Introduction: A Scattered Array of Unedited Thoughts

Aliya Renee Khan
Jul 17, 2018 · 5 min read

To me, the word ‘passion’ is overused and somewhat elusive in the world we live in today. Throughout the three tightly-packed, suffocatingly busy years of college I have lived through so far, I have struggled with and against that word.

People around me used it so freely: ‘I’ve always had a passion for computers. I knew since I was fifteen that I wanted to be a software engineer.’ Was life really supposed to be so straightforward? And if so, where did I fit in? I’m the type of person that could be labeled as a “dreamer.” I like to imagine and reimagine myself in different roles, as different characters. I love the idea of endless possibilities. Maybe I could be an astronaut someday, I thought as a four year old mesmerized by a glossy picture of Mars plastered on one of those jumbo-sized educational picture books people always gave to me. A year later as I read the Harry Potter series I briefly considered a career as a witch, specifically as a Potions Master (I loved mixing things together to make different colors). Even today, my Google search history includes ‘cruise ship positions Mediterranean sea’, ‘how to become travel blogger’, and ‘front-end web developer new york city.’

With this kind of attitude, recruiting was and has been a bit of a difficult process for me. As a child, people kept asking me what I wanted to become. The question gave me anxiety. I knew so little about the world: I had lived in a town that was literally nine square miles for almost my entire life. I had barely spent any time away from my mother, father, and sister, and I had always had the privilege of living in a relatively safe community. I knew that I needed some sort of wisdom before I could truly answer this question. I needed to see other places, to meet people with different experiences, and to understand the question itself.

My story is not as clean-cut as those of many of my peers. ‘Passion’ is not something that is etched clearly within me, but rather something more cryptic. It is a puzzle which required me to search for answers within myself that I didn’t necessarily want to find. One that forced me to put aside my preferred nature of passively making decisions that would benefit others and cause the least amount of conflict. I had to figure out what I wanted, which is something I vaguely considered at the surface level but was quite fond of putting off until a later time when I had less assignments to turn in, a tidier bedroom, and a bit more sleep. A note to other college students, while it may seem like everyone around you wakes up at five am, eats three meals a day, begins studying two weeks in advance for every exam, and is on first-name terms with all of their professors, this is a half-truth. People frequently advertise their successes but rarely discuss their failures or struggles. It’s one of the most perplexing things about American culture. When someone asks ‘How are you?’ we are expected to always reply ‘Fine, how are you?” without actually giving an honest answer to the question. The competition to find a job is like that but multiplied. When someone asks for your resume, you give a list of all the times you ‘single-handedly created two web applications and ran the research lab that discovered a way to implement machine learning in Netflix search.” Don’t stress about this when you see these kinds of things on other people’s resumes. If you think about it, it is a ridiculous prospect — if every person was such a leader, then nothing would ever get done.

Oftentimes advice is given to students my age to remain overwhelming and unwaveringly positive. To never speak a word that might be misconstrued as negativity to a recruiter or a future employer. But I think that while positivity is important, true positivity is impossible without realism. I have always valued honesty. But one type of honesty that should be stressed more is honesty with oneself. You will never be satisfied or happy with yourself unless you truly enjoy what you are doing. And that is where passion comes in — passion is not always what you believe you want, but its where you feel comfortable, productive, and optimistic. Passion is not found in the same way in each individual person — its okay to be floating between different ‘selves’ for a while. And as for employers, a good employer should value a candidate that is honest about his or her abilities and passions.

You don’t have to enjoy something just because other people are obsessed with it, or because you feel like you should. That’s part of what makes humanity so resilient — we are all different, not just in our backgrounds, physical appearances, and the societies we live in, but also in how we react to different situations. True success is finding something that works for specifically you, ignoring negativity, and finding people that encourage you to continue trying new things even if you aren’t that great at them at first.

That’s kind of the point of this blog, for me at least. I realize I am not a practiced writer in any way. I have spent most of my academic life writing in a very specific manner in order to fulfill very specific criteria. This is an attempt to free myself of this and to give myself confidence in my own ability to create — something that I have admittedly lost in my previously deluded belief that something had to be perfect before it could be said. Even in this article itself there are many points that I wish I could change because they feel too cliché, generalized, or overused. But I will still publish it as it is. Because my own perfectionism has always been a trap. And so with this, I will start my journey of words. Words that were always unexpressed and trapped in my head previously. Words that are tangled into thoughts that I cannot fully understand. A pile of emotions left untouched because I was too afraid.

My goal for this blog is to recover myself. To be unashamedly myself. To feel a confidence in the words I express again just like the confidence I had as a four year old staring at Mars — I won’t be an astronaut, but I will be an explorer. Of this world, of morality, and of my own tangled mind.

Aliya Renee Khan

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Adventurer, vegetarian food enthusiast, lover of all things colorful. Advocate of sustainable and ethical consumption and believer in human resilience.