Illusions of college

Hi Beautiful People —

Some friends have been asking me about life advice. As we are all leaving college soon, this may be the appropriate time to ask about stuff like this.

I don’t know what to do with my life.

I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing.

I don’t know what I’m passionate about.

As much as I’m flattered that they trust me with this question, I know I’m in no position to answer these questions or to give them magical advice. Just because I’m not them. I don’t know about the magical moments that shower them with light. I don’t know what keeps them up at 3 AM. I don’t know where they’d wanna be in 5 years if they don’t have to think about money.

A good friend told me the more I tried to help by giving advice, the more anxious you make them feel. He said:

“Whenever someone asks you for advice, listen. Do not advise unless they explicitly ask for it. People already know the answers to those questions — give them the chance to express and externalize them.”

That itself is probably one of the most helpful advice I’ve heard in college. The best way to be helpful is to simply be present.

But some people genuinely want answers — something more tangible.

“I haven’t found a mentor.”

“My major is useless.”

“What are the trends in technology right now? Which one should I pursue?”

This is college. It’s supposed to be a treasure island pregnant with life-changing advice await to be unveiled. We’ve paid the price to enter the game, and we want the tangible reward that’s been promised by everyone but no one at the same time.

These are sad things to hear, considering the privilege and the abundance of resources we’ve been given, yet we’d still choose to, over and over again, ignore the abundance around us in pursuit of scarcity. It’s wired in our nature, and we forgo sleep, our bodies, and meaningful relationships for the next cool thing that only a few get to experience. We say we want to feel fulfilled, but we often just want to be satiated.

Until one day, there’s a spark, almost out of total randomness. It could be a book, a lecture, a snowstorm, a breakdown, a breakup. All of a sudden, we see that the race is only a prelude to the next, we can choose to run for eternity, but we decide not to but instead look outside the window and see the sun cast its golden rays down upon the clouds of billowing smoke, turning them bright red; blood orange.

It may take a bit of waiting and patience to experience this spark. Some of us may experience this sooner than others. Some may have experienced it many times. Some may deny the existence of this spark. Some may spend every second searching for this spark through external validations. Some fail to look internally, and some decide not to look at all.

A simple way to start looking is to start asking questions that examine intention and inspire actions.

I haven’t found a mentor…but what kind of mentor do I need? What guidance am I looking for? What kind of answers will bring me clarity?

My major is useless…but why did I choose it in the first place? What is it that I’m doing right now that makes the knowledge useless? And what context would make it useful? How can I leverage the fact that I may be knowing something that others don’t?

I’m afraid I’m being left behind by trends…but why do I want to follow these trends in the first place? Am I genuinely curious or am I following what others like? What am I genuinely interested in that also is trendy? Maybe I can try exploring those…

It’s a lot better to leave college asking more questions than knowing more stuff. An elite degree makes people take you more seriously than you deserve, but an elite education makes you take yourself less seriously by showing you how little you know.

Because in the end, education is a life long process, and any education should empower us to understand a bit more about ourselves, judge a bit less about others, and take actions to create things.

It’s timely that I came across an old essay by Paul Graham on the power of the marginal. He writes:

“The eminent are weighed down by their eminence. Eminence is like a suit: it impresses the wrong people, and it constrains the wearer.”

I recommend reading the whole thing, and think about what’s the “eminence” that’s defining us as well as constraining us. Don’t get weigh down by what you have, take a deep breathe every morning and start anew.

Stay real & keep peddling,

Tina


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