For the first time, I experienced the feeling of true anger. It was an anger ferocious enough to cause my very being to wish for the destruction of a nearby object. Perhaps describing the experience in passive voice is more eloquent as opposed to dramatic, but to put it into simple terms: I seriously wanted to table flip.

This may come as a surprise for most people as I tend to present myself as a reasonably stoic and emotionally stable person (excluding my frequent expressions of tiredness, laziness, and boredom). It is not very often that I feel immensely nostalgic, overjoyed, or immeasurably sad about life experience (though there are several instances that I can remember. In general, I’m quite independent feeling-wise and don’t let such things get in the way of my work. This is not to say I’m not impulsive and don’t act based on my feelings; on the contrary, I’m perhaps a manifestation of impulsive. Rarely do I ever plan things for the future as I enjoy doing things only when I feel like doing them.

Having just worn the Honors and Honors and graduated from the University of Virginia this past May, my impulsive habits and poor foresight have caught up to me from behind. Upon returning to our new home in California, all semblance of single-room dormitories privacy was stripped away and I am strewn naked and bare in front of my parents. What I mean by this metaphor is that all the habits I developed as a student at school for the past four years are succinctly put on display 24 hours of every day of the week. This includes a nocturnal sleeping schedule, magic glue that holds my butt in front of my computer screen all day, and an unnerving ability to not eat at any hour of the day (or only eat snacks at all hours, if that’s more appropriate).  Now, it’s not these particular habits that are the most unsettling, as habits can be fixed with due diligence. What is problematic is what ultimately is the source of these habits.

Now this is a question that seems simpler than it looks. Even after my heated argument with my parents last night and an extended period of reflection I am still confused as to what the right answer is. My parents were quick to point out prior to the argument’s escalation that my personality was one of passivity and the fact that I was unmotivated and lazy was only an additional handicap. Now, my parents are generally supportive and all,. but being analytic people, my parents enjoy scrutinizing and second-guessing my motivations/convictions in anything I wish to do that they don’t think is “right” for me. My parents both roughly agree that a career in the medical field wears my personality most fittingly given the structured and established structure of the profession. Medicine’s stability as a professional field is also an appealing trait for someone who doesn’t work at consistently at 120% capacity and fears of being fired based on effort input. Additionally, my spatial perception skills and ability to work with hands on sensitive and delicate projects are fairly desirable attribute for a potential surgeon.

A career in the medical field, however, while straightforward, isn’t the easiest to achieve. Practicing medicine doesn’t require the largest of brains as long as you can score a relatively high GPA and MCAT score. With those two things under your arm along with some wish to help people through health, one can proceed through most of the checkpoints to become a medical doctor or practitioner with enough hard work. This is where one of the many cruxes of the problem arises: “with enough hard work.”

As I said before, you don’t need to be a genius to get into medical school. However, in the case that you’re not a genius and cannot score decent GPAs and MCAT scores without studying, then study you must go. Studying hasn’t ever been one of my strengths as I’ve generally never had a desire to truly improve my academic abilities. I will mention that I thrived in certain periods of elementary and middle school when certain students challenged my “I’m the smartest kid” throne and inspired me to greater heights, but once I reached high school at a state Magnet program, realizing that I was far behind the true curve of smarts made me quickly lose all desire to work any harder. Throughout pre-college schooling, I barely studied and barely took notes. If I ever did, it was usually for aesthetic purposes as I never reviewed them. I never was very serious about academics because if you couldn’t be the best, why try to be? This is where the road to medical school then becomes a small conundrum where the medical profession is probably the best fit my “personality” to provide a prosperous life with the minimal amount of “work,” but my personality does not fit the path required to get to that point.

I progressed through University always wondering whether this path was right for me. I initially studied architecture, optimistic that it was my calling. I ended up switching halfway through as I wasn’t entirely sure if I could guarantee success in said field. I consequently proceeded half-heartedely with fulfilling pre-medicine requirements while completing a music major and still enrolling in art/architecture courses nearly every semester afterwards. Despite having transferred from the architecture school, I was still holding onto and pulled to certain classes that grabbed my curiosity and interest.

To say that I’m interested in art/design/media more so than medicine in no farce. I’m fascinated by certain aspects of medicine, no doubt, but my very essence is not shaken to its core by medicine as it is by something such as animation. Ever since graduation and taking the MCAT (and doing relatively mediocre, I believe), I’ve toyed the idea with ignoring medicine forever and pursuing a career in animation like I’ve always dreamed of. But then, numerous question arise. If this were the case, wouldn’t have enrolling in a university like CalArts have been a better investment than UVa for four years? In retrospect, such an alternative reality would have been desirable, but as my life isn’t an anime and parallel universes don’t exist to our knowledge, crying over spilled milk helps no one. Then in that case, where are you going to go and what are you going to do? How do you stack up to the people that do have that kind of education. Well shit, that’s a good point. Sure, I’ve thought about things like, “Oh my god, that artist is insane. I wish I could totally be like that person. How on earth am I ever supposed to be near that level of God-ness?” but never really thinking about competing against those kinds of people.

I was criticized for being someone who doesn’t think about things through clearly enough, especially with regards to my future, and if such a thing is true, why have I never thought about this career thoroughly? Have I even displayed an innate desire to really pursue this kind of profession these past years? I noticed that I seem to blame my lack of desire to look further into either profession very deeply on the fact that I never really “chose” a path to go on. I’ve talked with several friends about my predicament and have explained that it’s always better to really choose a path, in whichever direction it may be, and commit to that fully. Even in the event that one should find that path in optimal, switching with a convinced mindset is much more efficient than being stuck in no-man’s land for an equal amount of time.

THEN, why am I stuck? Why have I never truly committed to one option or the other? After my mother bashed my ego excessively last night, to my displeasure, I ultimately came to the conclusion that I never gave my all to anything because I was ultimately afraid. And to be more precise, it’s afraid of failing. Fear of failure in and of itself is fine. Failing is a natural event within the process of life, but that’s not say it’s something either desirable or likable. Where it becomes a problem is where it interferes with your ability to do your work; and in our particular case, it’s my fear of really finding my limits. I’ve been told that I have talent/potential in art, from friends, family friends, and mentors, and this pleases me to no end. But talent alone is nothing if it  isn’t backed up by baseline hard effort and work.

Hey, zuangster, you may say, you work really hard! Why do you work so hard and not fear failure when you’re working on your course projects at school? Your website looks amazing! From my perspective, there are two reasons for this: [1] these projects exist mainly purely for personal pleasure, and [2] these projects are technically inconsequential, so “failure” in these scenarios have no negative consequences. Point one emphasizes the fact that based on a personal scale, if the project fulfills the minimum standards of my personal expectations then project is a success and not a failure (we can thus assume that within my own power, every project that is completed will, as expected, complete in a state of relative “success”). In the case that a project ends up “failing” even on at a personal standard, then because these failures are inconsequential and my career/real livelihood aren’t on the line, then no repercussions truly exist. Given these circumstances, it’s a win-win scenario.

The real world functions differently, however, and personal ‘success’ is not enough to put bread on the table and happiness in your hands. In the field of art and design (which encompasses a huge variation of types of work), the art is only as good as how other people view it, or more specifically, it’s ‘global’ value is determined by the ‘global’ opinion and demand of it. If other people think your work is good, you’re golden. The thing is, I don’t really care about what other people think. Who cares if someone with poor design taste doesn’t like your work? SCREW THEM. But no, really, if they don’t like what you do, you don’t get paid. Of course, the business model is different in various mediums (animation, graphics design, UI/IX design) so each artist’s/designer’s target audience is slightly different/can carry various educated opinions, but in an industry of art, the medium cannot survive on purely self-fulfillment, unless self-fulfillment happens to align with the desires of the consumers.

So should I follow medicine, a path that, if followed, will help provide stability and comfort for my future family, which I hold very dear to my heart; or is it more fulfilling to pursue a dream and .From two drastically different perspectives, both seem super viable. On the other hand, the one option that sounds admirable is infinitely tougher on me as a person (short term?) while the other option seems so much more inspirational and exciting while carrying massive potential for future family suffering and torture. Again, my parents criticize that based on how I sleep and wake up late every day at home, play LoL/SC2/Weiqi for hours on end, that I’m better off doing something more stable and consistent that doesn’t require 120% in the long run, that seems ultimately defeatist. I do not wish to live the rest of my life after 30 or 40 without a soul. What haunts me even more every time I turn to face medicine is that if I never try, how will I ever know whether animation, architecture, design, or interactive media was meant for me? Is pursuing something you may truly love even worthwhile in the face of not being able to live in a house, have food on the table, and/or send your kids to college? An informal unscientific survey conducted by nurses of individuals laying on their deathbeds indicated that an overwhelming percentage (I believe around 80%) wished that they had all done what they truly wanted to do for careers. I normally never hold regrets or harmful feelings for others; but I fear for the moment when I lay on my own deathbed and regret my life choice regarding my career and profession.

So what now? What do i do from here on out? Can I do it? Should I even ask myself that?

For now, I will assume my future lies in the fine arts. If my level of relative work in the architecture school was any indication, I think I have some chops to learn and improve and becomes someone who creates works that other people like (not that I have to).  At this point, I should set a goal for myself. Where do I want to work, where do I want to go, what are my dreams? Once that’s set, I gotta figure out how I’m going to get to that point, one step at a time. Sure, I may be a bit late at the start compared to others who’ve been studying this for years already, but if this is what I want to do, why not start now?

Thanks to EFuzzy who chatted/played weiqi with me afterwards which helped put me in a better mood.

I apologize for those who read this and were not intending to involve themselves in the mucking of my own confusion. The coherence of my thoughts became increasingly muddled and chaotic as I wrote longer and longer so this entry ended up having really no main point or thesis. I merely felt the need to write down some thoughts, however disorganized, as to have a record of them. As many of my friends can attest, my short term memory is quite small, so I tend to forgive and forget things fairly quickly which may be testament to why I don’t hold on to feelings for very long (because I forget them). Part II will contain further reflection and an update to how I’ve proceeded with my status as an unemployed and lost college graduate. Hopefully by then I will have devoted myself in one direction or the other with more conviction.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • heywire says:

    hi son,

    I regret not having checked this blog for months. For some reason I was sure that you had switched completely over to your tl;dr page.

    How are you doing with all of this, two and a half months later? I find that many people after graduating college still aren’t really sure what their paths are. Or take a less desirable path and travel along for a while before changing paths. At my workplace, many of our students are in their mid- to late twenties or even early thirties – studying with us with the intention of switching into a career path they are passionate about. It’s never too late. Your path is what you make it.

    I think if I keep going I’ll run the risk of rambling on. Let me know if you’d like any advice, or just want to talk. 🙂

Leave a Reply