainforest mind.

So. Maybe you get a PhD. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you learn the tango. Maybe you don’t. Whatever you do with that rainforest mind of yours, what matters most?

Perhaps it’s this.

Maybe it’s all about love. How do you love? How are you Love?

What if you “…measure your life in love.

“Measure your life in love.”

(From the musical Rent by Jonathan Larson. Seasons of Love.)


To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your struggles with achievement and identifying yourself as gifted. What are the ways you measure your life?

Thank you to the colleague (getting her PhD) for her inspiration.

(*I know. They’re all white men. They’re the easiest examples to make my point. But I do apologize.)

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Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

67 responses to “I Ditched the PHD for the Argentine Tango or If I’m so Smart, Why Aren’t I an Astrophysicist?”

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  1. You Are Not Broken — A Strategy for Navigating Life With Humans Who Think You Are | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] and buying my books! They are part of the Puttyverse. Members of silent book clubs. Dancing the Argentine tango. Fighting climate change. Running for office. Building a business. Writing books and music. Running […]

  2. Karli Avatar

    I can definitely resonate with your post, Paula. Well said! Yeah, I do not think we can truly measure intelligence and greatness with degrees. PhDs can be quite monocultural and just because one has a PhD does not mean they know everything; simply a spectrum of their field. I think the rainforest minds tend to have a kaleidoscope for learning multiple subjects/projects at a time. I have a dear friend that wants to pursue a PhD in STEM, but their learning disabilities can be a barrier to the rigorous educational system and the fast paced deadlines make it difficult to catch-up with the traditional sense of schooling and fast paced semesters. It took them 11 years to complete their Bachelor’s, but they are still determined! I had to take almost five years off from my bachelors and won’t complete it until I’m 31 (a year and a half from now). Yet, I am still determined to go to graduate school, but at the same time, the educational system can be difficult and stifling at times for creative people and rain forest mind thinkers.

    At times, the traditional schooling gets in the way of the multipotentalities as well as depression at times, but luckily, therapy has been so helpful. You can definitely still write books and research subjects without the PhD — it sounds like you made the right decision for your other creative pursuits. Yet, can always go back in the future if it’s something that is still itching away. I always wanted to do a PhD in History or Political Science, but I fear that my learning disabilities will make it difficult. Yet, will take one step at a time and go from there. Thanks for sharing–I think a lot of rainforest minds can relate here. I also think culturally we put too much emphasis and value on competition and a traditional sense of sucess as well, which can be stifling for us creative minds. The PhD sounds like it would be something for pure enjoyment and passion for me – simply for the sake of learning and research (kind of want to be a life long student!).

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think one thing that can be important if you pursue a PHD is to find the right advisor who can guide you through the process and who understands your RFM and 2e issues. That can make all the difference. Many RFMs will be learning throughout their lives for sure! Thanks, Karli.

      1. Karli Avatar

        That is a great suggestion — I never thought of that. It would be quite helpful to find the right advisor that is understanding of these things (still need to learn a bit more about 2e, but definitely important to highlight if one is a bit slow with academia). Thank you for the advice, I will definitely keep this in mind for the future. And indeed!

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    […] years to get through college because you keep changing your major, start two businesses, learn the Argentine tango, join the board of an arts organzation, travel to Nepal to lead treks, teach yourself watercolor […]

  5. Rebecca Avatar

    This post really spoke to me, Paula. I got the PhD. But doing so nearly killed me, because I had to be monocultural for nearly a (miserable) decade. Having kids who refuse to do anything the way they’re “supposed to” finally set me on the path to rediscovering what you so elegantly called my rainforest mind, and I’m now learning things I always wanted to but couldn’t fit in when I was hell-bent on the academic track – including, oddly enough, a bit of astrophysics. Funny old world, this. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh my gosh, Rebecca. Astrophysics. Ha! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  6. Jessica Avatar

    Absolutely love how straightforward the message here was! Thank you for the inspirational article! I have spent many years in university, and am almost finished writing a practicum to complete my master’s degree in landscape architecture. As some things in this season of my life haven’t gone according to plan, I have found myself asking some similar questions… “is this really what I will feel fulfilled pursuing for the years to come?” “Is this what I really want?” The answer is no. Is it difficult to let go of a pursuit I have put many years and finances into? Yes. But knowing there could be a brighter future ahead filled with even more joy keeps me going. Keep on keeping on! And thank you again for the inspiration!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You’re welcome, Jessica. It could be that having the Master’s degree will be useful even if you change fields.

      1. Jessica Avatar

        I agree. No such thing as wasted time.

  7. Bianca Roxas Avatar
    Bianca Roxas

    I don’t know tango, but I know how to beatbox and sing broadway. Would that work? I’mma break it down. Not going to let go of my shot.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yep. That works, Bianca. I sing a little Broadway myself…”measure your life in love!”

  8. j'adore champagne Avatar
    j’adore champagne

    About 15 years ago, I asked a friend who was also my manager if I should do an MBA or take tango lessons. He immediately replied, “tango lessons”. I didn’t. I didn’t do the MBA, either.
    Last week I found myself again looking to see where tango lessons are given in this area. Although I’m concerned about being that close to somebody. But as well, because my professional job prospects have been difficult, looking at doing a Masters to “freshen up”. It would have to be in business, of course. But I really would rather be fluent (ok, proficient) in French, work at my photography, and garden. None of which earns me a living….but it’s where I’m passionate.
    But you mention love. And for someone who grew up in a very dysfunctional family, where my mom was a narcissist and I had to be perfect….you really hit a sad spot there. Oh, to just be loved. But I can’t be, you see, because I’m not perfect.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sending you a big hug and sending you love. <3 I'm thinking that you ought to do what your passions tell you to do! ( By the way, there's a form of tango that isn't as close, called open embrace. Most beginning classes start with that, except maybe in Argentina!)

  9. joanne Avatar

    I dropped out of PhD program when my mother died and never got back to it. I’d really love to, but it’s difficult to see how I could do it now, when life has moved on (and costs have gone UP!!). However, I suspect that one of the reasons that I would love to see more letters after my name is to prove to people (and myself?) that I’m smart, to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. I’ve just read the “Impostor Syndrome” post, and they do seem to go together :). I even say to people that I’m going to start a club for “The Under-Appreciated”, those who contribute greatly at work but do not have the gift of the gab and self-promotion. But another strong reason is that I really believe that my forte is research; it’s just how my brain works. I heard recently that a man in the UK attained his PhD at age 92, so maybe it’s my retirement project!!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I know a woman who got her PhD in her 70s. It’s never too late! Thanks joanne.

  10. Gabriela Montoya-eyerman Avatar
    Gabriela Montoya-eyerman

    I’ve thought about going back to school for my Phd but mostly because I love learning and being a student. So, I decided that for now just considering myself a continuing learner would be ok too. However, if the universe pushes me back to going for a Phd, then I would do it. For now I have lots of other challenging things to keep me occupied.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Most (all?) RFMs love learning. So, for some, a PhD is the answer. Thanks for sharing, Gabriela.

  11. Anne M Avatar
    Anne M

    Well, I’m 56 and have a PhD from a top institution and a 25 year career as a college English professor. Which sounds really successful, except I am haunted by the ways I have not achieved at the level I should have with my elite education and at the level of my academic peers — highly esteemed articles but no scholarly book(s). And now I’m leaving my career early to return to my neglected first love, creative writing — and get an MFA as step to help me (and because I love being a student, it seems). I feel connected to myself in ways I have not been for so many decades. But anyway, the point is you can have the PhD and be what looks like a high achiever and still feel a sickening sense of not having lived up to your promise.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s never too late, Anne, to return to your first love. Good for you!

    2. joanne Avatar

      That’s a really interesting perspective, thanks,as I don’t feel like I’ve lived up to my promise either.

  12. nourmoustafamohieddine Avatar

    This is very interesting and inspiring 🙂
    Btw, I have just started writing, just after quitting my job. It’s kind of release my energy, positive and negative one. I would be happy if you can share your valuable thoughts with me. I’m craving for new people, new mindsets 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, Nour. It’s good to have you here.

  13. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    Wouldn’t it be helpful if we could remove the words smart and stupid, or at least their suggestions of outcome? I find I do smart and stupid things throughout the day in an alternating rotation. Often, those have little to do with my underlying intellectual potential. Observationally, I’ve noticed it’s much the same for most of the people around me. Maybe, those two words would become less of a club if we had better ones aligned with how our brains work.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      What about neurodiversity? That term is becoming more and more common. Thanks, M.J.

      1. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
        M. J. Cuthbertson

        As in:

        Parent: “If you’re so nuerodiverse why can’t you pick up your laundry? ”

        Child: “Because in the multiverse there’s a place where laundry doesn’t exist. So, I am preserving all life as we know it by leaving my laundry on the floor. ”

        Hmm, I think we need to keep working on it to find words that fit.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Ha! Oh, wow. Good luck with that one, M.J.!! 🙂

  14. Chipper Avatar

    I asked my son on the eve of his 21st birthday what he would do if money were no object and he could do anything; he said “travel and play music”. Then do that (instead of working and trying to get a job with insurance, we’ve got you covered). It breaks my heart that he believes the doubters who say his passion is “just a hobby”.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Your son is lucky to have you as a parent! Thank you for sharing, Chipper.

  15. Bostonian Avatar

    I got a PhD a while back. It was convenient for me, and a good way to get a little credibility and increase my employment prospects. It didn’t cost me anything, either, because I had teaching assistantships – free tuition, stipend, health care, all the way through. I was also adjunct faculty at a second university after the MA. I put money in the bank that became the down payment for my first house. Fun times. I miss grad school.

    I knew at the time, from my older brother’s example, that professor jobs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be: there’s a small number of ‘real’ professor jobs, and a whole lot of ‘fake’ professor jobs. So I kept my eye on the business world at the end, and made a lateral that had me making good money before I even defended my dissertation, and living in Rio the week after.

    But back to giftedness: boredom springs eternal. Like the man said, after a certain point you just want to do something else. I went through a number of different specialties over a decade, got a few professional certifications, and then they were dragging me towards management and I just dint wanna.

    So I quit and became a full-time dad. Dr. Dad, thenkyouverymuch. And there’s the love. Daughter is playing out in the snow now, and son is writing songs. I’m cooking dinner.

    Yep, more important.

    My son told me he wants to be a professional musician when he grows up. Fine, I told him: Lin Manuel graduated from Wesleyan. Get your BA first.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, beautiful. Thank you, Dr. Dad.

    2. cmd1122 Avatar

      This is so inspiring 🙂 Thank you, Dr. Dad.
      Also, I love your sarcasm and cynicism…just the right amount. 😉
      How was life in Rio? I would love to go to Brazil and travel around the vast country.

  16. Stef Avatar

    Hi, Paula–
    I chuckled my way through the whole reading. I did not, WOULD NOT, get a Ph.D., which got my contract “un-renewed” teaching English at Indiana University. I didn’t actually WANT to be a college professor (other than for $$ and security). I wanted to be, and already was, a writer. And so I have been for the almost 50 years since then. But here’s the funny thing. Once I began writing about the gifted, and not just writing poetry, plays and fiction, and got “famous” for writing about the gifted, people began having me speak at conferences, etc. and most often I was introduced as “DR. Tolan” because nobody could imagine I had done that sort of writing and been recognized for it without having a Ph.D. So what I would do when introduced that way, was to thank the person for having granted me that honorary degree.

    In point of fact, Katherine Paterson, a dear friend and one of my favorite writers of all time, has several honorary degrees for real! So my advice remains the same–do what you love and trust in the Universe to support that love!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’ve also been called Dr. Prober on occasion! Glad you got to chuckle, Stef. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

    2. cmd1122 Avatar

      Thank you for sharing, Stef. Your experiences (at least in the past roughly 50 years) are admirable, heart-warming and hilarious.
      Learning to do what I love and trust in the Universe proves a bit tricky, but not all that hard, and actually rather fun and exciting as I let myself follow my passions and see what happens in time.
      I will check out your writing on your blog. Greetings from Vancouver, Canada.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Yes, check out Stephanie Tolan. She writes about the profoundly gifted.

  17. Kamala Quale Avatar
    Kamala Quale

    Great idea, measure your life in love, and great song. Thanks Paula! ________________________________

  18. Iowan42 Avatar

    There are many kinds of intelligence, and most of them don’t offer advanced or any degrees.

    The pressure to get a degree has to do with meeting someone else’s standards for you unless you want the degree for your own purposes.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yeah. Important to sort out your own purposes from what others expect. Thanks Iowan42.

  19. L Avatar

    Once I began a master’s program. One course in, realized I wasn’t doing it because I *wanted* to, but in order to try to gain the approval of others. I didn’t pursue the program. Over the years, my lack of a higher degree has probably hurt me in my “career” pursuits – but my “career” is not aligned with my authentic self. And to be honest I don’t think it would have prevented me from experiencing the same manipulations, suppression and targeting, anyway. I was just thinking this morning how there’s this expectation of high performance and higher education/STEM etc. that goes along with giftedness, and that not fitting into those genres makes not-fitting-in due to giftedness even more difficult. It’s like a subset of a subcategory of misalignment with society. People now understand “giftedness” in the context of high performance/high achievement, but they do not understand it in any other context and then malign those with diverse cognitive abilities. It’s difficult to maintain a sense of… place… in the world, and especially, there is no safety… when everything in society is working strongly against who you are… and you really truly are not motivated by the “negative motivators” such as “prove them wrong!” or “do it anyway!” – you don’t want to (and can’t) “fight” or “overcome” – you just want to *be.* When it’s basically impossible.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, L. Sending you love.

    2. cmd1122 Avatar

      I hear you, L. At least you took the step of starting a master’s program (I haven’t managed that yet)! Did you or some of your peers from your bachelor’s program head straight to master’s programs? Far too many of my peers ‘stuck it out’ for a follow-up master’s, despite exhaustion of all things academic, because a) government student loans would not have to be paid until 6 months after finishing one’s studies, b) parents offered partial support ONLY if their young adult child would go directly into a master’s program after earning a bachelor’s, and c) the terrifying prospect of finding and holding down a paying job to support themselves and pay back student loans (not that high school education really sets you up for a career path…) (sorry for the cynicism; there were obviously better reasons, too).

      L, I assume you are in the U.S.A.(?). Society was set up to make you feel like it is ‘basically impossible’ to *be*; consumerism, marketing, Wall Street, the military industrial complex, invasion of privacy with practical impunity, and prisons full of bright minds all but wasting away have a tight grip on your country; you are not at fault. I don’t mean to be overwhelming with the text that follows, but it is complicated stuff that we need to try and understand before we can fix it.

      While depressing, the post-secondary dilemma makes sense considering what we pay for tuition (Tuition is cheaper in Canada, where I live, but society seems to ‘look up’ to the U.S.A and say ‘Well, our tuition is considerably cheaper than U.S. institutions of similar academic acclaim’). The U.S.A. and Canada have ludicrous notions of what ‘education’ means and what it should cost the student, and inherently, what the value of having ‘educated’ citizens is (beyond bragging in OECD statistics). What about POTENTIAL, creativity, humanism and a sense of duty to protect Mother Earth from destruction in the disastrous human-created experiment of capitalism and the ‘need’ for constant economic growth at all costs?

      In the U.S.A. the drive for STEM and ‘coercing’ so many bright university students into these fields largely ‘stems’ from the advent of atomic bombs and then the Cold War with the USSR; the USA has long been comparing its curriculum and teaching methods to those of other industrialized countries to ‘crack the code’ of what it tasks to ‘breed’ innovative minds starting in kindergarten. As such, educational reforms at the K-12 level have been politically driven with usually everything but the best developmentally-appropriate interests of students in mind. This has destroyed so much potential to test the benefits/shortfalls of different curricula and pedagogies, as the windows of time for studying student success over the long term are very few. Children, parents, educators and politicians are frustrated, and rightly so. (Scandinavians figured out that play until age 7 is key…I wonder what they do to support gifted students…?). We know the arts and sports are good for human development, but it wouldn’t appear that way to alien-type beings examining millions of K-12 schools worldwide. (the aliens would no doubt gawk at our insistence to introduce screens/devices from the earliest ages and the mental health crisis, unfolding literally RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES…)

      The ‘modern’ innovation race (to the bottom on an ethical level, but to the top in the minds of corporate America and multinationals around the world) is (funnily enough) still with Russia and former Soviet bloc nations, China, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Germany, booming Latin American nations with top research institutions (in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil, for example)…let’s not get started on countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran…how scandalous to think people who are clearly all terrorists could have anything positive to contribute to humanity? And the continent of Africa…unspeakable…Cynicism and sarcasm aside, wow…the potential that lies in the African continent is mind-boggling and it is now expanding on a a global level…The potential in ‘underdeveloped countries’ or ‘developing’ (or whatever the term of the year is), is unprecedented and this is truly exciting…there is more empowerment and education than ever in most countries in the world…mega potential (But don’t remind Trump; he chose not to read the first memo).

      Our species keeps letting history repeat itself; the masses are brainwashed and lack a consciousness of their ability to stand up for what is just, equitable and logical; they have been numbed by politics, dooming climate change disasters, and the seeming impossibility of paying back student loans…mental health awareness and support needs a major systemic overhaul…

      It will be ‘almost’ impossible, but we need to enter into an era with new conservation, economic, educational, gender role, political, health care….(infinity)…systems… There are millions of people working on designing these around the world, but this is a numbers game. If the people dedicated to such goals and ideals did have more offspring than the societal average to help win the numbers game, then who be focused on solving these globally interconnected and systemic problems? Raising children takes long term commitment; it is admirable beyond words. How do we calculate when we will have depleted Mother Earth’s resources or if climate changes will do us all in…? We need to put our skill-sets together and ask the questions that billions of people do not have the freedom to ask. We can read, we can write, we have technology and Wi-Fi at our fingertips…so…

      Paula, can your bloggEEs meet up to plan a (brilliant, largely introvert-brain conceived) revolution to salvage what is left of humanity and Mother Earth? Why not an actual meet up this summer? You now have 3,750 followers; 1% attendance would be a fantastic start.

      L, it is not too late to align your career with your authentic self. Easy for me to say, but you are still here on this planet…

      Buckets of love to you all <3

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Well, cmd1122, you’ve given us a lot to think about. About the meet up. I’m not quite ready to organize such a thing. There is a conference in Houston in July hosted by http://www.sengifted.org. That’s a meet up of sorts. I hope to be there and present. Wanna join me?? 🙂 Thanks for the love. <3

        1. cmd1122 Avatar

          Oooooo…Paula, that would be a ton of fun!…As in brain food fun, meeting really smart people who are making some waves fun, and also speaking some Spanish fun, and eating delicious Latin American food that I can’t find here 🙂 (When in Rome…When in Texas…forget you are in the Bush family country and embrace the Latino community…). 🙂
          I just looked up how to register and cost…not bad, all considered. Stepping into the SENG community would be very helpful in determining my next steps and seeing how I may fit into the mess of the education system now and in the future. 😀 <3 I will keep you posted.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Let me know if you decide to attend SENG. You might want to check the program once it’s out to see if the topics would fit for you. Many are likely for parents. And there may not be a lot on highly/profoundly gifted adults… Of course, I’d love to see you there!!

      2. Arachne Avatar

        …but, but… the countries who have some of those things right are evil socialists! They’re almost commies! They’re DEFINITELY liberals! We can’t be like THEM!

        It amazes me that when people find systems that work, instead of learning from it, society ignores it unless the system was invented by a like society. Then they have to arrive at the same system on their own, even if they are re-inventing the wheel and decades behind. Point being… there are good examples for nearly everything out there, if we look to find them. But to adopt any fix, for some reason, it seems like it has to, at a minimum, have the appearance of organically arising from the society itself. Else, it won’t be trusted, and will face overwhelming obstacles to ever come to fruition. You are left with “convincing” them that someone else’s way is right, when it is better to have a natural ownership that this solution was grown as an exact and native fit.

        Sometimes custom-made solutions are necessary, but sometimes it seems people need the impression that it is a custom-made solution, when in reality it may be simply this: We are all people. And people all need the same basic things in order to feel safe enough to pursue an authentic and fulfilling life. Ultimately, the breaking of the “Us and Them” barriers may be the magic key, because then we can all globally learn from one another (suspicion free and without pushback), instead of feeling as though each community/society/country/person must work alone. That’s a far leap ahead for social justice.

        Circling ’round – it’s an interesting idea. Do you suppose there are similar think tanks already existing somewhere? It seems logical enough that there might be.

        1. cmd1122 Avatar

          I am dying metaphorically reading this…What a lot that you packed in!
          “It amazes me that when people find systems that work, instead of learning from it, society ignores it unless the system was invented by a like society.” So true, and tragic.
          Yes, we are all people and we all need the same basics. I hate when people swear that racism is a thing of the past or avoid talking about it. Racism and discrimination and policies that go against the principal of equity are ALIVE and gaining traction.
          The political flip-flop between conservative and socialist (or just plain odd liberal, but labeled as ‘socialist’ by the haters of anything or anyone different than what they know or who they identity as) is atrocious right now, in many of the most powerful regional national/federal governments. It is truly terrifying.

          That said, there are many think tanks working along the lines you and I feel are the right direction…
          1) Watch the video on the homepage: https://www.freire.org/paulo-freire/ (Freire Institute; Paulo Freire is one of my heroes and his work has been continued by many people)

          2) http://www.boaventuradesousasantos.pt/pages/pt/livros.php (Boaventura de Sousa Santos, based at the Universidade de Coimbra, arguably the top institution in the Portuguese-speaking world. This page links to articles in many languages, including English. Boaventura is associated with the World Social Forum (I would love to go one day): https://wsf2018.org/en/english-world-social-forum-2018/ (most info on site is not in English, but they have a Wiki page)

          3) http://www.bellhooksinstitute.com/ (bell hooks; a world of knowledge, but especially about feminism and critical pedagogy and problems of racism in the USA and of course, she is an artist in her own right)

          4) La Universidad Autónoma de Mexico has huge influence in Mexico and the Spanish-speaking world, and some big-name socialist professors that teach there. There are many socialist-bent folks and many programs truly starting to recognize the importance of indigenous voices in academia.

          5) Heard of Alfred Adler? I hadn’t 5 weeks ago; it is worth reading his biography and questioning why we don’t hear more about him and others, and instead only a few dominant names such as Freud, not to take credit from Freud).
          There are a ton of people who have embraced Adler’s work and taken it in different directions around the world.
          This is a good reading list: http://www.alfred-adler.us/read.htm#101

          6) Media is key. There are many good (socialist) non-mainstream news outlets and grassroots radio programs… around the world 🙂 Democracy Now is a big one, but most are small and local to their region alone (not national).

          These are just my current favourites. Let me know if you need more, Arachne! 🙂

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Thanks for all the resources, cmd1122. It seems that you and Arachne and L ought to meet up!

          2. Arachne Avatar

            Yeah, the political tendency towards the extreme ends of either side is so strange to me… because that’s not where the majority of people sit, I think. It’s just where the majority of the power sits. But the people put the power there. Less extreme politicians sometimes even pretend to be more extreme than they are just to get elected.How did it get that way? It just strikes me as bizarre-o. And very uncomfortable. And so many people are uncomfortable with it, yet it keeps perpetuating itself.

            What a lot of interesting resources. I’ll check those out!

            1. Paula Prober Avatar
              Paula Prober

              As I reread this thread, I think we may be getting too off topic. As I moderate comments, I just want to be sure you all know that this blog isn’t a place to get deeply into political opinions even though these are important topics and there needs to be places for these discussions. I want you all to be able to express yourselves and I also need for us to stay within the blog’s topics and purpose. Thank you for understanding.

      3. L Avatar

        Nah, it’s too late for “career.” I no longer care about “career.” The mistreatment I’ve received in that avenue has been extreme, severe and inescapable. I’m barely eking out survival right now to try to live more authentically but it’s at the expense of so much (physically, mentally, every which way, and it’s not sustainable) – but there’s pretty much no feasible way to expect I could subsist on my authentic abilities. They’re not aligned with what society values enough to pay for and I can’t seem to find a way. (And it was my siblings who earned the higher degrees etc., not peers.) Anyway. ’nuff said.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober


        2. Iowan42 Avatar

          I have an advanced degree. I have retired from that field. But I have thought of getting another one because I would like it. And for you, even if money is a problem, there are scholarships–talk to your chosen school–and lots of free or near-free adult classes and seminars. If you don’t want that degree, think of something else!

  20. maggiebrown2015 Avatar

    I’ll be tangoing with the best of them. Once I finish the darn…..

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for your inspiration, Maggie!

  21. Julie Bresette Avatar
    Julie Bresette

    This post is so perfectly timed. I turned 40 last month and just yesterday I was considering whether or not I let my parents down. I didn’t become a doctor or lawyer, etc. However, I am excelling at being a mother and wife. So, if I measure my life by love then I am indeed a great success!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


    2. lilurazko Avatar

      I am turning 40 this year too. I’m still in the mix of having babies and toddlers, and I wonder when they all finally get in school what my next step will be!

  22.  Avatar

    Your post reminded me of a quote by Yvon Chouinard – founder of Patagonia company:
    “I’ve always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach about an 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession that doesn’t appeal to me. Once I reach 80 percent level I like to go off and do something totally different; that probably explains the diversity of the Patagonia product like – and why our versatile, multifaceted clothes are the most successful.”

    ― Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Love the title of that book! Will have to look into it. Thanks.

    2. cmd1122 Avatar

      Awesome quote and book title [Let My People Go Surfing]…now, that is the kind of boss I want! 🙂

  23. redheadpoetess Avatar

    This is something I’ve had to come to terms with recently, as I’ve just temporarily (or permanently) dropped out of college. My life doesn’t have to be measured by academic success, it can be measured by love, just like you said. Wonderful post!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing, redheadpoetess!

    2. bethplanetbethcom Avatar

      I think there’s persistent false expectation that if you’re smart, you will go to college, graduate, and then become successful (most often, and preferably, in the business world). But this path isn’t the way for soooo many gifted adults. In actuality there’s a multitude of definitions for what constitutes ‘success’, and how you can obtain it. I mean, think about blue-collar workers, or anyone who makes a living with their hands. Many *could* have gone college route but because of their particular values, chose a different pathway. I just think our society has such a very narrow definition of success, of smartness, well just so many things! Of course we can feel very conflicted – we’re only humans – but for us, being multi-faceted, need different alternatives, often.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Yes, how do we define success?? How do we define smartness? Thanks for being here, Beth.

        1. bethplanetbethcom Avatar

          Oh you are so welcome, Paula! I really love reading your articles but especially the comments, it’s a great way to join the dialogue, at least here in the online world. A lot of us have minimal, quality connections with others, and I know for myself, adds to the value that your blog has for me. Thank you Paula!

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