Opinions, Column

Humanities Have Value

Living in a Californian Asian American household, success was defined linearly. If an activity, major, or profession does not up the “status” of the family, I should not waste my time indulging in this thing. Thus, the options presented to me were to either become a doctor, lawyer, engineer or a CEO. My family eventually told me I should become a doctor because I have “a detailed mind, a great heart, and a passion for the sciences.” To make sure my goal was achieved, however, no distractions could take place—that meant a very minimal social life and no real passions. Despite those consequences, I was very willing to continue along this fixed mindset and bring it to this Jesuit institution.  

Before arriving at Boston College, I created a four-year plan that contained all the classes I needed to take for my major, as well as which professors to take. Courtesy of BC PEPS, I had a detailed framework to choose professors—strengths, weaknesses, and other important information that I needed to know. But instead, all I needed was to find that easiest grader. I hit the control F button on my Macbook pro and typed out “easy.” This all culminated into a special list ranking of all the professors who could just give me that A. When I got the chance to pull out my laptop, I would reread these ratings again to make sure that nothing changed.

With this masterplan in hand at scheduling , I got all the classes and professors I wanted after orientation and I was ready to start the school year. During Welcome Week, while bragging to my friend Joe, he asked a question that no one has ever asked, “Why do you want to take the easiest professor?” I responded, “Well, I need to hit that 3.8 GPA in order to get into Medical School.” Then he continued to question, “Why do you want to be a doctor?” And that was the golden impasse that I could not answer. I kept searching for the answer, but eventually I spouted out either a shallow response of a desire for status or a stable job.

Eventually, I decided that it was time to really find something that was more fulfilling than those materialistic goals. And, with BC’s core curriculum, I started breaking my walls and embracing the liberal arts.

After an arduous Perspectives evening seminar, I debated with Joe at late night about why he needs to question me about my motives. He quoted Socrates, saying “an unexamined life is not worth living.” I knew of that phrase and how it somewhat applies to me, but what to me is worth “living?” As I was writing a similar essay in my First Year Writing Seminar, I wrote about my passion for baseball. While writing that essay, I started reflecting on why baseball makes me so interested. I wrote about the sport authors that I read and how their power of language incites feelings of excitement or resentment. By writing these thoughts down, I finally realized what I wanted “live for”—I want to be able to be heard and channel my ideas to others.

I now have let the liberal arts overtake my passion for the sciences. Taking General Chemistry last fall, I learned how to do problems and then practice them endlessly for homework. Then, I prepared all of my practice four times a semester to rack up points on an exam. Was there meaning in this? Nope. Did it solve any real problem? Nope. So what was my goal with it? I was simply trying to be “right.”

I never expected BC to take me on a course into uncharted waters. I never expected my social and academic life to revolve around reflection and prompt me to become a more critical thinker. If I weren’t at BC, I would be that stereotypical cutthroat Asian pre-med, one who just grinds out the work and eventually becomes a “yes man.” Who knows, I maybe could have achieved that initial goal to go to medical school and make my family proud, but I do not think that I would have achieved happiness.

Luckily, this Jesuit institution caught me and yanked me out of that limbo. BC did not allow me to skate through college collecting points. Instead, the school wanted me to have an education that “cares for my soul.” It wants me to be that leader who inspires others. And most importantly, it wants me to ever excel.

February 3, 2019