Last week, I wrote an article called “Get Back Up”. You can read it here.
Later that week, I learned that the post had received an absurd view count. Most of our articles get anywhere from 50 to 300 views in a week; this one received close to 4,500.
It turned out that most of those views were referrals from reddit, where someone had posted my article on a subreddit for career advice in computer science. The comments section was predictable: some people commented that it was an interesting read, but the overwhelming response was that I was a diva, unable or unwilling to learn how to deal with rejection.
Two rejections in a day was nothing, I was told: some of them had received dozens in a short time span. Others did some background research, found my resume, and commented that they couldn’t understand why I—a student at a top ten CS program, an alumnus of Apple and Bloomberg—could ever have any real struggles or conflict in my life.
(Which leads me to believe that this person has come to the conclusion that I’m too qualified to experience unhappiness, in much the same way a neurosurgeon making $700k a year can’t feel pain from having a patient die.)
Two thoughts occur to me: One is an apology, and the other is an explanation.
First, the apology. As many pointed out, my conflicts are not world-ending. I would not die if I didn’t find a job next summer, let alone the right one. If there was an objective scale of problem difficulty, mine would rank somewhere near the bottom.
I appreciate this. I appreciate that my struggle pales in comparison to those of my parents, who immigrated here by themselves in their 20s, or those of my friends, some of whom are going through periods of intense suffering.
I mean this truthfully. My conflicts have a clear end in sight, and more than likely will resolve themselves nicely in the near future. That privilege is denied to far too many.
And so I apologize if my post made me seem as though I was thumbing my nose at your problems. That was not my intent.
Which leads nicely to the explanation. Why do I write for this blog?
I spend a not-inconsiderable amount of time each week writing, editing, and rewriting these articles. Many of them are complaints about my personal life, and so perhaps the reason I write is as a means of coping with my own problems.
In reality, though, I intentionally pick problems that don’t always seem like problems. Why else would I write about the unbearable suffering induced by having to go to UT? Or about losing enthusiasm for my work? Or, as in last week’s post, getting rejected from top-tier companies?
These are all problems I see my classmates go through every day. And even then, it is only when my closest friends speak about a painful experience that I realize that there are others who feel the way I do.
Yes, our problems are not life-threatening or even otherwise monumental. Arguably, they’re the exact opposite. We complain about getting rejected from companies, or losing enthusiasm for our work, or about going to a school not in the Ivies fully aware of the privilege that led us to have those problems in the first place.
But that our problems are small by comparison to others’ does not mean that they do not exist. To pretend otherwise is harmful, because it is by pretending that our problems do not exist that we fail to seek help for them. They are small, and should be fixed easily, but left unsolved they do not stay that way.
I write these posts with one goal in mind: to show others who have the same problems—others who might not feel like anyone else shares their problems, and therefore that those don’t merit attention—that they are not as alone as they might feel.
I write all of this aware of my own privilege, or as aware as I can be while continuing to write these posts. It is not in the spirit of complaining loudly and publicly that I write these posts. It is in the hope that maybe—hopefully—one or two people might read what I write and be convinced that their issues are not just worth tackling, but that they can be solved.