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The World Is A Big Place
Three-fourths of the way through my first year of university, studying film production, and the most important thing I’ve learned is that the world is a big place.
Not how to handle a camera, not how to take better photos / videos, not tips on post-production and editing? No.
It’s really such a generic, simple statement. It should not be the entirety of my proverbial nugget of wisdom, but it is. Think of that statement like the kingdom animalia. Inside it there are phylum, class, order, family, genus, species...
The world is a big place, and you’ll meet so many people.
Do you think you have a big social circle in high school? When you go to university – abroad – you will be moving from a fish bowl into the ocean. Throughout high school I knew students from Indonesia, China, India, a few from America. In six months of university, I have friends from Indonesia, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, America, Canada, Australia, France... the list goes on, but I won’t bore you. The point is, if or when you go abroad, be prepared for a culture shock.
Don’t assume. Never assume. It’s so easy to assume, because we’re primed and ready to do so. Cliché as it is, never judge a book by its cover. You’ll close off so many paths and possibilities without realizing it. Just because so-and-so smokes and goes out clubbing doesn’t mean he’s a bad influence, doesn’t mean you should shun him. Don’t condescendingly slow down and simplify your words when talking to older people – many of them have minds as sharp as tack. You’re not sure you can get that scholarship, so you decide not to apply, when really they were looking for someone like you. Wonder of wonders, some Asians are bad at math! (Yours truly is an example of this.)
Therefore, inadvertently, because you’ll be meeting so many new people, you’ll be meeting people different from you. They were raised differently, and they will think differently. You’ll meet Muslims, atheists, cynics, vegans, liberals... even (God forbid!) Beliebers. And that’s okay. You’ll need to learn to put up with these people, and most probably they’ll need to put up with something of yours too. What you have to realize is just because you think something is true, doesn’t mean everyone else has to think so too.
The principle of this is easy to say. The thing is, it’s hard not to think of your personal beliefs as the fundamental truth of the universe. Let me repeat: your personal beliefs are not the fundamental truth of the universe. We inherently think like this, because as human beings we’re all biased – biased in our own favor.
Which brings me to my next point. It’s what some of us may call the “special snowflake syndrome,” in which case I absolutely refuse to tell you, the reader, that you are all special and unique in your own ways.
Try being overrun by the sudden influx of new friends, acquaintances, and strangers. This girl’s father passed away when she was nine. That old man is seventy-three but still has to work picking up trash if he wants to support himself. That boy is taking Electrical Engineering, but he really wanted to major in Dance. She lost her entire family in a plane crash. His fiancée cheated on him and left him for the CEO of a company. There’s a Chinese-Indian couple.
Do you still feel special now? It’s one thing to hold on to your sense of individuality; it’s another to think the world revolves around you. How could it, when there are seven billion inhabitants of planet Earth? You’re not the center of the universe, you’re part of it.
And no, you’re not perfect just the way you are. I denounce you, Bruno Mars, and I denounce you, Pink. We all possess this pesky, human thing called flaws. Benedict Cumberbatch has flaws. Emma Watson has flaws. Batman has flaws. We are not perfect because we are humans, and these weaknesses – forgetfulness, a quick temper, the tendency to procrastinate a little too much – are things we need to work to overcome.
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dalí. We’ll never be perfect. The best we can do is be the best we can be.
But sometimes, your best is not good enough. There will always be people better than you. And, again, that’s okay. It’s a fact of life. What matters is how you handle this realization. Look down too much, and all you’ll see is how you’re better than everyone else. You’ll be complacent, content with your current position, unmotivated to improve yourself further. Look up too much, and you’ll be discouraged, lowering your sense of self-worth in the face of the higher-ups. You’ll never be happy with yourself. What you need is a healthy balance between looking up and looking down.
Take pride in your achievements, but refrain from waving your painting or short film or grades around showily. More often than not, someone who has reached higher than you is watching quietly from a distance.
Does that mean you can’t be jealous of the higher-ups? Of course you can. You are allowed to be jealous. You are allowed to cry over a failed grade, even though, as most others will say, there are people in worse situations than yours. You are not the center of the universe, but you are a part of it. Just as you’re allowed to have your own personal beliefs, you’re entitled to your own feelings.
So of course, you are allowed to disagree with everything I’ve just written. A well-written argument for or against is welcome, because how else are we to open our eyes to new possibilities if no one is there to tell us otherwise?