Language is strength. Thought is power. That is what I was taught in school. But there are things I cannot convey with the language I have today. There are things at which my words can blindly reach and swat but cannot grasp. I could not hope to describe, to write, to put into these static black shapes these sorts of—worries.
I am not my career.
It’s three o’clock in the morning and the fan is on and my screen casts an ugly white sheen on my knuckles. Time for the ritual again; I scroll down the list of companies and deadlines and .com’s and ’s. Rejected. Rejected. No Response. Rejected. It’s two lines longer than last week.
“oh yea what are you doing this summer?” “idk haha. still applying” I click the lock button and let my phone go. It falls on my desk, rubbery shell muffling the impact. The screen stays dark. I don’t blame them. It’s an awkward conversation to continue. Is there a current of judgment in the radio silence, or perhaps pity? Probably not, I think. Definitely, I say to myself. I have no right to claim myself a spot in this group of engineers. I haven’t earned it.
I can’t follow the map that others have drawn out for me.
In freshman year of high school, I wanted to be a surgeon. Back then, it seemed like all the “smart kids” wanted to be doctors of some kind. “That test was pretty easy, right?” “Of course.” I went through the motions. Hide your grades. Brag about them. Dismiss the class as easy. Stay up late to study. When I came to Princeton, I threw my pre-med ideas into a corner. The motions changed: hide my grades, stay up late to study, and that’s about it.
“No Shu, I’m sure you did fine.” Me—fail? Me—worry about academics? Impossible. I don’t have the right to worry. So I make light of my unease, dismiss my tests. “He doesn’t deserve to worry.” What right do I have to be concerned about my grades when others have more legitimate concerns? I don’t belong in a group with troubled people; my worries aren’t real enough.
I joined mock trial in high school because I thought it would help. I thought that by imitating great orators, by mimicking fiery opening and closing arguments, I would be able to articulate just what it was that bothered me. If you ask me why I stayed in mock trial in college, I’d answer with some variation of “I want to win” or “I love the team.” Do I stay on the team to win? No. Do I have fun? Not particularly. I stay on for the same reason that I joined: I’m still trying to find that inspiration, the key that will magically make me articulate. So far all I’ve found is rhetoric. But rhetoric is useless for self-persuasion, when I’m trying to convince myself that being lost is a problem, that it’s even worthy of consideration.
I am not my journey—I’m not on a journey. I’m lost. That I can confirm. And maybe if I stop pretending that I’m following some path, I’ll be able to start moving.