A case of the nihilistic woes

I left the last seminar (of English) for this semester feeling oddly … bereft.

Sometimes, I wonder what I’m doing in university. I’m not intelligent, I’m not maniacally driven to get that A, I’m not even that head-over-heels passionate about what I’m studying. I mean, sure, it’s interesting and all, how reality is all mediated experience and we can never count on any piece of information to be untainted by someone’s preconceived notions imposed upon us, and discourse is the blatant manifestation of one person’s experience being transmitted to another. Yes, interesting concepts and food for thought.

But to read up on such concepts for leisure? To engage the professor in profound discussions? Is it just me, or does anyone else not see the point of it all? So what if we realise that it is impossible for the media to ever tell the unsullied truth, or that we can spot what the advertiser is trying to get us to do or think by noticing the words they use, and the way they make use of visual elements to complement their texts?

Come to think of it, so what if we know the minority groups in Laos and Vietnam are repressed by the onslaught of urbanisation, and nationalistic sentiments in Indochina were rampant during the turn of the 20th century, leading to the Communist-led expulsion of the French in Vietnam, and the nationalists’ movement to eliminate the threat of Communism in Indonesia? So what if we feel that America is a benign hegemon and not a rogue state because while it does run several dubious foreign policies (and that might be an understatement) and functions as a corporation-country (which is, debatably, a worrying progression), it has served Asia well in terms of economy and security? Will my comments and opinions matter either way? So what if it does?

I disgorged all this on my best friend on the bus home just now, feeling strangely lost and insignificant and generally not seeing the meaning of all that I was doing now. She identified right away, saying that I was just jaded/tired, and that she felt the same way.

The thing is, I thought I would enjoy it more than this. I had been looking forward to it, and no, it hasn’t begun to disappoint, but maybe it is me who has let myself down. My peers seem to actually enjoy the seminars immensely and can articulate their opinions comparatively much better than I can.

I’m lost amongst them. What am I even doing in university?

On the way home, I tried to come up with a reason why I felt, like Gerlynn suggested, so jaded. (And that’s why you tend to see me staring disconsolately out the window during long bus rides. Don’t mind me; I’m just wallowing in self-pity.)

And I realised it was because I had nothing to really look forward to after graduation. You might find me worrying too much – a freshman shouldn’t be fretting about something that far down the road – but isn’t university a (pardon the cliche) stepping stone to a more privileged life? Isn’t the whole point of education to free us – opening up more avenues in which we can make better use of our lives, open up our minds, help us achieve actualisation by aiding us in breaking the shackles that pin us to cocooned middle-class drudgery (though, of course, I won’t be hypocritical and deny that it is also a luxury)? I sound ungrateful – many people would love to have access to higher tertiary education. Yes, I’m aware of that. I’m not complaining about the opportunity to brush shoulders with people my age who seem to be so much more advanced intellectually. Really, I’m not. I like what I’m learning, what I’m exposed to.

But after graduation – what then? A 9-to-5 job in an air-conditioned office, with stipulated lunch breaks, corporate hierarchies to inch around, attires and high heels (the horror!), the regulations, rules, laws, codes and oh, a million other things that culminate in the exact opposite of what my education had promised me. How is that freedom? How is that actualisation? Will we ever find it within ourselves, in others?

I’m aware of how my absolute dream is a fool’s paradise. Not only is the literary market crazily difficult to break into, there is no guaranteed success even after you’ve successfully become an insider. Even literary agents face rejections from editors, what more aspiring writers from literary agents. Yet, I’m almost completely certain this is the only job I will do despite not getting a promotion, or a big fat bonus or salary. Everything else feels like a chore. Is this me being parochial, too unforgiving of other options, too fixated on being a writer, writer, writer?

After graduation, will my words run out?

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