It’s occurred to me at various points in the past few weeks that I’m really, truly bad at life. Now, there are many facets of life that are typically seen as challenges — relationships, work-fun balance, and self-improvement to name a few. I happen to suck at a multitude of things that most people take for granted, including walking, breathing, and drinking. Let me explain. When I walk, I trip over cracks, tree roots, myself, you-name-it. When I reach an altitude of 2500 meters, I can’t breathe anymore. If I try to drink liquids and walk simultaneously, I either choke or spill all over myself. The other day, I was drinking something and Phineas happened to bump into me. I turned to him and asked politely, “Could you please not move me when I’m drinking?”
You might think that it’s not a big deal to suck at these mundane activities as long as I’m successful academically and professionally. However, in addition to these aforementioned obstacles, there is one thing I find challenging that most people don’t even give a second thought to. I find it extremely difficult to determine 1) what makes me happy, 2) why it makes me happy, and 3) whether or not I’m happy.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I like to fill my life with as many things as I possibly can. Whenever I have spare time on my hands, I freak out and do something with it, anything. When I wait for the stove to heat up (which takes a minute at most), I either start cleaning the kitchen or shoot a quick email on my laptop. Right now, I’m blogging because my class happened to be canceled again. During lectures that drag on and aren’t very substantive, I multitask. During History today, I sent a dozen emails, applied for a job, and started a scholarship application.
Donc, the question becomes: is this what really makes me happy? Through much self-reflection, I’ve concluded that half of what I do is what I actually like. The other half is what I think I like. Now, the problem is that I have to figure out which is which. Sometimes, I think I’d be happy living in the middle of a forest, speaking French every day, and writing to my heart’s desire. Other times, I think I could only be happy if I measured up to my parents’ standard of success. Since my father just received hundreds of millions of RMB from the Chinese government to head a development project, that bar is set pretty high up there. I feel that the only way I would be satisfied with myself professionally is if I became a Rhodes Scholar, worked as a U.S. Ambassador, and won the Noble Prize for Literature.
Obviously, living with the sword of Damocles over your head does not produce peaceful and happy feelings. Every decision I make is tagged with the nagging thought, “What could I have done better?” Every second I’m not working towards something, I feel like my future is going down the drain. I’m not sure if I will be able to resolve this issue anytime soon, though. Perhaps once it was my mother who constantly pushed me towards perfection, but now I’m the one who is never satisfied with myself. And everybody knows that you are your own worst enemy.
Do you ever have trouble figuring out what you really want in life? Do you let the opinions and values of others influence you?