Feeling Diverse

Note: The ideas in this article and on this website are completely my own. I welcome any and all comments, critiques, contributions or corrections (wow that’s four c’s) that may be triggered while reading.

This week has been rather stressful for me.

Not because of midterms (well, only partly), or the multiple projects and problem sets due, but because of the stress in finding something to do over summer. Job application after job application, my fingers have been tuned to fill out forms like playing scales on a piano.

Before pressing that “Submit” button, all companies ask me for three things: 1) gender US, 2) identity as a Disabled/Veteran and 3) race.

I select, Female, No, Asian.

Female. Asian.

Every time I press those two selections, I question myself: “What if I weren’t an Asian female? What if I were a white male?”

Diversity in the workplace is something so widely discussed and debated over today that I can’t say I have an opinion at all. There are thousands of individuals out there advocating for females, for non-Caucasian ethnical groups, for queer individuals or for whatever stereotype-breaking identity to have a place in the industry.

It confuses me, then, to think that I have a better chance at the same job than my white, Caucasian peer, whose skill sets are identical if not better than mine. All because of the fact that I am a female, or Asian. Are Asians even considered a minor ethnical group these days? Have the stereotypes changed?

Don’t get me wrong here.

There is a definite difference between expressing bias against a certain individual’s identity, thereby lowering their chances at an opportunity, and expressing favor towards another individual’s identity.

Diversity in an environment is something I would definitely want to have, for the reasons that I am exposed to a setting that calls for an open, curious mind. Promoting homogeneity is not just morally wrong; it absolutely deteriorates a population’s ability to grow.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t make much sense to me that an individual should be rated higher, simply for the identity they possess that would add to a diverse setting.

So if I get into a program that my obviously-equally-smart-or-more-but-white-friend Bob doesn’t, am I supposed to feel qualified? or am I supposed to feel diverse?

Feeling Diverse

“What water?”

Sometime in the second semester of my high school senior year, I told myself I had no time to do anything. Wow, what a blatant lie. I partied nearly every day, going real hard what I was told would be the “best time of my life.” I had time, and lots of it. But I had wasted it, my excuse being that I was being a social butterfly.

Looking back, I wish I had spent those couple of months more wisely. College has deprived me almost entirely of free time, to the point where my calendar often has no white space to spare. Yet this exact deprivation has taught me that free time is possibly just as valuable as time spent doing work.

I’ve found that there is always time to learn something new, especially with so many resources accessible around me. Our generation is blessed with the Internet. Learning how to code in a new language has become easier than picking yourself up to go to the library. Talking to an upperclassman about their classes or asking a prof a question or two prods my views in different ways, opening up new doors and uncovering ideas unheard of.

Learning has become almost a fascination, an addiction that continues to grow with everything I learn. To state an idea from David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, we only question what the water feels like today after we realize there is water around us.

But for any of that to happen, we need to start questioning like little children–Why does that happen? What is that thing? How does that work? How do I do THAT?

Eventually, it becomes a habit. No time? You get to realize you don’t need a lot of time. Scroll through a Wikipedia article, Google something that was thrown around in class, find out how to read a Japanese character, or whatever. In a world where so many of us are super talented, it doesn’t hurt to expand your knowledge even the slightest bit here and there. It also feels really nice to be able to hold interesting conversations with others, or to share a little something about what you read on a wiki article about bananas being berries. Who says it has to be academic?

True, side effects may include becoming that one annoying kid in class that asks a bunch of questions, but hey, no one can stop you from learning when you’re supposed to be learning (though it is true that the real smartypants tend to make use of office hours).

And to justify myself, there are definitely times when the decision to nap overrides everything else. But nothing beats the sensation of going to bed feeling like, “Oh man, I learned so much today.”

“What water?”