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Thursday, July 22, 2004

No, the Grass is Not Greener on the Other Side of the Fence

(to be published on C’nS Magazine, Vol.3/26, August-September 2004)

The long awaited university entrance test is drawing near. I can still remember clearly how my parents burst out in rage when I told them what major I planned to take after high school graduation. It was not hard to tell that they wanted me to take a top-notch major in a first-class university, just as they did after completing high school. On the other hand, I did not have the intention of following their footprints. I managed to stick to my plan since they would not know what I wrote on the test paper anyway (tricky, eh?).

As for me, it was a happy ending story. The major I am taking at the moment is my first choice in the university entrance test. Not an "elite" major in a leading university. But I am proud to say I am quite satisfied as to how things are going. And come to think of it, I guess I have no regrets at all—well, a few but, just as Frank Sinatra said, too few too mention.

Now, many others, or perhaps you, do not end up the way I did. Some are perhaps forced to abide by their parents’ will or to enroll to their second or third choice of university, while some might be awfully miserable for not being able to pass the test.

Well, I always believe that success does not necessarily depend on where I study or what major I take. It is my attitude that matters the most. Now wait, before you get bored with this classic rationale and turn the page. It is just a waste of time if I take a popular major but have little or no fun studying it. It is also somewhat useless if I am accepted in a well-known university but perform just as other typical students. The important thing is to be different (in a positive manner, of course).

As far as I know, there is yet a scientific research concluding alumnae of celebrated universities have greater success or contentment compared to those of others. Thinking of taking a particular major in order to get a good job easily? Then think again. Going to a top campus and taking a "superior" major might give some sense of prestige, but it does not guarantee success or even happiness. Degree or title only get you to the first step (for some people, this does not even matter). Next, give room to experiences and skills. want to go higher? Say the old adage again: attitude is of importance.

I will sidestep the Herculean task of providing examples of successful people with average educational backgrounds, but take this one. A friend of mine is a dropped-out college student. His major was not on the most-wanted list. Curious to find out what he is now? A training manager of an international hotel (the one once famous for the bombing incident). He does not have a diploma, let alone a bachelor degree. But he is now making as much money as my father—who holds a bachelor degree from a respected university—makes in a month just by training other people for less than a half day.

How can that be? To cut a long story short, he knows what he wants and is not easily influenced by what other people say. He keeps an eye on opportunities, dares to be different, to take challenges and risks, and eventually, reaps the fruit of his endeavor.

Then again my friends, what matters is not where you study or what major you take. You possibly put your mental health at stake if you force yourself to learn subjects you are not really interested in. Likewise, there’s no point of being a student of a favorite university if you spend more time lying down the couch than doing worthy activities. As long as you work hard enough, knowing that you have tried your best in just about everything you do, and refuse to be a "common person", you are on the right track.

And no, this is not my way of justifying things for you. You are free to, and must, pursue any education track you yearn for. The gist of hundreds of words you have been reading just now is that whatever you decide for your college life is something you have to live up to the next four years, and even more. It is by far not like typing a word in Microsoft Word and undo it the next minute. So think wisely, do not rely merely on what other people or your ego might say. If you have finally come up with the decision, stick to it. And if you fail, simply make the most of what you have, instead of thinking the grass is greener on the other side of your fence.

Some of you get what you want now—going to the school or university you always dream of. Good for you. But for those who don’t, remember to always change the things you can and accept those which you cannot.

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