I genuinely think it is unfair that society values numbers over words and code over art. That the highest starting salaries go to software engineers and investment bankers. That a foreign language major is less useful than an MIS minor. That people often forgo what they like or what they’re good at because society moves in a certain direction.
It is not fair that we have to conform. It is not fair that people who grew up in the Silicon Valley feel like they might never be able to call it home once they graduate. I know way too many natives who have moved out of the Bay Area because of the fast pace, absurd cost of living, bad traffic and overall unsuitable environment for an enjoyable lifestyle. In the past five years of living on a cul-de-sac of 6 houses, I have seen 4 families move out because they realized it just wasn’t worth it.
But I want to live in the bay. This is where I was born and bred. This is home. And unfortunately in order to stay at home I need a high paying job to pay the bills and stay afloat.
“Keep up or die trying” is what I told myself throughout college. I tried to tell people that I could see myself doing private equity or real estate in the future. I developed insomnia my sophomore year that gradually worsened into junior year, triggering a downward spiral of anxiety and depression that forced me to withdraw from the University for half a quarter. I tried a cocktail of medications to address my sleeping problem in vain before reluctantly moving onto an antidepressant as a last resort. At this point it had been two difficult years and I so desperately yearned for things to go back to the way they were before. So I agreed to the pill. But even that’s not working anymore.
It is no secret that society is at the root of many of our mental health issues. There are far too many of us affected, far too many prescriptions filled, far too many Adderall bottles in circulation for children and adults both who take it only to keep up. All because of societal pressure and self-imposed expectations, limits we stretch, and things we talk ourselves into from fear of getting left behind.
This shaky ground is where we stand now. We can neither time travel nor backtrack. We don’t have many options: we can either flee like my neighbors in pursuit of a more leisurely way of life, “keep up or die trying,” a.k.a. suck it up and conform, or take the road “less traveled by” as Robert Frost encouraged us to do years ago.
If I’m going to be frank, I’m not too keen on waiting around to see where my previous life philosophy will lead. I want to take the path less traveled by and do what it is that I want to do, that I’m good at, that comes naturally and instinctively to me. I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired from actually being sick and tired.
If there is one thing I learned junior year, it’s what it’s like to be an adult. I don’t mean adulting as in being abroad for six months alone, living with eight girls, or unclogging the toilet—sure, that was part of it, but definitely not the most important. By far the most rewarding thing I learned this year, in crossing the threshold from child to adulthood, was about myself: the kind of person ~I~ want to be.
I am deciding to take the road less traveled by. I’ve been told that my face lights up whenever I talk about the summer I spent in Morocco working for a social enterprise that helps women artisans bring their products to the international market through female empowerment and business development programs—Manal, if you’re reading this, here is my sneaky plug for ASILA and the Global Fellows program at SCU.
I want my face to light up every time I talk about work. I know this is easier said than done but I’m determined to try making it happen. I know I want to combine business with impact. I am currently working for a non-profit and taking classes the summer after my junior year, instead of having that glamorous brand name internship you’re supposed to lock in as your first job post-grad. So yeah I deviated a bit from the path I had always imagined myself treading along.
But I believe that you can work your way up to a high paying salary if you are truly passionate about your job. I know that I’m creative, better with words, and that I somehow want to do something that has a global reach or social benefit. I know that I value hard work and health, my international support system of family and friends, and live music, travel, and adventure.
I may never reach the balanced lifestyle I so eagerly seek but I’ll rest easy knowing I gave it a try. Guess I’ll soon be hopping on board with Frost.
For someone who considers herself a realist, this is one pretty idealistic declaration—that I know. But hey—I want to live life. Not keep up; not die trying.
That’s what makes all the difference.