Stay true to your childhood aspirations


Patrick Li

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is hosting a free screening of “Seeing the Beginning of Time” at the Savoy 16 theater Wednesday, June 28 at 7 p.m. Following the film, a group of panelists will be leading a discussion.

By Tyler Panlilio , Columnist

My parents hammered one piece of advice while growing up: Always do well in school. Prioritize academics, pursue a well-respected job and make a lot of money — it all seemed so simple back then.

And for a lot of students here on campus, it’s likely they grew up hearing similar sentiments. Everyone wants to end up being successful in life. It’s what our parents wanted and probably what their parents wanted as well.

It isn’t bad parenting to encourage your children to pursue science and technology. It is, however, more or less a social norm — especially when you take a look at this University. This is typically thought of as the best way to success, and what parent doesn’t want their kids to be rich and successful?

This cycle tends to promote conformity rather than individuality. We grew up with a notion that doctors and engineers are the epitome of being successful because they make large amounts of money. As we got older, there was hardly any room for creativity: for art, literature and the rest of the humanities.

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    Most of us naturally gravitated toward drawing or learning to play music while growing up because it was challenging, yet fun. But beyond that, it also promoted creativity and self-expression; it was nice to take a break from memorizing the multiplication table to draw your favorite superhero and hang it up on the fridge.

    There was a sense of pride there, not just because our parents patted us on the back for it, but because we actually felt it for ourselves.

    Then high school came along, and for the first time, a lot of students felt the competition of academics. Taking honors and AP classes, worrying about your ACT or SAT scores and eventually applying to your dream college — only to be put on a waitlist or just being flat-out rejected —  are struggles we’ve all experienced.

    Of course, becoming an engineer or doctor doesn’t mean you’re any less creative or happy than an artist or a musician. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that you should act like you’re better than someone who majored in graphic design.

    Students here on campus shouldn’t be pressured to pursue a STEM major just because everyone else is. Take a moment and think about what you really enjoy doing or what truly interests you. Don’t get me wrong, math and science are honorable pursuits. But some students — myself included — can’t see themselves being happy as an engineer.

    What exactly happened to our childhood aspirations? Did reality slap us in the face and convince us that success and happiness is determined by how much money we make?

    It could be modern society’s favoritism of STEM-oriented majors convincing us that anything else is a failure. Encouraging future generations to pursue engineering and science is good to have — there’s no doubt in that. Having a future where all careers are essentially the same, however, only continues the cycle.

    There needs to be variety here. Yes, we should further technology and science, but we also need the humanities.

    We need historians and journalists when humanity colonizes Mars.

    We need musicians and artists not only for entertainment, but also for addressing issues that can’t be done any other way. These pursuits provide culture and diversity that betters society.

    If anything, students of all majors should remember not to let the constant grind of school drain them out.

    Take a walk, smell the roses and remember that springtime is in full gear. Because there’s one thing we should all strive not to be: a cog in the machine.

    Tyler is a freshman in Media.

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