Relax, this is still me. It will not be poignant or heartfelt. Not one bit.
And Now, An Intermission
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to say for my final blog, but even now, I find it kind of difficult. I haven’t really settled into anything yet—career or life-wise—and so I honestly don’t believe I have anything of value to offer to you at the moment. I’m working on it, though. Give it another day…or ten thousand. Things need to synthesize. But in the meantime…
I’ve been thinking about how bored I am these days. It’s the end of semester one of grade 12, and I feel…ambivalent?
Perhaps I’m just a little indifferent to the stresses of other people right now. Only a little.
It’s really tiring to hear how scared you are, to hear how staying up to study failed to kill the butterflies, to hear how this test will definitely be the one that you fail, to hear about how the explosion of the sun will pale in comparison to how badly this class
Will end for you.
Because, really, aren’t you saying that because you prefer saying a self-fulfilling prophecy, double-double-toil-and-trouble-style? It’ll be okay if you convince yourself of an outcome so low that it is impossible to be disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to be there for you when you really need help. I do.
But I refuse to waste my effort on someone whose mind will not change. I will not pity you for the sake of pitying you, nor will I appease the sense of narcissism you may or may not have simply to make you feel better. If you want to grovel in a non-joking manner, then grovel; see if I care either way.
It’s aggravating to hear perfectly okay individuals exclaim that they “totally failed” this class or that unit. Because, so what? Do you have a plan for how you are going to change, going to become a better person, going to study more effectively, going to check your mistakes, going to stop procrastinating?
Then please, I beg of you, just this once, shut up.
I understand that it makes you feel better to voice aloud whatever doubts you have—I understand that empathy can be bred under these circumstances. But if you never intended to change, why should you have the right to complain? Living is defined by experiencing obstacles; everyone has experienced some sense of deprivation or disappointment or some other negative emotion. You are not special in many of the problems you face.
And that’s a good thing.
It means that a thousand ways of succeeding have been tested before you. We can help you, we’ve experienced it, too, either directly or through the experiences of others. If you can swallow your pride, someone will help you
Will guide you
Will motivate you
Will convince you of your worth
So just do it.
Are you afraid of disappointing? Welcome to the club called “humanity”.
Just remember, we’re all too absorbed in our own insecurities to carefully observe those of others.
Look, I don’t believe in chipping away at granite with a plastic spoon. Maybe, in the past, I could pretend it was hard work instead of simply tedious and mindless, but God, there are days that I wish I could say that I just don’t care that you are suffering, that I don’t think your choices will make that big a difference, that it doesn’t really matter if you get a 90 or a 75. Because, factually, it doesn’t. Things regress towards the mean. The more questions you answer, the more likely you are to make a mistake or to not know an answer; you cannot change this, and you sure as hell cannot prepare for everything that will come your way.
When you fail, it’s okay to feel awful. When you succeed, it’s okay to feel elated. No one has any use for the false pretenses we put up to protect our pride and our shame at not being humble “enough”.
We’ll never get rid of that feeling, but let’s not let it carry us off the ground.
Suck it up, princess.
You’ll be fine.
You know, I’ve always thought my mind was too…blank to be an AP student. I have no pictures or words or feelings, but sometimes I can imagine my mind to be something like a McDonald’s take-out brown bag with grease dripping out the bottom. Whatever contents the bag may have had are long gone: an estranged ketchup packet is all that remains, valiantly attempting to fill an empty, unsatisfying vat. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll find half a French fry. An air of sadness wafts around the bag.
McDonald’s is the lowest possible tier. Maybe you go to fill your crippled heart with nuggets that are about as biodegradable as lead, or maybe you have standards. I don’t know you (but I’ll still judge).
Anyways, what I’m trying to get at is there is nothing of significant value in my head at most times. Ketchup packets can be mass produced for under 1.5 cents USD. It’s all very low-effort. But the food is probably tolerable if you don’t think too much about it. Or, if like me, you live on a diet of ketchup and tears.
It’s easy to get by on garbage food. And yet it is an insult to our intelligence if that is the path we choose: we should have known better, done more, thought bigger, lived for tomorrow… something.
Isn’t this how we all fall, though? It’s a pitcher-plant equivalent for humans. A trap of the mind.
Does fast food choose us, or we it? Some people subscribe to the school of thought formerly known as “we are at the complete mercy of our burger-clown overlords and are spiraling towards the obesity apocalypse”, now shortened to “the college diet”. As much as I agree with the many addictive properties of such foods, the fact that people have been able to successfully escape this trap indicates to me that it is possible, even as the presence and appeal of fast food increases.
In my opinion, it’s the simplicity that makes it appealing. Things that are cheap are rarely complex; they won’t find you love, fund your passion project, fix your home life or solve world hunger, but hey! They solved your hunger. And if you were simple enough to let your appetite for “getting by”—whatever that even means anymore—override the sense of personal responsibility you need in order to take control and alter the circumstances of your life, what can you do? You couldn’t resist. Sweet n’ Sour sauce now grows on the lowest branch of the apple tree. No one needs ingenuity to reach that one anymore.
I didn’t have the appetite I do now three years ago. Heck, I doubt anyone has the exact same appetite they did coming in. somewhere we all got accustomed to newer flavours, perhaps more complex, perhaps more subtle, perhaps just reinforcing our tastes. But I don’t know yet if this means the previous taste I had has become completely unpalatable. Maybe I’ve just learned to find more value out of those experiences; maybe I’m disgusted and ashamed of having liked Froot Loops. I don’t know yet. But thank you, regardless. Froot Loops are gross.
I’m sure all of you deserve to go onwards to become the greatest of culinary thinkers. All of you have done so much for me and for other students, and I’m certain all of you will prosper in whatever endeavours you undertake. You will succeed in introducing people to new flavours of thought and convincing them of the value of a world beyond fast food. Some people will accept you as the Gordon Ramsays of thinkers, and some people belong on episodes of Kitchen Nightmares. Regardless, I am sure you will be profitable to society in ways that you or I cannot (yet) foresee.
And as much as I liked watching all of you develop over the years and enjoyed cowering under the Greek god-like brightness with which all of you glow with in my eyes, I can’t help but wonder now, still, knowing that pain can be worthwhile if you make something of it… if I wouldn’t want to go back and tell myself to be more guarded than I was.
I think this uncertainty is what has really defined my last year here and colours my final interactions with all of you. I didn’t do this with the expectation of surviving long enough to get here, but now that I’m here I cannot believe there were no expectations to begin with—did I go from wanting to be one of you and knowing I couldn’t to being one of you? What even was that? Do I like myself more now than I did before? Something ought to have changed. Was it me?
Why did I become so invested?
And if I was invested, why can I still breathe now that it is almost over?
I think know the answer to the last one.
Even now, I think I’m afraid of being crushed by expectations. For me, they are everywhere… they follow me into dreams (and hey, I tried to reduce them at the beginning of this last blog. Habits don’t die). I’m okay with failing (you get used to it art) but I didn’t want to fail you. The longer I’m here, the more inevitable it became—and here I am, near the very end, feeling like trash because the best I could do to say something is this silly fast-food metaphor. I’m sorry.
I wanted to leave a clean, polished impression, but growth ended up being much more tangled and greasy and obsessive and fun than I would have liked (although to be honest, I’m into it). So I don’t know where my expectations end and others’ begin. I’m not sure I lived like I wanted.
That’s why even if I’m not happy, I’m grateful things are ending. There is freedom in closure. I can start again.
Yet I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I’m never going to feel like I’ve done enough, never going to stop having to make up for a perceived lack of “talent”, never going to be able to stop setting up expectations to knock over. If anything, it’s my fault I’m trapped in this way.
Thank you all so much for helping me all this time. I don’t know if I’ll ever live my truth, but thank you for making me believe in the possibility.
A word of advice to future AP students from this blank mind of mine: if you can live your life, make art, whatever it is you do, without pandering to an audience, try it.
Try living for yourself.
It’s worthwhile, even if you only find half a fry at the bottom of your bag.
It’s still yours.
Art Credits: all are works are illustrations by Tín Trần.