Amy Chua, The Pre-Med Track and Arranged Marriage (The Secret to Happiness)
We are lucky to be at a university with individual colleges, a thick course catalogue, and a whole fair of activity choices. I am coming to realize, however, that this array of options can only be advantageous in a certain state of mind- one which I have yet to attain.
As I sat in Whisper’s this past Sunday, I was distracted from my schoolwork by thoughts about spring registration. I was then distracted from thoughts about spring registration by thoughts of whether I should be in Sam Fox or ArtSci. And when I got up to take a break and get a drink from the café, I was distracted from all my previous thoughts by thoughts of whether I wanted coffee or tea.
When I sat back down to try and focus on my psychology textbook, I began to read a section entitled, “The Paradox of Choice” which portrayed the exact decision making progression I had just gone through. It described the array of potentially debilitating choices, “from major ones concerning careers…to minor ones concerning breakfast cereals and beverages…” This debilitation could be easily witnessed as I held up the line at the café register, forcing me to contemplate how my indecision will affect me in regard to the larger decision-making processes that await.
As I consider this idea, I tend to feel guilty. I have no right to complain about deciding on my courses at Wash U when others all over the world are struggling with life threatening decisions. The only thing that reassures me that this issue has value is that other students around me feel the exact same way. It must be something worth discussing if us safe and fortunate individuals are having difficulty responding positively to a wealth of opportunity. And since not everyone is fortunate enough to be in our positions as college students, we are responsible to make the most of our resources in order to give back, making us feel nervous that this debilitating indecision will prevent us from doing so.
Sometimes I think that the secret to happiness would involve being raised by Amy Chua, going Pre-Med, and having an arranged marriage. As a child of the tiger mom, all my early choices would be made for me, all my talents would be discovered for me, and when a decision goes awry, I wouldn’t have to dwell on the fact that I made the choice myself. I would then be forced to go Pre-Med, and be free to put my full attention towards the next chem exam without dwelling on the practicality of 2-D Design. And, although this is a stretch, I might as well have my spouse decided for me. We frown upon arranged marriages, which tend to be stable and satisfying, while approximately half of today’s American marriages end in divorce.
When I step back and assess my current situation, I can establish that I would most likely prefer my own life to the one I just described, (especially since if I were to choose that life I would hate it because it was something I had chosen…) I remain hopeful that this jumble of indecision is just a normal side effect of being an underclassman. And until it wears away, a helpful step in getting through it is simple awareness and acceptance. We shouldn’t feel guilty about being frustrated with too much opportunity, because many individuals are going through the same struggle.
When asked to make a metaphor for Wash U students in my FOCUS class entitled “Global Culture and the Individual,” I couldn’t help but envision us all under the ocean. We all want to be part of that school of pre-med fish that are constantly swimming directly and instinctively towards their goals. But if we accept the fact that we’re just oysters, stuck at the bottom as we struggle to make sense of what’s going on around us, we’ll eventually be surprised to find that all this confusion is what leads us to creating a pearl – which could resemble anything from a confident choice of a major to an awakening that we should drop out and join the Peace Corps.