This blog is inspired by the course I’m taking on Organizational Behaviour… Today we talked about individual differences, culture, personal and social identity. I realized that my identity was very hard to pinpoint. Call it complex/unclear/inexistent if you wish:
Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about different cultures, especially about my own. Cultures/ethnic groups I associate with: mauritian (mix of indian, chinese, french, english, african), canadian (whatever that is), chinese (island version). In Mauritius, I’m considered Chinese. In Canada, the white people say I’m Asian. Asians think I’m African. Africans think I’m Asian. Chinese think I’m not Chinese. I don’t really care. I think race/ethnicity and all that stuff is just useless things humans came up with that adds unnecessary discrimination and drama. But such is human nature.
I’ve also learned a lot about social groups. I’m a musician and a computer scientist. Typical musicians, I’m told, are expected to party hard, get drunk, sometimes smoke a thing or two, and idolize the rock star lifestyle. To my musician friends, I’m the computer nerd. I don’t get drunk/smoke/want to live the rockstar life. To my computer science buddies, I’m often seen as the musician, the artsy one. I’m probably looked down upon by some of them for that (and for being female) but who cares. The point is, again, I don’t know how to identify myself. Am I more of a musician or a computer scientist or none? And does my opinion even matter? Or do people just care about how THEY categorize me? I think it’s the latter.
I used to think that I’m an extrovert because I like being on stage and performing under the spotlight. I was wrong. I like being on the stage, alone (or with few people) , away from the crowd that could otherwise overwhelm me/ turn me into a doormat. I used to think I’m a pretty social person, the life of the party, but I realized that it doesn’t apply to parties of more than 5 or 6 🙂 Even introverts are social with people they know well. I used to think I loved parties but I’ve come to realize that I enjoy deep abstract conversations more. I used to want to belong but now I value difference. I’m not sure whether I changed or I just discovered more about myself.
Some people tell me I’m too nice, too selfless, that I take too much time listening to others vent. They even say I should stop making other people’s problems mine and being overly concerned about them. Many people have thanked me for being such a supportive, honest and caring friend. Yet, some people have told me that I’m a terrible friend (well very very few, but still, it hurts). It made me wonder whether I really am this terrible human being. I’m still not sure of the answer. Instinctively, I try to be as good a friend as I can. But I suppose as a human, there are areas of friendship where I can improve that I don’t even know of (until someone hates me for it). I’m not perfect, I know it. No one is. That doesn’t mean I’m not working on it. Working on it doesn’t mean I won’t fail.
The artist and the scientist in me have been debating all my life, but now I think they might not be polarities at all. At the end of the day, music is mathematical and so is computer science. It does make sense. Computer science is actually a very creative field and more CS students than you think are hobby artists. I also know very tech savvy musicians. The skill sets do complement each other. But at the end of the day, I will have to choose one. The past few years, I wanted to choose music, but the geek in me is rising again and I’m now more passionate about CS than ever. I really want to bite the bullet and dig into those intense courses and catch up. I do believe that human-computer interaction will allow me to leverage my creative energy and logical skills to make the world a better place. But is it too late? NO. I don’t believe in “too late”. I don’t believe in giving up.
Back home, I used to think I’m smart and that I had a bright future ahead. When I came to the University of Toronto, I was quickly overshadowed by people who were way more experienced in the field and I got intimidated. I felt dumb and my academic self-confidence took a blow. Perhaps that is why I turned to music. But after taking a year off to work as a programmer, I’ve had time to think. I still believe I’m a below average programmer, I have very little experience compared to most people in my program. But I’ve changed my mindset, and I believe I have potential to be a successful computer scientist if I work hard at it a few more years. I have rekindled my curiosity for the subject and learned to compete only with myself.
All in all, four years of university abroad does give you plenty of opportunity to grow up psychologically and professionally. It also forces you to survive on less sleep than you thought was possible 😛 I believe that I did a decent job of adapting and that my pro-change attitude has had a lot to do with it. Let’s see what the future bring. Now I’m off to read some Machine Learning (academic suicide 101 for the math-weary student).