Updated: Jul 26
When I started this blog last year, I wanted to welcome a range of topics for discussion. Having been exposed to the philosophy of Stoicism, it wasn't until recently that I really began thinking about the intricacy of things. Last year I had done an episode with Laura van Rens, where we discussed the purpose of university. Following that, I had a chat with Taneesh Ahmad, a close friend of mine about mindfulness, meditation and being 'present' in the moment. I think that's just about it that I've had on this channel when it comes to topics that stimulate philosophical thinking. I don't think I've openly discussed how I feel about growing up per se. Although I'm only 22, the past 8 years have been quite the journey throughout high school and university. There's a lot to talk about and a lot to reflect on, and isn't something I'd necessarily like to do alone.
So to help expand, I was joined by Amy Dong for this episode. Amy is a 22-year old Fulbright Scholar and author of Twenty-One Years Young: Essays. Her writing career took off in 2014 when a personal essay she wrote received national acclaim from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. After a second award in 2016, a trip to Carnegie Hall, and a publication in Scholastic's Best Teen Writing of 2016, she went on to work as a magazine editor, curriculum designer, and freelance writer during her studies at New York University (NYU). During her period at NYU, she also spent time studying abroad and travelling across over 25 countries, before COVID-19 of course.
Everything happens for a reason
Question: "If you could go back in time and change an event, or tell your past self about something in your life, what would it be?"
All of us could have a different answer to this question. Some of us who've been through a traumatic experience, relationship or phase, may wish to change that. Some of us who have lost someone special in our lives, could possible wish to go back and save them. I used to think the same, wishing I could go back and change all the negative experiences I've had growing up. We all have something we are not particularly proud of remembering. However, what differs between us is how we reflect on those events and are able to grow from them.
There's an interesting theory in Physics known as 'The Grandfather Paradox', which proposes an idea as to why time travel practically may not be possible. The paradox goes something like: If you go back in time and kill your grandfather, one of your parents wouldn't be born in that timeline. Naturally, as a result, you also wouldn't be born in that timeline. However, if you aren't born in that timeline, then how would you possible travel back in time and kill your grandfather in the first place?
Something to think about.
Grandfather Paradox aside, maybe we aren't meant to be able to go back in time and change the past anyway. Regardless of whether or not it's technically possible, changing the past might very well be a one-way ticket to changing who we are today. We are a result of everything that has happened in our lives: good, bad, happy, upsetting, everything. Part of growing up is acknowledging what we have been through, learning from it and waiting for what more is to come.
"NYU was my last choice school at the time. My sister had gone to Harvard, and so the societal expectations were such that there were only 1-2 schools I wanted to go to. I felt like a failure, and went to NYU trying to shake that off and figure out what it was like to have a meaningful life on my own terms. Looking back and reflecting, I felt incredibly grateful to have gone to NYU in the first place. I wouldn't have been able to travel to over 25 countries in 2 years, wouldn't have made all the friends that I did, and probably wouldn't have been able to write my book. I'll never know the person I'd be, had I gone to Harvard; but that doesn't change that I'm grateful for my time at NYU."
We don't have to believe in destiny for this. One of the cornerstones of Stoicism is knowing what is and isn't in your control. The past is not in our control. We can't run as fast as The Flash, or manipulate time as a physical dimension...not yet at least. What we can control however, is the manner in which we perceive everything that we've been through, and accept it for how it is. Easier said than done, but it can help us deal with those times where we let our past affect our actions in the present.
Exploring our Purpose
Ever wondered what your purpose in life is? Ever come across someone who asks you to think about what your purpose is? If not, then you're quite fortunate. We're often told that the key to success and happiness in life is to do what we love and love what we do. The art of finding our passion, and therefore our purpose. However, many of us also fall short on this because we get too fixated on finding, rather than exploring.
I remember reading something somewhere about a different perspective on this topic of finding one's own life purpose. Imagine 'life' is a person, a person in your life. If you were to ask this person what your purpose is, life would reply by saying "I don't know, that's for you to find out". The idea is that no one can tell us what our purpose is. Not our friends, not our family, not a motivational speaker on YouTube, no one. It's our responsibility to explore and see what works and what doesn't. When there's a match, we'll know if that's our purpose or not. For some people, the match might be art, music, sports, technology, business, writing, anything. By exploring everything we find interesting that the world has to offer, we use somewhat of a trial and error approach to see what works. If we like painting or playing a sport, we keep doing it and get better. If that's our purpose, we'll find a way to make a career out of it. The same is true for any field, and is one way of changing this elusive idea of finding a purpose, to exploring a purpose.
Think what you want about the internet, people and social media. Like most things in the world, they come with their fair share of pros and cons. If we can look beyond the screen and seek other individuals in the world, it's not hard to notice how many good people are out there putting out great content. What's 'great' and what isn't may be subjective, but for me, I value anyone who's putting in an effort to help someone else. Here's also where travelling comes through as an incredible influential experience. For me, travelling has been everything from fun to humbling, showing me how beautiful the world can be. It also helps understand that we're only a small part of this universe. As soon as we leave our homes, we realise how people don't really care about us as much as we think they do.
"Travelling helped me realise that you're your own worst critic, but you learn that not by reading a book or considering it to be cliche; but you go somewhere and see that you're a nobody and that it's relieving. It's a massive weight lifted off your shoulders, regardless of which country you're in. You learn how to deal with situations where plans don't go as planned. You also get to know the kind of people you enjoy hanging out with. If you're travelling solo, you see how you prefer living your days without any bounds. You really get to know yourself like nothing else."
Growing up. Depends on how you look at it, but while it may seem like 20 or so years are nothing in the grand scheme of things. However, these 20 years or so have contributed to everything we know and feel about ourselves, and the world around us.
Cherish it, there's a lot more to come.
I'd like to offer my sincere gratitude to today's guest- Amy Dong. Check out: