I’ve always been obsessed with the unattainable. Growing up, I had a mile-long list of lofty aspirations and high hopes for both the professional and personal aspects of my life. When I didn’t receive the highly coveted role of school newspaper editor my junior year of high school, I threw myself into trying to convince people that I loved journalism with all my being.
I would spend late nights toggling through Google Chrome tabs filled with layout designs to present to my adviser the next afternoon. I often carried around extra copies of the newspaper so I could attack unsuspecting freshmen with the latest edition. I would also frequently go on aggressive rants about the peril of press censorship to the point where the staff would roll their eyes at me every time I opened my mouth, because they anticipated what was to come. You get the picture.
In pursuit of what I couldn’t have, I also clung onto people who wouldn’t give me the time of day and neglected those who truly cared for me. When it came to romantic partners, I would often idealize them to the point where I would blur the lines between my imagination and reality. I began to fabricate scenarios in my head to replay on loop when I was drifting off to sleep. Never mind that these people weren’t anything like the fictional characters my brain conjured up. I didn’t care — my perception was clouded by my ideas of whom I thought they were, and it was my mission to do anything in my might to get them to notice me. I often fell for emotionally unavailable boys whom I knew didn’t have the capacity to return my feelings because they were the easiest to imagine. I’ve always been keen on dangerous romanticism.
Now, I’m pretty sure there are psychological explanations for my flighty behavior and muddied mindset. However, I think what it boils down to is that I used external circumstances to reinforce my self-perceptions. I could easily discredit years of accomplishments in a single sentence to anyone who complimented me because I was still dissatisfied. Part of this stemmed from having strict Asian parents who drilled into my head that good could always be better.
The other half came from a deep need to somehow prove myself to others. Nothing was ever enough. But predominantly, I was never enough. Because I couldn’t have something, I automatically assumed that it was my fault. I didn’t love journalism enough. I didn’t love him enough. I needed to self-correct and work to become the person that I wasn’t. To me, it wasn’t even the actual thing that I was struggling to attain that mattered as much. I viewed the prize as only a byproduct of the outcome of my improvement.
So call me what you want: immature, selfish, entitled and insecure; I’ll wholeheartedly agree with said descriptors. I was all of those things wrapped in one. To the casual passerby I was just ambitious. Internally, though, I had a deep-rooted insecurity that led me to constantly cover up what I saw as shortcomings by piling on more extracurriculars, padding my resume and making more friends.
We are often our own worst critics, and I was no exception. After closely examining my true intentions behind flinging myself at things and people, I realized that I was tired of chasing short-lived “happiness.”
Just yesterday I got an email reading “We received a record number of applicants this year. Unfortunately, you have not been selected for the next round blah blah blah” and I am proud to say that I didn’t autopilot into a downward spiral. This is proof that I am getting better and am being less dramatic about rejection (I know, shocking!). When I got into USC I was forced to accept that I would inevitably be dissatisfied with myself. After all, you can do a ton here and still feel like you are not doing enough because one activity will be quickly replaced by another.
There will always be a new internship or a different someone. I am burnt out and tired of succumbing to external expectations. I am no longer standing on my tippy toes to reach for the elusive or gauging my worth in what I do: Enough is enough.
Bonnie Wong is a sophomore majoring in journalism. Her column, “Plan B,” runs every other Thursday.