The week has flown by in a blur. I state this in every post because this simple fact continues to amaze me. Once upon a time, I would watch the clock, counting down the hours and minutes until five o’clock. Sometimes I’d even multiply them—it was like that. Time now moves along without me. At 6:30 this evening, 12 hours after breakfast, I was trying to figure out when I had lunch. Then it hit me—I hadn’t. Neither had I eaten any snacks besides a cookie a friend had left over from her lunch. This done while simultaneously responding to an email, carrying on a text message conversation, salvaging the contents of a failed hard drive, and making semi-coherent responses to office banter.
Today was another career fair at the business college. Was it only a year or two ago that I went to mock interviews and presentations about how to impress at career fairs? Was it only three years ago that a career in business consulting was barely a daydream bred when weeks of mind-numbing monotony were combined with weekends of vivid intellectual stimulation? In two short months I start out in business advising for real in a new city. Ever the dreamy kid, I’ve somehow learned an incredible amount in the past few years. A quote by Daniel Quinn comes to mind.
Once you learn to discern the voice of Mother Culture humming in the background, telling her story over and over again to the people of your culture, you’ll never stop being conscious of it. Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you’ll be tempted to say to the people around you, “how can you listen to this stuff and not recognize it for what it is?”
This doesn’t mean I’ve got Culture figured out—nothing of the sort. It doesn’t mean I think some cultures are off base. It sums up what I’ve learned about culture, its importance, and a few of its immutable factors. I can’t be something I’m not without effort. And anything worth being requires effort. Effort in the form of mind-numbing periods of homework, stress headaches, sweaty palms, late nights, rough relationships, and doing what’s right no matter what others do. How many times will I ignore what I know for what others want me to do? Inspiration is easy to find by looking up; whatever my situation, someone is there who understands.
So many professors I interact with are teaching because they love their students, they love the small town, which is pretty incredible. I have so many nice classmates. We help each other socially, emotionally, and academically to succeed in the stressful, fast-paced, and competitive community that is college. We’re here together, from all corners of the world, for a brief moment in our lives and it’s made us very close. I’ve been deceived so often by my own biases, by my own prejudice, that it’s surprising I still put people in boxes and try to sort them by trivial things like hairstyle, skin color, or tone of voice. We’re here from all backgrounds, all races, and some of us are immigrants.
I love reading stories of immigrants. While some are forced out of their homelands by war or other misfortune, the narratives of those who leave relative comfort and stability to take a chance at their dreams are especially fascinating to me. These people have an incredible sense of direction; they put everything into what they believe might be theirs. They give up all they have—homes, money, property, and family—to stake it on a thread of a dream, a sacrifice that pales beside the unshakeable vision of what they and their posterity could have if the venture succeeds. Their own success is often uncertain and sometimes late in arriving; immigrants are content with gains sometimes realized only by future generations. The focus is not on giving all, but on what could be gained. Immigrants realize the incredible power of now by forever freeing themselves from the past while retaining all of its knowledge.
Several components are necessary to get a clear vision of the future; namely, curiosity, creativity, and commitment. Curiosity assesses opportunities; without curiosity one does not stray from the confines of the past. Creativity constructs models and analyzes choice-paths. Commitment follows through, examines feedback, and makes relevant adjustments in a precise and timely manner. Weakness in any of these areas confines one, willingly or unwillingly, to the grim directives of the past.
All the effort in the world is not going to make dreams come true. Dreams are not going to be met with sheer willpower. Successful people do not fight for their dreams; instead, they use the power of now to make rational choices based solidly on their past and on their goals. They’re on a mission—they have a mission. Goals are based on dreams and consist of a series of objectives, each logically following from the previous.
As a first generation college student, I sometimes feel like an immigrant. I have incredible opportunities that neither my parents or grandparents had. Opportunities bring choices, choices bring responsibility, and responsibility brings complexity. Bars are set higher—stakes are greater. Sure, I have dreams and I’ve made big plans. They’re coming true faster and working out better than I ever hoped or thought possible. So many people have given me more than I will ever be able to repay; my only requital is to show to others what others have shown me. Today is the only day I have to give. *Tomorrow is waiting, if tomorrow be mine. *