You’ve got a dream or two (or if you’re like me, you’ve got many). But you’re in a cafe uptown in New York City, with 30 other young people who do too. Or you’re on Instagram and everyone in your network (and the handful of famous Instagram strangers you follow) also have big dreams. One block down, you couldn’t even find a seat in the underground cafe that barely gets any daylight because everyone’s working on that dream or two.
So why wouldn’t you feel small or insignificant?
A little over a year ago, I visited Columbia University in New York City. It was a dream school, how could it not be, but looking at the city - I liked it, yes - but I secretly told myself I’d never choose to move here. When I looked at moving to Toronto from Vancouver, the internal dialogue was almost the opposite: I’d move there even if I didn’t have any reason (i.e. a job or school) to go. It was bigger, but not too big, and finding success by Toronto standards didn’t seem so far-fetched.
But with New York, I just couldn’t imagine taking that jump so carelessly. The stakes were higher - along with rent, costs of living and the competition. Intimidating was an understatement.
As I sit my sorry ass in LAX after almost 24 hours of tryna get home, it’s almost unbelievable to try and look back at what happened in the past 4 months.
To be frank, the past 4 months were e x h a u s t i n g. Quite possibly, the most mentally and emotionally draining 4 consecutive months of my life. Almost everyday I was challenged or questioned (by myself and others) on why I was there / am here.
2017: I started the year off losing a job, likely from the fact that it became obvious I just wasn’t in it anymore. I was numb in it, my performance was lacking—it was a rut. But when they took it away, the rug was pulled under me. I was offered something I thought I always wanted to do, but the fit just wasn’t right. Then I got my out: school. And not just school, a big school, that I called Validation.
So my punkass left for 2 months and took a “risk.”
Yeah right. It was a sure thing. I knew exactly what I was getting out of traveling and it was a selfish, sure thing. It was for me. I wanted to feel something. Alive. I wanted to feel small in the big ol’ world full of stuff to see, but also feel like I was in control. And I did: I had control over what I did, where I went, what I spent…
And a lot of that seeped into the other parts of my life. I suck at texting, but I control that. I wasn’t ready to commit to a relationship, a job, a career goal, but again, I controlled that. I didn’t let myself take risks that were scarier than these sure things because you guessed it: I controlled that.
But then I went to New York and man, was that a check. Sure, I go to Columbia but that doesn’t mean that I felt like I belonged there. So I drank the Kool-aid. I believed and bought e v e r y t h i n g that school gave me in the first month. I made it, I thought. This is it. Every Asian-American/Canadian kid of an immigrant’s academic dream if you had it.
But then it started to feel off. I was off. I wasn’t just cruising. I was challenged… constantly. Everyone had an opinion. I couldn’t drink all the Kool-aid. My anxiety was through the roof. I missed home more than I thought. I tried my hardest to not blame the city. So then I started blaming the institution. Childish, I know. But it’s because I didn’t feel in control. Be it the move, the city itself, or grad school doing its thing… I let it take its course. But it’s only when I started realizing that the real work was only just beginning.
If this was going to be worth it, I had to make it so. I was so paralyzed and stricken by fear of having made the wrong choice, the wrong gamble, when I wasn’t even holding cards in the game.
It wasn’t about getting to New York / Columbia / grad school / where I’m at today… it’s what I do while I’m here.
4 months ago, I looked at all my ideas / dreams as something for future me to figure out and let fall into place. Reality check.
So, here's to 2018
to writing more,
being honest with myself, and
ceasing to wait for things to fall into place*
*with a few cards up my sleeve