Confession at 23: To Pursue Meaning#
It is now June 6, 2020, and I am 23 years old. This age seems to be an awkward existence. If we define it according to stages of life, it has been a year since I graduated from college, and it is still too early for the two zodiac years. My life experience is far from enough to give advice to others, but I still want to write something to account for the past few years to myself.
The three years of high school life can be easily summarized. Constantly studying and achieving better grades is enough to fill most of the meaning of life. Fortunately, I gained a close friend and experienced an unsatisfactory one-sided love. The college entrance examination was more like a pause, breaking the balance of my original life but not giving me much chance to catch my breath. I was very afraid. What is the meaning of life after that?
During the summer vacation after the college entrance examination, my close friend and I joined an international volunteer teaching team to go to Hunan for volunteer teaching. During this period, I had the idea of studying journalism, but the score that just passed the line only allowed me to pray for the English major at Wuli, while I was already at a loss before a new stage arrived.
In September, I went to Wuhan alone with my luggage—a city that I had no contact with for more than ten years. The sense of unfamiliarity and novelty gradually turned into confusion and panic after the first few weeks. I didn't know what I was looking for. When a person fails to find what they are pursuing, they often seek a substitute simple goal. At that time, I chose student work.
To be honest, in terms of speech and personality, I am far inferior to many of my peers. I get nervous on stage and stumble during meetings. I even blush when making new friends. Fortunately, after several routine activities, I vaguely discovered that this is something that can be done well with effort and time. So I started to learn photo editing, design posters, make PPTs, and edit videos. I tried to strive for tasks that had the opportunity to make an impact, and in the end, I achieved good results.
In the blink of an eye, it was time to apply for a change of major, but I hesitated. If journalism was just a passing thought, then this choice I fought for was not what I really wanted, but just a way to escape. Would it still have any meaning? In the end, I gave up the application. Looking back now, it was actually a way to escape from the unknown.
In my sophomore and junior years, I gradually took on important roles in various student organizations at the university and college. I became the vice president of the university's Youth League Committee, the president of the college's mental health association, and the head of the student union's study department. Attending three or four meetings a week, dealing with endless notifications, staying up late to edit videos and plan events became the norm. It was truly difficult, but it also allowed me to meet many interesting friends and admireable mentors. I still think that period of experience was the highlight of my university life.
As the courses gradually became boring and student work became more stable, I began to feel extremely anxious and panicked. My interest and dedication to English could only support me until the end of my undergraduate studies. I had no idea about job positions and wanted to explore more possibilities for the future, but I found it difficult to have enough competitiveness in various fields, and I didn't even know what goal I was striving for.
At that time, I had a habit of writing articles on various internet platforms and coincidentally got to know some practitioners in the blockchain industry. One of them invited me for an interview, which surprised and scared me. After much hesitation, I decided to fly to Xiamen and embark on a new journey. From then on, through internships, visiting various companies, and attending conferences, I gradually became involved in the preparation and decision-making of some projects. I am still good friends with many of my former bosses and colleagues, even though most of them are my parents' age. Looking back from my current perspective, I still have lingering fear about the decision to attend that meeting alone, but I am also secretly grateful that the impulse at that time brought me these experiences and changes.
During this period, I bought a camera to record the scenery and my state of mind along the way. For a short period of time, I felt that this was the ideal state of life for me—enough freedom and growth. But as I gradually entered my senior year, the strong pressure of uncertainty from the future brought me back to a state of questioning everything. Everything around me was telling me that I should quickly find a good job and have a life that others would admire. However, I still didn't know where to go. So I started to build my own online education startup. With the support of teachers who encouraged entrepreneurship and the help of younger students who assisted with recording and editing, everything went much smoother than expected. Once again, I fell into a busy state and used it as a way to escape. I often joked that I could now be considered an entrepreneur, big or small, and wondered if I could avoid the pressure from employment and uncertainty. My past experiences and my own self-discipline habits allowed me to get rid of some impetuous thoughts and avoid seeking quick success. However, they still couldn't tell me where to go.
Three months before graduation, I suddenly realized that what I was doing was just hiding in my own world and enjoying myself. There are still many different ways of life, and I ultimately lacked the thinking process that comes from experience. I resigned, returned to Wuhan, and applied for a master's degree in computer science in Taiwan. These decisions were not as difficult as I imagined. At the end of May, when I received an early invitation from a professor at National Taiwan University, I was truly happy, but also a bit apprehensive. It seemed that luck always favored me, even though I took many detours. The official result came during my trip. When I opened the application system and saw the words "not admitted," it was a bit painful. I can't remember my exact emotions at that time, but it was probably a sense of despair after falling from a high point. I sent an email to the professor, but received no reply.
I didn't really feel the reality of graduation. It felt like saying goodbye to some people, not knowing if I would ever see them again. I couldn't escape the norm either—I was unemployed and not enrolled in further studies. It seemed like I was labeled as a failure, and I spent two months feeling down. I returned to my original job, continued the business of my studio, prepared for the IELTS exam, repeatedly revised my personal statement, and applied for studying in Hong Kong. When I received an offer from the Computer Science Department at the University of Hong Kong, I had mixed feelings, but also a sense of certainty. It turns out that I am really worth it.
I still don't feel like I have touched the meaning I have been searching for. The successes and failures I have experienced so far are just compromises. Maybe I will never find it, but this process has given me the courage to move forward. Perhaps the act of thinking itself is the process of constructing meaning. I no longer expect to have an epiphany at a certain moment, I just hope to continue moving forward, experiencing and pursuing my own life.
Wishing a happy 23rd birthday to myself.