Obsession: does it matter?

(A different version of my previous post, so that this post will be more faithful to my writing style on this site)

April 29. Almost a year from the date I wrote about the process of college admissions, decisions, and my decisions. Perhaps a question to ask would be: is Waterloo a right choice for me? Yes, as it turns out. Great peers, rigor of courses (sometimes too overwhelming like CS 145 and CS 146), and the abounding opportunities (co-op and Hackathon, in particular) and are the main factors I am satisfied with the choice I made.

The real question, though, is have I made the right decisions and dealt with it in the right way? I didn’t see myself slugging through the whole academic challenges for this term. I didn’t envision myself using coffee to sustain myself throughout the afternoon–to the extent that I once purchased an XL size coffee and my heart pounding quickly until the night. I didn’t expect heavy-duty assignment questions in CS and English piled-up concurrently come mid-March, until I had to give up one compiler question to give way to my report writing. More important, I didn’t anticipate myself checking WaterlooWorks every night to hunt for jobs during continuous rounds, sometimes even getting up early in the morning to edit cover letters.

Self-questioning comes amid the struggle: why am I doing all this? Why do I choose CS 146 instead of the ‘easier’ CS 136? Why do I choose not to drop MTHEL 131 despite knowing that it wouldn’t be required eventually (I decided not to major in Actuarial Science in the middle of the term.)? Why do I try so hard for my job search despite knowing that forfeiting one work term is never a great deal (or a deal, at all). The answer is simple: my internal egotism that tries hard to prevent myself from showing any sign of weakness. I don’t want to call myself ‘coward’ just because I give up the challenge of CS 146; I don’t want to a ‘WD‘ on MTHEL 131 to tarnish my undergraduate record; I don’t want to contribute myself to the unemployed statistics–when the expectations by my friends on me is rather high. As a result of my self-defense against showing the weakness, wounds started to appear when my grades started to bleed on LEARN (and on Quest, maybe?)

I once told myself that it’s okay if my average drops by 5% this term (in justifying my choice of taking an extra course), and that “I don’t want to care anymore” when people are counting down for the Grades Day on April 26. I even told myself it’s okay if I couldn’t get a job, since the other alternative (converting into a study term) is equally good too. But in reality, I am still obsessed with these numbers. Comparing those numbers with the seemingly better past, or the better peers gives a painful twitch to my heart (even for a very short while). Making these worse was the jittery on when I still didn’t get a job by early April: I didn’t know what’s my next step, and the sense of inadequacy and insecurity arose as I looked at my friends getting their jobs one-by-one (although the interviews with Citadel suggests me against it). Long story short, internal vulnerability kicks in.

Well do they really matter? According to a post I wrote last year, marks do and don’t matter at the same time. Here’s some other quotes on how my classmates (and good friends) counteract this:

marks dont matter
Credits to Kevin. Another friend even claimed stronger: “Lives don’t matter.”
real profs have curves
Credits to Josh (who inspired me to create another meme on this)

If all the mental shackles of outcomes (i.e. grades, and whether we eventually secure a job) are removed, this semester is actually a rewarding one for me. Admittedly, my course combination is weird (refer to my previous post), but this also equips me with a fairly diverse knowledge: ranging from the intricate architecture of computers to the art of conveying technical information in a plain language. The primary reason I chose a college in North America was its diverse curriculum as compared to those in UK, and this course selection is one way I could stay loyal to my initial intention and goals. Meanwhile, experiences on selling yourself loud and counteracting various interview questions aside, the arduous job search serves primarily to let us know how big the world is with competitors abound, and to better suit ourselves to the expectation of the world.

Sometimes we couldn’t help but to think: if only marks don’t matter the slightest, or the courses are marked on pass/fail basis! “Choices have consequences” (once my sister’s Instagram status), indeed. Marks do matter for practical reasons, such as making ourselves more competitive when it comes to job search and graduate school applications. But other than that it was purely our narcissism that longs for some superiority as compared to our peers. As quoted from a friend, marks don’t matter “but they can still hurt my (her) pride a bit”, and I couldn’t agree more. The exact same thing goes to the job search, where we just want to feel good for being able to show off: what else can explain our status update on Facebook when each of us eventually got a job? Not surprisingly, I literally turned my room into a Wonderland and lost the mood to study for the finals for a whole night when I finally got an offer as a research assistant on April 12.

The struggles are now over. And I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who were on my side during all these difficult moments (and we do have fun moments together, don’t we?)

An example of fun moment: trip to Niagara Falls!

To all my comrades who went through the same process as me, hope that you feel the same way too. (Try to find the exact phrase in the song! It’s on the top of my Spotify playlist btw 😛 )

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