Letters from the dorm: you don’t have to explain yourself to others all the time

Cyril Ip

Once you realise that the judgment of other people doesn’t matter, you’ll stop trying to explain your actions to other people and feel all the better for it

Cyril Ip |

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I’ve spent half of my life having to explain myself – articulating my thoughts and clarifying my intentions – to people who have nothing to do with whether I prosper or fail. My personality and my life choices have been what have contributed to my tendency to explain every aspect of my life.

And yet even with that, even when I have given them all the information I could possibly give them, there are those who still won’t understand. They still don’t get it.

I’m not yet in university, but I already have to explain to my peers on a daily basis why I’ve applied for Sociology for my undergraduate degree, as it’s a degree that doesn’t guarantee a high-paying job to support a luxurious lifestyle. It’s not like I can say that’s not a future I want, because I do. The path that I’ve chosen in life, though, seems to go against that future. I want to be involved in social activism, which is a profession that almost certainly will not secure one’s wealth, or health.

Yet, when I hear about social injustices in life, I feel compelled to be learn more, to know more, about them so that I can make a change. My sense of morality triumphs over my selfish goals, even though I desperately crave the sort of fancy, rock-star lifestyle I see in films. I think this explanation for my actions is a good one, but still I get people telling me sociology can be learned by living in society, but science knowledge can’t be soaked up the same way. It’s upsetting to hear.

Aristotle says otherwise, you know. He’d said that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. I’ve studied my fair share of science, and did so all the way up until I got to pick my own A-Level subjects. I’m considered educated, but what about my “heart education”? Learning about the universe, how gravity, acids, alkaline, organs, and diseases work might have enriched my practical knowledge, but my textbooks have never taught me how to deal with grief, or how confront emotionally unstable people, or how to deal with discrimination. Science doesn’t answer the questions my heart asks.

I picked Theology as one of my A-Level subjects because I wanted to see things from a different perspective. Similarly, I chose Sociology as my degree subject because I want to appreciate my surroundings in a moralistic manner. I think emotions and our conscience are matters beyond the understanding we gain from what we learn at school.

Constantly having to explain myself is unnecessary, because it’s my life, and my choices. Other people and their opinions are non-factors that I do not have to entertain. Oprah once said that she had to do a clearing of people in her life whose energy was not supportive of she wanted to be in the world.

“You cannot continue to move forward in your life to the level that you need to be if you’re surrounded by energy that brings you down,” she said. That’s what I’ll do, moving forwards.

Edited by Ginny Wong