This is really a continuation of last week’s piece, and I feel like I’ve already written about this part of my life to death but since it’s actually come to an end, hey, why not? Also, having had to re-read what I wrote two years ago (and last week), I must say I hate it. It’s like a diary entry in which my intended audience is myself, but I try to make it funny as if other people should be able to enjoy it. My blog should have been called: “You should read my self-indulgent ranting and you should like it!” Well…I’ll work on separating the self-reflection here and there from the actual useful/entertaining material. The least I can do for you (uh..who?) is to insert some outside perspective or research.

The biggest fear of my life thus far, simply put, is to not be in school, summarized quite nicely in a Tumblr post I wrote two years ago:

“I’ve been truly afraid of two things: one, finishing school, resulting in not having another environment to compete and be evaluated with quantifiable statistics, wins and losses; and two, staying in (a good) school long enough such that I’ve finally been pushed to the edge of my limits, resulting in me no longer being able to compete with my peers at a respectable level. “

Well, now that it’s all said and done, how do I feel? I feel surprisingly at peace. Granted, I’m going right back to it all in graduate school, but it’s not the thought that I will be assigned grades again that gives me peace, rather, it’s knowing that I’m tired of getting graded by my transcript on a bi-annual basis. Even though the reality of life is that we’re constantly measured by some kind of objective metric- grades, publication counts, or salary- those things can only be just that: objective. Objective meaning it enables an outside party to measure, in a controlled manner, the value of you and your work. While these metrics are by no means useless to those judging my value, it is completely useless, if not anti-useful (what?), in my determination of my own value. Stocks fall and rise on the daily, and if the company is run by a self-conscious 18-year old boy, the mission statement would probably change on the daily to reflect that (“Apple is dedicated in providing the best user experience possible…but just a bit less so than yesterday”).

The thing is, for an 18-year old Richard that knew very well how to achieve great objective evaluations, why would he ever want to give that up in search for what he values in himself? If picking my nose everyday gets me praises from my teachers, parents, and friends, you bet I would do that everyday and do a damn good job at it. But somewhere along the way, maybe aided by the impending doom of getting out of school, I’ve had to realize all the things getting good grades DIDN’T get me: it didn’t get me a Google job, or a MIT admission, and worst of all, it didn’t get me the knowledge I thought I’d learned BY getting those grades. I mean, sure, I still know how to do a derivative like I’m brushing my teeth, but I read over my quantum physics notes the other day, and the only thought I had was “how the F did I get an A in that class”?

So here I am, scared shitless about finding what I value in myself, and consequently, what values I can bring to the people and society around me. But I do know that my ability to take in information and regurgitating it well is only a fraction of package I can provide to the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still love good grades because it gets me scholarships, and I love money because it’ll let me buy a house and car for my family someday. But what I’ll have to remind myself of every single day is that, the values I can create should be much more than what can be measured by grades and dollars. And when I am doing that regularly and strategically, everything else, along with my inner peace, will come.