Saturday, April 07, 2007

It's Be Oneself and Be Perfect?

"Admission to a brand-name college is viewed by many parents, and their children, as holding the best promise of professional success and economic well-being in an increasingly competitive world.

“It’s, like, a really big deal to go into a lucrative profession so that you can provide for your kids, and they can grow up in a place like the place where you grew up,” Kat said."


Just look at me - approaching the end of my golden 20's, I'm down with no savings, no beaming careers, no concrete promise of future professional success or any prospect of future economic well-being (in fact, the latter has been issued a death sentence since day one I arrived at grad school). On top of that, I'm still traveling like a young 20-year-old, staying in shady hostels (though fun and having much more character) and treading the water of ill-maintained public beaches of Mexico, biting my own teeth when an emergency phone call across the continent costs $29.99 for the first 5 minutes b/c after 5 of those, I lost more than 1/10 of my monthly salary.

Worst of all - I'm not sure if I'm happier than years before.

So what has gone wrong?

I did go to an ivy-league school and am studying at an ivy-league school. Those Newton girls that have raised much national attention and discussions since their appearance on the New York Times article, "For Girls, It's Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too," needs to be told of a different message.

Well, I guess that's why another article - "Looking Beyond the Brass Ring" - came out today on the NYT. I cannot agree with Cate, the best friend of the writer Warner's more:

"I still remember the day when I was in my mid-20s that Cate, my best friend from college, told me her cousin had gotten into Harvard.

She laughed as I expressed my congratulations. 'She doesn’t know that it’s all downhill from here,' she said."

At times, it feels like my life has been on a downhill slide for a long time. And I can't recall the exact starting point of this whole sliding process except that I was pretty happy before I stepped into this place called the academia.

In grad school, the only time when I feel like I could possibly measure up is when I can manage to demonstrate the vibrant activities of my brain cells or the neuro-hyperactivity of the previous night in some vaguely making-sense words put together in a form of a "response paper." The more jargon the closer I sound like some academic erudite; the more convoluted the idea perhaps the greater chance of the professor skimming it through while still thinking that I've done some hard work of contemplation. Better yet if I could think of a title that reads like a sentence extended into a sub-sentence, all separated with a simple semi-colon, such as:

"For Academics: It's Not Be Oneself Nor Be Perfect."

Not the most wholesome experience, I can assure you. What happened to all that talk about striking a balance and achieving well-roundedness? Back in high school, at least those were more than a talk but concrete action initiatives. Otherwise, I guess I wouldn't be able to sit here typing out this message at a library cafe run by one of the most wanted univ's on this planet.

At times, all I want to do is to lounge on my couch and munch on a bag-full of chips, watching a no-brainer movie or a chic-flix, think not for a second about how such an activity could do no wonders to my brain capacity or graduation outlook - even if it does miracles to the index of inner happiness.

So, the question is: In a world that rests its very existence upon the mastery of critique and analyses, perfection does not exist, only counter-arguments do. How, then, does one manage to achieve everything well, to have all things together, while to remain true to oneself?

The answer: One doesn't. He/she just appears to be.

That face - that very face of my own - among the thousands of pictures taken in Mexico told me that I was happy. Life was simple, the weather was warm, and the sun brushed through the surface of my bare arms just right. Despite all that happened - losing all my financial security or bodily well-being at the end - I looked different because I was different -- I was a much happier being.

It wasn't just b/c I was on vacation. lt was b/c I could be who I am, stripped away of that image of the serious, knowledgeable, seemingly intelligent and getting-it-all-together TF/graduate student on campus. Gone was that core identity that I carried with me day in and day out here in Cambridge; gained hundreds-fold more was that true self that I too have almost forgotten.

"Ten minutes later, when her father arrived, Esther realized that he had somehow not registered the devastating thinness of the envelope. The admissions office was sorry. Williams had had a record number of highly qualified applicants for early admission this year. Esther had been rejected. Not deferred. Rejected.

Her father hugged her as she cried outside her classroom, and then he drove her home.

Esther said several days later: “Maybe it hurt me that I wasn’t an athlete.”

"It's ok, Esther, you are gonna be alright. Your life is going to be alright even if you never become an athlete," so I wanna tell that girl. Like Warner, I too believe that getting into the best college doesn't guarantee success, money, perfection, and, most of all, happiness. It's not about not having enough gratitude towards life but really about the kind of life that one wants to live, really, and the courage to live that life.

So perhaps the statement should be rephrased: For Me, It's Be Perfect As You Be Yourself.

梅ちゃん at 8:00:00 AM



at 4/8/07, 4:42 AM Blogger Basil said...

Thanks for your thoughts MY - there have been so many articles recently related to this issue, and it's given me reason to pause and evaluate what's really important. Hope you are well.

at 4/8/07, 5:21 PM Blogger John said...

I think I wrote a humongous blog about this myself. And my conclusion--I may be poorer and have to struggle more and have more issues to resolve with people in my family, but I'm so much more at peace with being out here trying to work in film than I ever could be making the big bucks at some law firm or consulting firm. When I stopped pursuing myself or glory, but really stopped and decided to pursue what love God has placed in my heart, I found the me inside that I'd always wanted to be. And I wouldn't go back for any amount of money or status. =)

at 4/10/07, 6:22 AM Blogger Chat Noir said...

cheer up, gal!


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