怎么办?(What do I do?): End of the Semester Reflection

Contrary to popular belief (or at least contrary to the vibe I get from the classmates I’ve talked to) I did enjoy my first year in college. I tend to be pretty even-keel about things, and I’m more apt to point out the negative than the positive. It’s a bad habit. The discussions and debates in which I’ve engaged have been extremely productive, and I relished being able to experience so many different pieces of the world in one place. In one day I would go from a conversation with someone from Hungary, to practicing Chinese with a national. That same day I could very easily speak with someone from Uganda and someone from Poland and someone from Pakistan. Cultural and linguistic diversity, as you all know (or at least as you’ll come to know), are is one of the things I value most on this Earth.

There were, of course, negative moments. Most of these negative moments are related to academic affairs. While it would be easy for me to lay out all of the problems I’ve seen with the academics so far, I would be remiss if I did not take at least a little responsibility for my educational experiences. I tried and failed to completely remove my biases against traditional education. It could be that I have been in the “system” for too long, and long for something new, but at any rate my opinions have colored my freshman year.

I also made poor course choices. I realize I had interest in some subjects solely because I was interested in impressing some unknown strangers in my future. Now, as the succulent taste of dropping out and doing my own thing so titillatingly plays across my tongue, the taste of shaping myself to fill someone else’s mold is more bitter than ancient Chinese medicine. I feel myself growing weaker. My sense of identity, as weak as it was before, is wavering harder that it ever has. But what can I possibly do? As little faith as I have in the education system, I have even less faith in society (sorry not sorry for being a downer today). It does not look favorably upon girls of my disposition. I’m a black female-bodied person with little credentials. My high school diploma is the only thing that documents my efforts in life thus far. Unfortunately, my diploma and its contents say little about my character. My grade point average reflects how highly (or how low) someone else appraised my work. It speaks of my ability to pass a few tests. It ignores the fact that some educators grade more harshly than others. It ignores the fact that some educators are highly subjective, grading based on how much they like a student. It does not necessarily reflect the amount of time I put into a subject, nor does it necessarily reflect the things that went on in my life outside of school (and believe me, there was a LOT that went on).

So I’m left with this essentially useless piece of paper that’s supposed to speak for me, that’s supposed to speak louder than my appearance. In the five seconds before I open my mouth to introduce myself, my potential employer has already –consciously or not– judged me negatively. He, or sometimes she, has already decided that because I appear to be female, he (or she) will pay me about 7% less than someone with the credentials who happens to appear to be male (just ask Forbes). If the trend continues, I’ll have a wonderful time trying to pay off my college loans in three and a half years. The glass ceiling is real, and these days it’s made of new-age bulletproofing material. It will flex under the force or a deadly projectile, but it will ultimately revert back to it’s previous shape, unscathed and colored by the weaponry now trapped inside it.

Add these social realities to the fact that I’m “nonconforming” –whatever that means– and I’ve got a cocktail of problems to drink. When I grow up, I want to be able to feed myself. I want to be able to attain shelter and clothing. I don’t need anything fancy, just enough to survive in relatively good health. Sure, I could straighten my hair, cover my current tattoo, refrain from getting news ones, and hide my piercings, but these body modifications all hold great spiritual significance to me, and hiding them would essentially hiding who I am. I dislike being a pawn in the system. I know I can’t expect to “have my cake and eat it too” as some would say, but I do ask for a little leeway, some breathing room.

Currently, I’m looking for a career path that allows me to be me in as much away as possible, and all the signs point to housewifery. Being a housewife to a husband who can provide me with my means of survival allows me to have the room to explore the other tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which I will explain in a later post. I want to move towards self-actualization, which I will also write about. Self-actualization,to me, seems to be like the Buddhist notion of Nirvana and the Abrahamic notion of Heaven. I just don’t see why I have to die to live in eternal piece. I feel as though I can reach that state while I’m still living.

I want to learn, explore, love, find. I want to be able to spend my days reading and making music and helping people, but I don’t want to have to sacrifice the elements that constitute my being. Last summer,  during my school’s orientation program, I attended several lectures where the lecturers stressed the importance of NOT worrying about the future. They assured us everything would fall into place, and that nothing mattered as long as we were happy. This is all good advice, but it’s difficult not to worry when you can see where the economy has been and when you’re not optimistic about where it’s going. It’s hard to believe that all I need is happiness for things to happen as they should when I have no concrete proof of it working in the past. All I have are the stories of my elders. Perhaps I should listen to them. People have been following the advice of those older than them for quite some time, there must be some efficacy in that tactic. I guess the only thing I can do right now is make decisions and wait for the upshot.

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