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
“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.