Delayed participation due to qualification
We’re told through the marshmallow experiment that the ability to delay gratification is a superpower. The educational industrial complex and the pyramid scheme that is academia enforces delayed participation due to lack qualification in much more subtle ways.
When I was in second year of theatre school, a couple arrived. They were ‘older’ by perhaps five or six years. As a nearly fifty year old, it’s not a big deal. For my twenty year old self, this was significant. They were different. They were weird. They may even have been (gasp) married.
As a second year theatre student, I had a small amount of status. I wasn’t a first year. These ‘new comers’, though older, were first years and therefore, in my mind, were of lower status. Imagine then, to my horror, when they started working in the field.
They started working in the field and they hadn’t even finished their first year / intro to theatre course. “HOW CAN THIS BE POSSIBLE?” I could rationalize away the outrage. They were grown ups. They were married. Adults look after their own. They’ve worked professionally. They are being favoured by the department. People feel sorry for them because they’re old and stuck in school.
I told myself all kinds of stories as to why they were working in the theatre and I, as an elevated second year wasn’t. Despite the stories, I couldn’t shed the lingering unease with this situation. Their degrees were incomplete. They didn’t have the right answers yet. Hell, who gave them permission? In my mind, it was though a person couldn’t do a job before they ‘finished their studies’ and were given permission to go out into the world and practice.
I believed that having a degree meant that you were suddenly qualified. I guess, I needed someone to give me permission to tell stories, dress up funny, make people laugh and create community. These people did not. They merely assumed their legitimacy. They found problems to solve and went to work solving them. If they could do the work, they could do the work. If not, they’d be fired. Pretty damn simple.
Institutions have an almost god like place in our culture. We forget that the institutions, standards and qualifications that impact our lives have all been created by people. They are imperfect. They are stories that we tell ourselves about permission - who gets to do what and when.
What stories do you have around qualifications and participation? How do they hold you back? How do they give you strength?