I am in a guilty mess. And it starts here. The place where I spend 10 hours a week commuting there and back, and 22 hours a week being there… ..I call this miraculous, glorious place: campus. This is the place where you spend all your elementary and high school years imagining what it would be like to get accepted into the ideal University. I say University and not College or Trade school because like most Asian families, the thought is almost unbearable.
So when I’m in the midst of meeting new people in class, during campus activities or family dinners, the inevitable question is asked: So, what do you want to major in? What do you want to do after you get your degree?
And within that batch of University students, a good handful will look dazed and reply back with: I don’t know. My parents wanted me to go to University.
However, if anyone was raised by parents like mine, they would know that University is the only choice, the I-will-disown-you-if-you-don’t-get-in choice.
I know that if I didn’t have direction, if I didn’t have a goal to reach, I would be in that dazed batch. In fact, many of my friends fall into this category. Many people suggest they should take some time off, figure out what they want to do and then start school again. However, if anyone was raised by parents like mine, they would know that University is the only choice, the I-will-disown-you-if-you-don’t-get-in choice. Taking a break is inexcusable, what’s the point of wasting time when that’s where you’ll eventually end up anyway? Tech school or college, you say? That’s unthinkable. My mom thinks those options are preposterous; it’s only a detour in life because eventually the only ingredient to success is University.
“Mom, why do you want me to go to University so badly?” I urged for an answer. I wanted to know the source of my being brainwashed.
“How are you going to be successful if you don’t go to University?” And that was that.
I have a tendency to try and defy my mom – “ many teenagers do. I tried to be quick-witted and said, “What if I can be successful even if I don’t go to University? Success comes in many forms! I can be successful by being an admirable mother, a loving wife, a wise grandmother, caring sister, a dependable friend, the possibilities are endless.”
My mom became speechless. I think I became speechless after that as well. I mean, there wasn’t much to say after that.
It was a moment of clear epiphany. I never thought of success as coming in such array forms. I mean, I sort of just blurted it out, but nothing really registered beforehand. It really puts into perspective what society values, what my parents have conditioned myself to value. We’re so consumed with capitalism. It is the ultimate catalyst for my being sent to University. If I am able to obtain a degree, I make myself worthy to obtain success as well. After all, this is the ideal pathway to being successful, being happy, and landing the dream career.
Is this not the reason why people are marrying later in life? Because they had to obtain their Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD’s, whatever, and then find a high-paying career, and maybe squeeze in falling in love.
Is this not the reason why people are marrying later in life? Because they had to obtain their Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD’s, whatever, and then find a high-paying career, and maybe squeeze in falling in love. Our society is so urbanized, and so competitive – “ this is where our University-is-the-key-to-success mentality comes from. Our societies are becoming too populated, and everyone is competing for space. Unlike pre-industrial times, we simply must prove ourselves worthy by hanging our Post Secondary diploma; truth be told, it is the only way to survive the corporate world.
If we can all just stop – “ and absorb our surrounding, we can prioritize what we truly value and not what is just written on our resumes.
I find myself blinded in the process of obtaining my degree. Someone once told me that I should never take courses for the sake of taking courses. And every time June rolls around and I start planning my timetable for the following semester, I fall into this trap of taking meaningless courses. I look for courses that have available seating left and demands that I do not arrive on campus too early or too late. Worst of all, this winter semester I am taking a specific Philosophy course to help boost my GPA. It’s not even for the sake of learning philosophy, or because I am fascinated with the subject, but because it will flatter my transcript so I can obtain a degree, and land the job. I am a brainwashed guilt.
What if there was another alternative? I have a sudden spontaneity to fly to South America – “ people are so much more rural there – “ buy a ranch and care for llamas all day. I know people will find it hard to take me seriously if I say that, but doesn’t that sound appealing? Even for just a tad bit?
Back to reality. This thought will be too unsettling for my dear mother.
Ironically, I learned that a Bachelor’s isn’t an immediate ticket to the Good Life. I know someone who graduated with a business degree and have now found themselves a full-time job at Budget Rent-a-Car. How g-l-a-m-o-r-o-u-s, flying first-class? Not quite.
It’s all a facade; a game of deception. Perhaps going down The Path is not enough in this hustle-bustle world. It is such a shame that people spend most of their youth as prisoners of their institution, and by institution, I mean post-secondary. Some things work for others, and some just wont. Instead of being sucked into the vortex of what our parents are nagging at us about, what society is shoving us towards, we should re-evaluate what we truly want in life.
Do you want to stay as an aimless University student without direction? Once you find direction, is the career truly ideal? Perhaps parents should start encouraging their children to go into less conventional fields. Society is lacking in trade people right now, and these people are necessities and are highly valued. Yet, it’s hard to picture an Asian parent helping their child apply for courses as a plumber. Better yet, perhaps we should all fly down to South America and herd llamas in a ranch.