During those impossibly stressful high school days, I was trained to constantly feel nervous, anxious, and that I shouldn’t be relaxed because there were important study tasks I should be dealing with. At that time, those feelings were, frankly, quite helpful. They helped me be very good with exams, and being good with exams was possibly the most important thing for any high school student in China. You see, the process of college application in China was very different from that in many western countries. In China, one’s application was almost entirely depended on the score they got in the annual, nationwide College Entry Exam. Good score equals good school. (Also the “hotter” a major was, the higher a score it required.) Simply put, there was the exam that defined you, and you only got one chance.1 So I was, of course, very pleased with those feelings. But once I stepped into college, problems appeared. There was no more that one exam. But I needed it. I still felt the need of having a goal that I was all for. It was almost impossible for me to enjoy myself since no matter what I was doing I felt that I was wasting my time and even worse, I didn’t know what I should spend my time for. So I started to set myself goals. Ace the finals. Ace those standardized tests for grad school. Get that kick-ass internship. Goals came and went, but none of them was as satisfied as the one I had in high school. But boy how obsessed I was with them.
I knew that wasn’t right. The irony was I wasn’t even the kind of person who wanted to be a huge star. I was the kind of person who would choose a balanced life over power and wealth any day. I was the kind of person who read so many books, watched so many movies, thought they knew the meaning of life, and kept telling people around to live in the moment. Yet I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I should only be doing things for an ultimate goal.
I knew I got to change.
I got to stop being so obsessed with goals. I got to learn how to enjoy the moment. I got to understand that goal was merely an illusion and I just needed to make the most out of every day and that’s it—not because making the most out of every day would help me achieve any goal. But change was hard as it always was and always would be. I spent four years in college trying to change only ended up falling into the same trap over and over again. Then I sort of just gave up and went on to grad school, hoping maybe grad school would magically fix me. Well, it didn’t. Now that I finished grad school, I really don’t see any more excuse to procrastinate the change because I know I still want to change.
The theory is sound. What I need to do is clear. I just need to you know, change. I hope it goes better this time.
- Or you could stay in hell for another year for a second chance—many people in China call high school hell, but to be fair, high school was the opposite to me. There I was extremely happy because things were simple: I studied my ass off and I got two-hour free time on the weekend for a movie, and just thinking of the movie time I was going to earn myself could make me the happiest person in the world. [return]