Oh there’s no time to sleep/oh, living in a dream/ in your eyes
When is a part of you “you”, and when is a part of you “your culture”?
I’ve always been the ambitious type, and a few months ago, Mars Bars complimented me by saying I influence them to be ambitious as well. Considering Mars Bars is 80% salty, I was glowing from the praise. Gotta take it when the opportunity presents itself!
Maybe it’s because I’ve been hanging out with Emma too much and we’re both the ambitious type, or maybe it’s because we’re both American. But both of us have had our fair share of quarter life crises regarding post-graduation questions and plans of achieving them. Not meant in a condescending way, but in my house there are two Americans, myself and Rachele. And we are the most intensely ambitious individuals in the house. I was discussing this with Emma earlier this week, and she also pointed out that her friend, Helena, who is also American, is quite ambitious as well. Is this ambition a personality or a cultural coincidence?
My Dutch friends, excluding Maggie as being Italian, are a different story. Sem wants to move in with Stef and chill for a year. Maggie wants to do the same with Stan. And I was talking to Bram at work the other day, and he wanted to do something similar with Celine. This isn’t a relationship thing, because both Emma and Rach are in steady relationships, yet neither have expressed the same dream of moving in with their college sweetheart and chilling for a bit.
About a week ago, Sem and I got into a “disagreeable discussion”, regarding future plans. After graduation I plan on moving to Dublin, bar tending to pay the bills, and then run around during the day exploring internships, opportunities, or organizations related to content writing, newspapers, magazines, radio stations, etc. Something like career development by day, survival by night. Sem on the other hand, sees no problem with taking a year to do nothing. She doesn’t know what she wants, and she wants to chill in the meantime. I, however, only think I know what I want. But even though I’m unsure about this career path being “the one”, I’m going to get my feet wet until I know it’s not for me, or until I’ve built enough experience to “level up”. She’s criticizing me for “being American” and not understanding that everything can’t happen at once. I’m not going to be a top journalist at 23, no matter how hard I work. And I’m criticizing her for not even trying to get involved with something that catches her interest. Why waitress for a year when you could explore opportunities related to linguistics?
A few days ago Rach and I were having a culturally confused conversation. Peers in the States are hustling with internships and career development as soon as they are eligible, and the cultural stigma for failing to haul-ass is that you’re lazy, underachieving, or lost. And being lost in the world of high-consumerism and fast-paced business is not desirable. We are expected to know what we want, and have a plan on achieving it. Luckily for me, I’ve been stressing over these questions since I was 16, so I’m feeling secure in my game plan, whether it changes or not. Rach however, is stressing from parental pressure of greatness, and also wanting to chill until she knows what she wants to do. She did very well on the LSAT as her back up plan.
What is this, an American mindset to be an overachiever 24/7, or a European mindset of part-time complacency? None of us have expressed interest in returning to the US in the near future, so how are we supposed to deal with one ear catching whispers of the American Dream, and the other catching words of relaxation and “finding ourselves”? Obviously this polarization varies on a personal level, and since Europe and the US can be lumped into “Western culture” many of these issues will overlap indefinitely.
In my mind, my overachieving grit will give me an advantage in Dublin. I won’t have to work as hard to secure a latte-delivery internship as my American counterparts. I can build credible experience with less competitiveness, and then by my mid-twenties, slide into more specialized professionalism in the States, skipping The Hunger Games of the American post-grad world. I’ll go to grad school in the UK or Netherlands, pay a lower tuition again, move back to the US with little to no debt, plenty of international experience, and a vast social network that spans continents and oceans.
But I could also be completely wrong.
Maybe my America-complex will cause cultural issues working in an environment that doesn’t have the same values and structure as I do. Maybe I’ll overwork myself anyways, because I’ll be picking up the slack for the part-time complacent. But maybe this is not an American thing, but rather a personality thing, and even if I were to chase my professional dreams in the US from the bottom up, I’d still end up overworking myself to become the latte-delivery intern. Supposing the professional to effort ratio results were the same in both scenarios, at least with the European one, I’d get the added personal growth bonus of traveling and exploring different cultures and languages.