Who Decides: You or Life?
My fifth grade teacher told me that everybody must give back to the world. She even made the whole class sign a purple contract, binding us to this responsibility. Her lesson inspired me to work hard.
Two years later, I remember being in the seventh grade and swearing to myself that I would give back to the world with the kind of intensity with which Mother Theresa dedicated herself; I mapped my future out. I would be a doctor, whose life would be dedicated to Doctors Without Borders. I would be a spinster forever, living in the middle of some African desert, caring for the neglected. It didn’t matter that I would probably only own three sets of clothes. After all, Mother Theresa probably only owned one garment in her life.
Something happened as the years progressed. Perhaps the joy of playing with fancy Apple gadgets, the comforts of security and the dream of living a Hollywood unreality have convinced me that I don’t want to live an ascetic life. A part of me wants to live without worry, wants to live for myself. Yet I know that finding a job that helps people is the only job that would give meaning to my life. But how much money do I want? How much time should I save, if I should have a family? Does a meaningful job exist that embraces both luxuries?
To answer the Blog 4 prompt, if I knew how I wanted to impact the environment, I wouldn’t still be an undeclared major. Truth be told, I came to this school, considering pre-med, architecture and environmentalism; after this first semester, I have added pharmacy and industrial design to the list. Maybe even biochemical engineering.
Because this an architecture class, I will focus on my interest in architecture. I know that taking this course as a prerequisite is probably just a shallow stab at the heart of real architecture. As touched as I am by learning how architects can build with a purpose, I search inward to understand my intentions for even considering architecture as a possible profession. Looking back, I wonder why I was so taken by architecture. It probably stemmed from childhood experiences: when I was a kid, my dad avidly pursued open house visits as a hobby whenever he had free time. Most of the houses my dad picked were virtually unaffordable, but being able to imagine living in airy five bedroom houses overlooking Diamond Head Beach placed a tangible feel for my pleasant fantasy. My guilty and enlightened conscience now leads me to admit that my interest in architecture stems from a desire to build and reside in a beautiful and spacious house for myself. So I now reconsider whether or not I am in this architectural track for the right reasons. I’m scared that my pretense of wanting to work as an architect through the Peace Corps is all a lie to myself.
I wonder if it is enough to take on a fun job that doesn’t help people, and volunteer on the side. Does a person have to dedicate most of their lives to helping people? Is that even what I want? I don’t know how it’s supposed to work. Honestly, if I belived that I could live through another twelve years of schooling and emerge alive and sane, I would be a doctor. Perhaps this comes from being raised in an Chinese family, but due to strict Asian brainwashing, I have been constantly told that doctors have the most ability to directly help people. Sometimes I wonder if my future even lies in science. Am I demoting myself by avoiding being a doctor and considering other jobs in the medical field? Am I insulting architecture by running from the medical field and taking refuge in it? But then, maybe there is meaning in every job. I just have to look closely. So, I seriously don’t know what I want to do with my life. I wonder if I’m supposed to wait for life to decide what to do with me.
I’ve realized that although everyone admires people like Mother Theresa, very few would actually want to live her life. As I complete my first year of college and look forward to the next three years of my undergraduate studies, I know that this time is crucial for trying to understand the balance of living for myself and living for others – and what better way to discover the kind of impact I can have on the environment by exploring the U and the opportunities that it presents me.