image by lilpuddlejumpers
I am becoming a little uncertain lately with my own abilities, particularly in writing, excelling in every aspect of my college life, my meager attempts to express myself artistically, among other endeavors, for I still have no idea about what I am really “good” at and on what skills I should pour all my energies into. It doesn’t help that life does not give us road maps to guide us through the hazy roads that lie ahead. It’s all up to us to figure out the “right way”. Right now, I could very well say I am darn lost. Lost in a maze of paths, entangled in endless possibilities.
Should I spend my time devouring books, studying the lives of great men and women? Is a “creative” management course right for me? How should I spend my “free” time? So many paths lie ahead, with each tiny step I take slowly defining my destiny. All While my great grandfather clock is ticking. As Greek philosopher Seneca says, “Time is man’s most precious commodity.” What we choose to do with our time is exactly how we live our lives; wasting time is one thing I despise. “Life is not lost by dying. Life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways,” says American author, poet, short story writer, and novelist Stephen Vincent Benét.
Moreover, I fear that I am being left behind, while those around me have found their special place in this world. Many teens near my age are already budding entrepreneurs and earning money through their passions in photography, art, and fashion; young writers are getting published in newspapers and magazines; remarkable students are passing accounting with flying colors (and me having to take it again next semester); prolific young artists are producing masterpieces—I could go on and on.
However, I know I should not become envious staring at another’s ladder of success as I have my own to climb. They deserve their outward success while I am still struggling to improve my inner self. It does not make any sense to compare one’s triumphs with another’s, as it is as absurd with comparing whether classical or popular music is better. As it is with ballerinas and chefs. Humanities majors and management majors. Painters and astronomers. A little beggar living in the streets and the fortunate child attending a private school in the city. People have their own ladders to climb; it doesn’t really matter how many people notice one’s achievements, how early one gets published, how many friends or followers, or fans one has, whether online or in real life, how high up the ladder one has gone thus far.
What really matters, then? American basketball coach John Wooden says, “Thou did thy best. That is success.” Although I often wonder, how can we measure doing “thy best”?
Then I remembered something I have read:
It takes 10,000 hours to become a master at anything.
This is a known fact I hear ubiquitously, more recently from the book Outliers, written by social psychology guru Malcolm Gladwell. After pondering about this, I realize I have been expecting too much by doing so little.
Mozart himself has had to play the piano for three hours a day since he was three years old. Becoming a musical genius is worth sacrificing playtime for grueling hours in front of the piano. Bill Gates had to spend thousands of hours working in front of his computer. It will be quite foolish of me to expect to become a fluent Japanese speaker by the end of the semester, to be thinner, to have better relationships when I don’t invest ample time in all these. Even when one does not really aim to be a master, this fact implies that only through time and hard work will anything of value be achieved.
I humble myself through this fact. No way do I deserve to be called great unless I worked hard for it. Perhaps along with mastering something, it also takes time to discover who you really are. Some of us need more time to figure it out than the other “lucky” ones, which is completely fine. I mean, no one really just exclaims “Eureka!” and realizes that she is destined to become a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Besides, where’s the excitement in that? Although exciting as this life-seeking journey takes us, the hard part is, what are we willing to give up in order to fulfill something greater, to do what is our true calling, to be able to dedicate our lives to making this world a tad better place to live in.
Everybody can become a master of something. One just has to work harder (for a few thousand hours more, if you want to be a master of something) and to let go of the superficial, unnecessary things in life.
It also helps to have faith. It makes life more meaningful and beautiful along with the hardships and wonderful surprises that come with it.
Thus, during what’s left of my semestral break, I will pore through books and literary works, pen in hand and a hardbound diary in the other, with the occasional cup of coffee to stay sane (iced or steaming hot)—keeping faith that this will all be worth it in the end.