For my next guest post I’d like to feature another friend of mine, Rebecca Hui, who shared her journey and insights during our Haas School of Business graduation. Rebecca and I started off in the same business club committee freshman year, and we were in the same Christian fellowship this past semester in InterVarsity.
Rebecca is double majoring in Urban Studies and Business Administration with a background in architecture. She is interested in mapping how cities are changing through art and cartography, and seeks to become involved in private sector-led strategies for developing cities. She published “Life through the Perspective of a Cow” – maps that show how stray cows are adapting to India’s changing socio-economic and religious climate. She went to Tanzania to investigate China’s interests in Africa by mapping Chinese infrastructural investments and their resource targets. She writes for The Petropolis of Tomorrow, an initiative that puts forth design efforts to accommodate sustainable oil extraction in South America. Upon graduation, she is excited to return to India as a Fulbright Scholar on behalf of the U.S. Department of State with support from National Geographic Society and Big Ideas at Berkeley. She would not be here today without Jesus Christ and her parents.
Be sure to follow her adventures on her blog, RebeccaHui.com!
Good morning Haas Graduating Class of 2013! It took 17 minutes for Martin Luther King in “I Have a Dream” to create one of history’s largest social revolutions. It took 2 minutes for Lincoln to deliver the Gettysburg Address and establish democracy in the free world. I have 6 minutes to tell you how Haas has endowed you with a voice to change the world!
What will you use your voice for?
I think it should be for peace, and love. NAHT!!! Seriously, Haas students are smart and competent. But let’s be honest people, most of us don’t know what we should use our voice for, other than to whine about UGBA 104 Spreadsheet Modeling. During the “Occupy Movement” last year, while the rest of the students on campus were excused from class and told to use their voices to scream against Wall Street corruption, I was sitting in Cheit 230 reading an email addressed to Haas students. It read: “If marchers enter our buildings, try to carry on business as usual. Feel free to close and lock your office doors.”
What will you use your voice for?
Haas provides our voices with credibility. We have the highest median salary for exiting undergraduates at Berkeley and accomplishments that make people listen when they see “Haas” on the back of our favorite backpack. But, when not impressing interviewers, our voice is spent on how we destroyed Zerglings on Starcraft or advanced to Level 381 on Candy Crush. If I were to ask a Haas student and they couldn’t lie, “WHAT IS THE WHY THAT MAKES YOU CRY, WHAT INFURIATES YOU AND MOVES YOU TOWARD ACTION?” They will say, “The Haas Grading Curve”. What someone cares about naturally comes out in one’s voice, but even though Haas gives our voices authority, we do not necessarily know what we truly care about.
What will you use your voice for?
For every flashy LinkedIn Title the outer world sees, we should look deep into the Haas computer lab and hear the Haas student who whispers, “I don’t know what I want to do with my life.” Students have found themselves spiraling into an existential crisis as they face a world that cannot quickly offer paths to their passions. If existential philosopher Albert Camus were to rise back from the Dead, the sequel to The Stranger would be the biography of a Haas Student. Students, raise your hand if you have ever been called a TOOL, or if you have ever called someone else a TOOL. See? 8th grade never ends. The Era of the “Tool,” a name we use to address our super ambitious peers who get jobs –basically all of us — speaks to the guilt we feel for pursuing prestige, and the moral path we forfeit had we “followed our passions.”
We have an existential crisis to figure what to use our voices for, but we forget: most people don’t even have a voice. Most of my friends know I talk a lot, but in this opportunity where I was given a dangerous 6 minutes to say whatever I want, I’ll tell you why I am talking about voice.
For 17 years, I didn’t have a voice. I had a medical jaw misalignment that prevented me from chewing properly and caused me to tear the sides of my mouth. The physical pain was there, but the most painful part was when boys at school would mimic the way I smiled and spoke. I would self-consciously clench my jaws to hide my smile and say nothing. Now you might be listening hard for this eccentricity – it’s no longer there. But you can feel the bolts in the side of my jaws, the only traces of an operation that left me hospitalized and lose a fourth of my weight. When I was finally unwired, it was the first time in my life when I was able to speak without fear that people were paying attention to the oddness, rather than the content of my voice. I became so aware of how different people treated others based on the way they look and spoke.
As a freshman in Berkeley, I thought my newfound voice would allow me to pursue my passions. But lemme be real. People often think I am a passionate manic pixie girl who found the meaning of life by following cows in India, when in fact, my experience in India caused me to grapple more. Day in and out, I was distressed that my voice was only being used to pitch to firms how awesome of a team player I am during group conflicts instead of for more meaningful causes. But I would keep doing it because that’s just what smart kids are supposed to do. But I knew all my work going only towards Beat the Clock on Fridays shouldn’t be the way to live…especially since they are at Pappy’s now. As a result, I started to burn out. Last year, I withdrew from school.
So, how do we find our voice?
One of the best things about being a Haas student is how willing the alumni are to connect with you. They are wise Yodas who will take a time machine 4 years back and buy ramen for their young Haas-dawans. Gary Mao, Haas class of 2009, this is for you. When I whined to Gary about my existential crisis, I expected him to tell me to just follow my dreams. He asked me instead, “Does passion and career have to be mutually exclusive?”
Upon returning to school and speaking to you today, I believe that burning out is not a result of “doing too much,” it is from choosing not to confront your crisis and living in distressed silence. I am not here today to tell you to follow your passions and renege on your ABC offers. Many students don’t know how to follow their passions because they aren’t simply aware of what they are passionate about. That’s perfectly okay. If we had always known what we wanted to do since birth, the world would be run by Pink Power Rangers and Buzz Lightyears.
But time is not on your side; the future value of capital comes at the expense of sacrificing the net present value of your idealism. We think, “once I slave away my first two years at this firm, then I will have all the money to do what I want! I will then open a muffin store.” Truth is, before we even get to opening that muffin store, many of us will hit a quarter life crisis. So stop reading Wall Street Oasis and figure out your unsettlement. The world is large; the chances are overwhelming that you will encounter something that causes your heart to sing, or break. When you grapple, you will begin examining all sides of “why” you are doing what you are doing. In your reflection, paths that were never there before will open up. As you gain insight from your struggle, honest and meaningful stories will come out of your voice.
Haas provides us with the credibility to speak with authority. After all, we are the only major out of Berkeley’s 350 degrees that has a special nickname. They call us Haasholes. But we must remember that our struggle is an absurd privilege; what we call an existential crisis, the generation behind you calls the American Dream, and this is exactly why your voice is so important. We may be tempted to believe that we earned our degrees today, but the sacrifices made by the generation before you provide you with a voice backed and insured by Haas that others will listen to. Classes of 2013, never stop grappling; your struggle has the potential to create, destroy, make, and shape the future. What will you use your voice for?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Rebecca!
Finding a voice at randomtidbitsofthought.wordpress.com.