Opportunity Precedes Introspection

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Written by Jonathan Johnson, Executive MBA 2023 student

Opportunity precedes introspection.  I am not special… but maybe I’m lucky.  Maybe being lucky isn’t unique.  And maybe, such luck should always be met with deep gratitude. 

I am an adopted child, born in a developing country into arguably less than ideal circumstances, yet fortunate to have been adopted—amongst other children unknowingly in a similar quandary—by a Western middle-class family.  We, like everyone else, faced struggles and strife, economic and social disappointment, divorce and deviated plans, but, regardless and wholeheartedly, I was provided with a life that enabled me to be a kid, carefree and loved.  This luck grew to present rich opportunities I can only in retrospect appreciate: a structured household, food on the table, a decent education, meaningful relationships, the value of hard labour and freedoms I will never fully understand in comparison to a life I did not live.  We moved frequently, which offered exposure to many cultures and a yearning to connect.  We’ve lived in seemingly exotic places.  We’ve led seemingly exotic lives.

My life, to me, is normal.  And upon that introspection, I realise my life is full of challenges, choices, disappointment, love, hope, wishes, stark reality and opportunity. 

This abridged description of my life is, again, not entirely unique.  I am multi-racial, an immigrant, a husband, a friend, a veteran, an expert in my field; I contain great volumes of the indescribable… complicated, just like everyone else.  I would not consider myself the smartest person, nor the brightest, nor the luckiest – maybe sometimes nonplussed, perplexed and a bit overwhelmed.    

I have worked hard; I have faced great disappointment and great fortune.  I have struggled, I have acquiesced, and I have also overcome.  I have chosen to fill my life with wonderful love, friendship and gratitude.  And a respect for what could have been different or worse, had I not simply been lucky.   

But what may not be simply luck is how one uses one’s opportunities; how one builds on one’s experiences and dutifully earned lessons; how one handles oneself in the face of adversity and frustration; and, how one values those prospects and returns that value.  Any successes I may have, I did not attain on my own.  I have been fortunate to cultivate a network of family and friends, colleagues and mentors that propagated strength-building confidence, rooted in the reality that is life. 

I do not know what studying at Cambridge will present to me and my future.  But I am grateful for this opportunity, this challenge and this voyage.  I am in awe of the intellect and drive I see in my fellow students and professors, all facing their own challenges, all forging their own futures.  This experience is an investment in me and the future I can build for myself and others… it is not free nor is it easy; I wouldn’t pursue it if it was.  It has quickly become a shared experience, full of all aspects of life.  A shared camaraderie… a unique collective gratitude. 

I am and always will be a student.  I shall progress.  Perhaps, introspection precedes opportunity. 

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