I don’t mean to be sarcastic or anything. Lots of good and bad things happened over the past year to me. I got an seemingly awesome job, then I hated it. I applied for several US PhD programs and got into an unfunded Ivy League master’s that I couldn’t afford, which really blows. I fell for guys who turned out to be not I thought they were. I published a novel which I had no intention of publishing. I was wronged by assholes, and I got help from guardian angels. I’ve never experienced more ups and downs in my life than in the past year, but I’ve also never been stronger and more self-assured.
A couple days ago I told everyone about how three academics in Australia have shown interest in being my PhD supervisor. The most senior one among them, a full professor with astonishing background and connections with the very same Ivy League which accepted me, has officially agreed to supervise me. I just couldn’t be happier. Some people frowned at me when I told them I was gonna try my luck elsewhere after my failed US attempt. Not that I don’t miss my time in the US, but sometimes we just have to take a detour in getting to our dreams.Now that I’ve got a full professor like that to back me, I just don’t see how I wouldn’t be getting an even better education in a prestigious Australian school than attending a third-tier American school.
Anyway, one thing I want to highlight in this post is how funny everyone is telling me not “give up” on my PhD dream NOW. They all sould so encouraging and supportive too! I just don’t get it. Why say it now? Shouldn’t it be “congratulations” rather than “don’t give up”? Why would I give up now when things are finally falling into places? I know I’m gonna have to compete with like a million Chinese mainlanders for like five scholarship awards, but I never said I’d give up. I’m not the kind of person to give up! Actually, I would give up on things if I feel like I’ve exhausted all means, but this is definitely not the time to give up. I’m not the kind to back down because I’m scared of failures before failures even happen! I’m the kind to just jump right in and let the universe take care of the rest.
This really puzzles me. I’m actually a bit offended by how fragile they think I am. Do they think I really am an idiot who would pass up an opportunity like this because I fear I may not be able to compete with some Chen Xiaoming who has swallowed an entire dictionary to score a 9 in IELTS? I never had to recite any English vocabulary and I scored 8.5 in my first trial! Suck it, Chen Xiaoming! Objectively speaking, I know my chances are slim because of my lack of research experience, but it never hurts to try! I don’t need them to tell me that!
The other thing is when I was getting rejection after rejection earlier this year, I didn’t remember that many people telling me not to give up. I think people were like, “Oh well, we can’t always get what we want,” or they just pretended they didn’t know I was super upset about those rejections.
As an aspiring social scientist, I’m trying to make sense of their reactions. I think my constant updates on my PhD application journey has made me a character in the eyes of my facebook “friends”. They see me like a character on a show/in a story. They watch my struggles and they project part of themselves on me because let’s be honest, I could be the biggest dreamer you could ever meet in real life. To quit a job with no backup plan to go back to school at your late twenties and to write a novel in between to kill time? Come on! Every success fairytale needs an idiot like me.
I think when I fail, people don’t feel much because they all face rejections and failures in their everyday life. Have you ever seen a friend going through a painful breakup with some jerk and you just think, “There’s no point being so upset over something so stupid, really.” To you, it really is not big of a deal. When I do show signs of success though, people start cheering for me because in some way they are engaged in my story. They feel like my success is a reflection of theirs. Life sucks and people need miracles. Giving up is so much easier than holding on in real life. They might have given up before when they shouldn’t have. They’ve probably given up on their dreams long ago in search for security. Perhaps I remind them of what dreams are. That’s why I get people telling me they envy me all the time.
I don’t see why they need to envy me. As long as they can let go of dogma and be immune to ridicules, everyone can go after what they want. Be prepared to feel lonely from time to time because they are so many more conformists than dreamers in this world.