On Prestige and Success
On the first day of high school, I had already given up. Some part of me refused to care, found education useless, and had little motivation to seek after a future of stature and reverence. My hopes, decimated my failure to maintain any level of prestige, failing to gain admission to any praiseworthy school, played well into my despondent disposition. It was too late, I figured, to have any resemblance of a well-groomed career.
Little did I know, high school actually offered a clean slate, but I had already squandered it by trudging through freshmen year. By the time I had somewhat gotten my act together in sophomore year, I was already destined to mediocrity, at least by the Asian standard. Over the course of the next few years, I met people with incredible SAT scores and ivy-league potential. It was unfathomable to me. I envied their success but not enough to change my relatively poor study habits. I assumed myself to be in the middle of the pack, with real prestige and success only attainable by the best of the best.
And so repeated the process in college, with me forfeiting a perfectly new start and reverting back to mere complacency. I knew I could make it through my classes without putting in much effort, albeit with average grades. The lack of ever knowing what prestige felt like made me reluctant to ever reach for it. If it came, it came, and if it didn't, well, people just didn't recognize my talents. If I had given more effort into my studies, sure, I could've went to a highly ranked private university and came out matriculating into some graduate program with a Fortune-500 company. I just simply never cared enough.
I guess it was by some stroke of luck, definitely a God-driven blessing, that I ended up graduating from college and with a job at an investment bank of all places. For the first time in my life, I experienced the status and prominence of having a renowned name associated with me. It felt like validation, a much-needed confirmation that it wasn't me, but the system, holding me back. I reveled in the first sight of success, though fully knowing I probably didn't deserve any of this. To many, I had reached the pinnacle of the American Dream. This is why I went to college.
But once you've reached the supposed top, it no longer quite feels that way, seeing as there's always someone ahead of you. Now the issue is whether you work in corporate finance or private equity. For others, it's whether you're a doctor or a physician assistant. Neither of these occupations are poor jobs, per say, but there's always something more prestigious to be had. I see it as an endless, potentially maddening, cycle of wanting to be recognized as king of the hill. It never seems enough and the tendency leans towards finding the crown jewel of esteem.
Sometimes I wish I had done better in school. At the ripe age of 22, I've finally come to realization of all the things I should've done, and it appears so obvious now. I wish I could gloat, if not my GPA, then the university I attended, or some of the companies I've interned at. My preference is to carefully word my public profile, only letting people read what I want them to, in order to preserve every bit of prestige I can. Knowing what prestige feels like makes it difficult to let go of, and I admittedly enjoy feeling proud of the work I do. It's the first taste of success I've ever had and I'm reluctant to relinquish it.
Ten years ago, I could've defined my future much differently, but I didn't. My failure to attend a prominent high school stemmed from playing too many video games and relying on natural intellect to carry me through, and that probably resulted in a domino effect. Though hindsight is 20/20 and I wish I had cared just a little bit more, I hate faulting myself for things I can't change, and I'm not sure I would've even knowing all I know now. Still, I'm here, alive and well, and certainly better off than 99% of the world. For that, I'm grateful, and I need to constantly restrain myself from complaining. Like the everyone would say, I'm still young and have plenty of time to further my careers and ambitions.