(Posted on FB on 3/2/17)
It took a while for me to decide to write this post. This topic has been on my mind for a while. Maybe it took a while because I have no clue what the solution is.
Since I was young, I was very motivated. I knew what I wanted and always got myself on the path to get what I wanted in my life.
I remember that I want to take on languages and go abroad when I was in middle school. I watched a lot of movies which of them were often foreign films. Whether I watched them in theater or at home, it was either dubbed over or subtitled. The reason I wanted to study languages was just so that I could watch those movies in their original languages.
I went to a university in Japan to study English (and other languages). I went for about 2 years. There were some aspects I enjoyed, but mostly I was not excited about what I was learning and how I was learning. I didn’t care about the history of international relations that is taught by a Japanese professor speaking in English (which was really awful). Another one I didn’t like was English Literature. This professor gave us a handout of a few pages from “The Adventure of Tom Sawyer” and just discussed what was going on.
I realized a language is just a tool. Speaking English is great but I didn’t want to learn to speak English just to speak it. I had a part time job at a fitness club while in college in Japan. Eventually, that’s what I wanted to learn. So I researched universities in the States to study Exercise Science.
I came to the United States, took a major in Exercise Science in undergrad, went on to a grad school to major in Wellness Management. I worked for higher education institutions as staff managing fitness and wellness programs. I have gained working experiences, certifications, and presentation experiences. In the mean time, I got a doctorate in Education, thinking I would like to teach at a college level someday.
When I didn’t want to manage fitness and wellness programs any longer, I took a job as a lecturer. This was the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to teaching faculty positions at a college. No tenure, no research requirement but also no fund or time for research, and no place to move up to.
Anytime I looked for another faculty position, it required research background as well as “securing external funding for research” experience. Sometimes a position required a very narrowly specified experience such as “research experience working with cardiac rehab patients” or “research experience working with elderly population.”
Maybe those job postings were written just to hire a specific internal candidate they had in mind already, and this job posting process was just a formality. Whether that was the case or not, I felt I was totally defeated for the lack of those specific experience requirements.
I have two Master’s degrees and a doctorate degree. And yet, I felt like I was such a loser. I felt stuck.
No matter how much of positive self-talk, there was always this standard I was measured against and I always fell short. Obviously, this was entirely in my head. But at the same time, there was no external affirmation or validation that I was a good candidate.
As I am introvert, I am naturally an observer. I notice subtle things. I pay attention to facial expressions and body language.
When I was in that environment of academia, here were my questions I wanted to ask others who were in it. Are you happy? Can you die today without any regrets? Is how you perceived much more important than how you feel? Can you tell honestly your kids you did the best you can as you tell them to do so?
Then, I realized these were my questions for myself. Am I really happy? Can I die today without any regrets? The answer was no.
So I exited. I exited this world of endless systematic rat race. I am not sure how much of my story of experience in the higher education field is applicable to other fields of professions, but I think it is common.
Somehow our society got so much better at narrowing our focus on just one specific knowledge field and experience, just so that we can keep the machine working more efficiently and effectively.
But I don’t believe we, as human beings, are just limited to do the work, get tired, and sleep. Where is our organic and authentic sense of curiosity, exploration, learning, and reflection? Where is our genuine connection beyond what we can see, our imagination, and our creativity? What about vulnerability, honesty, and cooperation?
As I said, I don’t have the solution. For me, one solution was not to be a part of the system that produces the things I don’t want in my life. Maybe it is working. Maybe not.
Please ask me when I die how it all turned out. At least for now, I don’t have to regret for not trying.