While this article made me laugh at different points, almost cry in some, and shake my head at others (the parts pertaining to women and dating, particularly), there is a message here that rang true to me. I identified more with the author than the proposed hypothetical overachieving AA who suddenly hits the "bamboo ceiling" because brute-force hard work just doesn't cut it anymore in the real world.
For one, I never worked that hard. I don't think I know how to. I found myself unable to hunker down in the library during test season and I found study groups and overt scheming for exam point maximization a disgusting bastardization of the learning process. My own tiger mother's orders to "study hard" fell on deaf ears. Ironically, she has raised me most of my life to think that I was some kind of naturally talented genius, which in turn led to me being ridiculously cocky about my mental acuity when college rolled around. I never learned how to work hard. I just rolled around the self-pity and shame of not knowing all the answers and not getting A's anymore. How can I no longer be "the smart one"?
My intimate acquaintance with failure was not all for naught, however. At least I don't think so. But that is another story for another day.
This points out that the otherwise well-trained AA's are good workhorses, "followers" essentially, but through the cultural inculcation of modesty and timidity as virtues, they fail to make the transition to leadership positions due to an aversion for the assertiveness and aggressiveness needed for that role. I don't know how accurate this is now seeing as how leadership positions in various clubs and associations in my campus are basically stacked to the hilt with Asian-Americans. However, it's entirely likely that the paper tigers of today have now caught on to the necessity for "leadership skills" for "success" (you know, the kind that your mother can brag about to the other moms) and are thus perfunctorily pursuing these just like everything else. At least that's how I see it. But then again, I've been lazy and refused to pursue these ready-made avenues for "leadership positions" and a new line on my resume. Perhaps I'm just misanthropic. Or yes, just lazy. But ninety nine percent of the time, I'd really rather follow. Someone has to. I believe this overt prioritization on "leadership" (as if it is some kind of quantifiable skill you can obtain and check off a box) is just encouraging the creation of a generation of entitled, bossy people full of themselves. Honestly, not everyone can be a leader. Not everyone has "good" ideas, and not everyone can corral a group of followers into a productive configuration with the least amount of friction. I'm the kind of person that has no objection to rising to the occasion if I have to, but if there is any other person within my vicinity who I know can do a better job "leading", I will pass the baton with no hesitation.
Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned then, but I still value modesty. Humilitas is, to me, the greatest of all virtues. My timid nature has been my foe at many junctures of my life, but I refuse to upsell and change myself into an unnatural, carefully manufactured "product". It's one thing to carefully cultivate yourself into a person that you want to be, and another to manufacture a personal brand palatable to the right set of people that will bring you "success" in life. I feel as if these two concepts of an "ideal self" are conflated in most people--of course, the person you want to be is a successful person. That is only perfectly normal. But at what cost?
"But like Mao, I wanted to be an individual. I had refused both cultures as an act of self- assertion. An education spent dutifully acquiring credentials through relentless drilling seemed to me an obscenity. So did adopting the manipulative cheeriness that seemed to secure the popularity of white Americans.
Instead, I set about contriving to live beyond both poles."This stuck out to me the most. I have been subconsciously doing this my whole life and yet this is the first time I've seen it spelled out in words. But the keyword here is contriving. Personally, trying very hard to act neither "white" nor "Asian" was a very exhausting tight-rope to walk. To my mother, I'd defend my more "white" characteristics like a greater desire for independence from my nosy, hovering family intent on molding me into their personal trophy shelf. At the same time I fume when my white friends point out my shyness as some kind of "Asian" trait and deride my excessive (to their opinion) tolerance of my parents' meddling in my life. There was something about both cultural paradigms that put me off.
Yet I think, at least as of recent, I have started to grow out of this rather teenage contrivance. It's not individuality at all when you're defining yourself by your rejection of a particular paradigm. It's not conscious because it is merely a reflex. My whole life, so far, has been one big reflex to all the perceived injustices I've suffered. My own overbearing tiger mother. The academic torture and shaming I went through during my "faux-gifted" formative years in an Asian schooling system. The horrible curve-wrecking robots in my classes. It goes on. I could feel sorry for myself my whole life, but that would be a waste of a life.
Being an individual means confidence in your life choices.
I really should try listening to myself sometimes.