So I suppose I have reached the age where adulthood and the future seem rather imminent. I used to have an idea of what I wanted to do with my life, where I wanted to go, where I wanted to end up, what work I would spend the rest of my life slaving over. I was meticulous at planning, pinpointing it down to the very last detail. In order to achieve whatever plan I had for my life, I strove to be an overachiever so that I could set every single cog in the machine the correct way to make sure nothing would ever interrupt this ambitious grand plan of mine. So a year has passed, and now I attend a different school. I have been exposed to new, exciting things. The people I meet tell me about a whole world out there that I have yet to explore. They criticise the education system that we so readily endorse, a system that we unconsciously encourage by submitting to it, not resisting. I like to think that I have matured. As people grow, they also develop new perspectives or reflect on and revise their old ones. I like to say to I do not think the same way anymore.
But now I really do need to start thinking about my life, college, work, and all I have been pulling up are blanks. Ask me where I want to apply to for college, and my reply would probably be, “Um… Everywhere?”. I used to dream of Ivy Leagues in my sleep. Thinking back, those dreams were all in black and white. Was it a healthy existence? I would forego sleep (and I still do) to perfect my assignments, make sure I had every last word of those wretched Biology definitions memorised only to forget them all right after the exam, pore over ten years of past exam papers. Just who was I trying to please? Society? Perhaps. Somehow, the only way I felt I could validate my existence to the world was through the numbers that were written on the top right corners of my exam papers, the numbers and letters written on the report cards my parents so eagerly opened, achievements that were acquired through grit and misery. We no longer get an education for the sake of learning. We go to school so parents can shove their children’s stellar report cards and certificates in other parents’ faces. I go to school so my report card can be one less thing I have disappointed them in. This pathetic little me still exists, though I like to separate her from the me that would like to punch the entire system in its ugly, leering face. Does my higher score make me any more intelligent than the student who is standing next to me, despairing in his ‘just-average’ score? Probably not. I have a tendency to do very poorly on IQ and aptitude tests (flashback to year nine insight tests), so yes, I am proud of the diligence that bestowed achievements upon me that exceeded what individuals of my reasoning ability would normally be able to achieve. But I regret my negligence of everything else, myself, my well-being, whatever relationships I might have had, and everyone around me. I do not want to see others in the same position I was in, struggling to prove to the world that they are of at least some worth, forsaking everything else and proving nothing at all. Just how screwed up would the world be if our worth was measured by the results on some exam, or how famous the name of our alma mater is?
I pity employers who judge the competency of their employees by the name of the college they went to, but nevertheless, that is apparently how our miserable world functions.
No, mother. I do not want to get into Harvard. Yes, I know Harvard has the ‘best’ law school, but no, I do not want to be a lawyer. Yes, I know Harvard has a great name, and it would look fantastic on my resume, but I do not think I am cut out for Harvard. I do not think I will be happy there. Why is that so ridiculous? Potential? Please. I think another decent liberal arts college would suit me far better. Highly ranked? How about William’s? Or Wellesley? No? Why not? Are you saying employers do not hear of these schools? You think going to ‘small’ liberal arts colleges will ruin my prospects of employment because they are not as famous as Harvard? I thought we were discussing the best kind of education for me, not the best name. Wait. This is my life, and my future. No mother, I do not take for granted the money you ‘invested’ in my education. I am not throwing away the opportunities you gave me, but I just want to live simply and decently. I do not need to be some hotshot lawyer to make a living for myself. Provide for my family? Wait. When the hell did I ever say I wanted children?
There is something inherently wrong in using the words ‘investment’ and ‘education’ synonymously, or when ‘wasted opportunities’ are a bigger loss than trading away happiness and well-being, or when ‘potential’ to be somebody society values more is more important than what you actually want to be. If you have children, please do not be that parent.
As much as I want to rip apart the education system, if I resist it now, society will tear my life apart because that is just how cruel the world is. Let whatever divine entity up there help me use whatever grit I have left to change the way education is now as a cog in the machine.