It is at this juncture in my life that I ask myself, where did I go wrong? Where, along the way, did I forget the importance of the future in context of the present? When did I stop asking myself what I wanted to do with my life and blindly started to follow the path that had been laid ahead of me? Because, to me, that’s all the past 20 years of my life had been — a series of wasted moments leading up to the next set of wasted moments.
It’s only when I have been exposed to individuals who have had just as much opportunity as me growing up when I realize that my life is truly unexceptional. My accomplishments that I thought had been accomplishments are truly not exceptional, just like the personality that I had cultivated or the experiences I have shared. My life, I have started to realize, is truly another forgetful existence that will be forgotten shortly. It seems that my “accomplishments” really aren’t accomplishments at all but really a series of corollaries following a set of environmental circumstances.
I have been tirelessly applying for jobs for the past couple weeks of my life, a quintessential experience among all college juniors. I spend hours at furiously scribbling notes at info sessions and making follow-up emails and calls and writing unique cover letters for each individual firm and filling out every section of every job that I have applied to, only to receive the absence of a reply a couple of weeks later. Hours passed by with me repeating the same cycle over and over again. I research the company through all the resources I find online and through accounts by people I have met, I write a cover letter using the facts I have learned, and then I spend another couple of minutes filling out the application. And when I press submit, it’s almost as if nothing had changed.
I’ve had the same experience last year — the sensation of constantly wasting my time digging a tunnel towards a light that will never come. Point. Click. Type. Point. Point. Click. Type. Click. Point. Click. Click. Point. Type. Point. Click. Type. Click. Point. Click. Click. Type. Click…
So it goes.
I ask myself, is it too late? Did I make a mistake in understanding what I wanted to do with my life too late? Do I even know now? I have had the privilege of financial security to question myself regarding what I wanted to study in college. I didn’t need to jump into “practical” majors like computer science right away because I feared my prospects of landing a job in the future. Instead, I started off pre-med because I thought I wanted to be a doctor, only to transition into economics a couple of months after college started. But, now that I am nearing the end of my education as an undergraduate, I wonder if I had made the right choice in not committing to a career that I thought I wouldn’t have enjoyed.
If I had committed, I wouldn’t be happy. But, at the same time, I also wouldn’t have my insecurity regarding my future that I have right now. I would have committed to something as opposed to lightly clinging to everything. And I wonder if whether making a poor decision is better than not making a decision at all. I thought that I had the potential to land a full-time job that I would find intellectually stimulating and socially impactful without sacrificing the humanities classes I have taken that have sharply altered my perspective of myself and the world. I thought that I had the privilege and security to explore my passions before I commit the next couple years of my life to a particular industry. But now, I’m not so sure that I had made the right decision.
I don’t know if the life I lead is a life that I want to lead. I thought I wanted to fully leverage my educational institution’s availability on interdisciplinary education and register for classes that were both humanistic and quantitative. I thought that it would give me a well-rounded understanding of the aspects of the universe that I wanted to delve into, particularly literature and poetry. But now, I question the sentiments that I have had throughout my undergraduate experience that have brought me to my present predicament. It is my interests that have brought me to the brink of leaving me hopeless at the sheer amalgamation of my professional failure. The fact is simple: my classes have no organizational application, and that is the result of me trying to broaden my understanding of myself and the world instead of learning something worth putting on my resume.
Writing is important. It is nice to write well, but not necessary in a professional setting. My passion for and skill in writing is a side-effect of my education. It is certainly a fundamental aspect of my personality that has shaped my life in many ways that I can quantify and many ways that I cannot, but it is ultimately a personal skill, not a professional one. I have never taken an English class for “professional application,” but it still surprises me at how little I bring up the classes I have taken for any job that I had applied to. It’s a personality trait with limited professional application, like “responsibility” or “empathy.”
Although understanding cultural hegemony in the context of colonialism is important for understanding how our present attitudes towards many everyday concepts have been shaped by historical atrocities, it ultimately does not have a professional application. Because, ultimately, professional settings does not encourage an education in the humanities. If anything, the opportunity cost of trying to achieve an interdisciplinary education has taken space from my schedule for learning courses that allow me to become a more desirable candidate to employers. Reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison has allowed me to understand the complexities associated with implicit oppression, but what is the point of having a well-rounded knowledge of the world if I spend the next twenty years of my life without the power to act on it?
I understand how extractive British economic and political colonial policies indirectly caused the Rwandan genocide. I understand how our obsession with grammar and sentence structure is implicitly reaffirming a toxic cultural hierarchy through language. I understand how meditation had been taken out of context from Buddhist practices and appropriated within western cultural as “mindfulness.” These concepts have shaped my perspective of the world, but I wonder what if I had replaced them with classes that would let me approach applying to jobs with less anxiety. I still don’t know how to calculate a discounted cash flow. I still don’t know the difference between a municipal and corporate bond. I still don’t even know how to read a balance sheet.
If I could make another birthday wish when I turned seven, I would wish to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I would wish that I knew the answer instead of guessing wrong throughout my entire life and questioning my every intention ever since. I would wish that I knew how I could best make a positive impact on the world and strive towards that goal instead of wasting the past 20 years of my life asking a question I still don’t know the answer to.
The interdisciplinary education that I have prided myself on having throughout my entire life seems to have failed me. What’s the use in knowing what I want to do if I don’t even have the means to accomplish the idealistic goals that I have set out for my entire life? What is the point in knowing what I want to accomplish if I do not possess the means to follow through on what I want to accomplish? I used to value learning for the sake of learning, but now I wonder if that is the very attitude that has made my life so difficult when I have applied for jobs. With every class that has taught me more about colonialism, I could have taken a class that would teach me how to value real estate or the different types of asset classes.
It’s not that I don’t have any “useful” skills; I still know a variety of programming languages and have applied them in both an academic and professional setting. It’s the by-product of some of the classes I have taken in economics. It’s just a skill that I have picked up that happens to be used in financial modeling and risk management. But, evidently, it seems that it isn’t enough. It seems that it isn’t enough. I still have relatively no skills when compared to an engineering or business student. I made a choice when I first came to college to allow myself the luxury to question myself. I took courses whose intention wasn’t professional application because I thought that is what I wanted. But now, the taste of regret is creeping up. Just like the others who have made the same decision as me.
I still have the privilege of continuing to have opportunities in the future. My life, very simply, is not over. Even if I do not receive an offer this summer to an internship that I find socially and intellectually fulfilling, I still have opportunities in the future to transition into an industry I care about doing work that I am passionate about. I hope, at least. In terms of the recruiting schedule, I have realistically, effectively closed myself off from finance and consulting jobs. But, if my passions still hold true given the test of time, I still have opportunities in the future to transition into these fields. It’s not over. The sacrifice I have made for the sake of becoming a more well-rounded person isn’t final.
I tell myself.