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User Info: Kylo Force

Kylo Force
6 months ago#1
Having worked in higher education for eight years now, I have now gone to more graduations than I can count.

Right now, I am grabbing a quick lunch before picking up some cakes for a graduation later this evening. Guava cake and Chantilly cake, both of which are delicious.

On a podcast I listen to (the excellent Hello Internet), one of the hosts said graduations are such an unusual occasion because they are among the biggest moments in people's lives, and yet the experience is that it a big moment in each individual person's experience and their circle of friends and family. There is some significance to the experience for the graduates as a collective, but there are so many individual stories and experiences that all cross paths at the moment of the ceremony. It's an interesting thing to think about when you're sitting in a giant football stadium and there are literal thousands of doctor's, masters, and bachelor's degree grads sitting on the field and many more there to cheer them on.

Over the years I've also noticed the prevalence of invoking the phrase (or a variant of) "standing on the shoulders of giants," usually in acknowledgement of those who have come before us who have helped boost us to new heights, because of the work they had done previously. This saying has started to bug the crap out of me.

I looked up where it came from, and it turns out the saying is actually pretty old, appearing as early as something like the 1000s. One of the original meanings of the saying was actually closer related to scientific discovery- that a person is able to see farther (have deeper discovery) because they build on the discoveries that came before them. In that context, it makes more sense to me.

I want to say I got the following idea from Wikipedia or maybe one of the source pages on the saying (the article exists because of course it does), but the reason the saying bugs me is that it feels so congratulatory for the previous generations without giving space to be critical. I wrote on FB about this earlier this week, that we inherit not only the heights of previous generations, the shoulders of the Giants we stand on, but also have to endure the problems, the challenges, the valleys, if you will, of their footsteps. Rarely do I ever hear this acknowledged when the saying is invoked at a graduation, but if it happens this year or in a following year, I'll probably give that person a standing O.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be an "adult" and the way that I am suddenly allowed to position myself and my opinions, relative to the students and also community members I work with, and how I am allowed to be the same or different in the ways that I choose as those who came before me. I think it's because there was a portion in my life that I was scared I'd be destined to be a crabby bastard when I reached my 30s because so many older Filipino men I knew were almost invariably bitter or hostile with over something(s) or other with the "youth" generation I was then a part of. But now that I'm here, it turns out I can make the decisions I want to.

I guess I'm a little curious, because I don't think anyone else here is Filipino- is this a tension you've all experienced? The expectations vs reality of adulthood setting in, and what expectations you thought would be expected of you that turned out to be choices, or vice versa, especially on lines related to your heritage, history, culture, or background(s)? It's seems dumb to ask because I can't imagine the answer to be anything other than "yes of course," but I don't have your lived experiences so I legitimately have no idea.
"Sa taong walang takot, walang mataas na bakod."
"To those without fear, there is no such thing as a tall fence." - Filipino Proverb

User Info: ShadowSpy

ShadowSpy
6 months ago#2
I think this deserves a response from me, but I don't have a lot of time right now, and I feel like I would need to take some time laying out my thoughts on it.

But in short--I don't think I've ever felt a strong disconnect between expectations and reality, but that might just be because I'm weird and because I decided from a very young age that my only goal in life was just "be happy". That goal has evolved into something more complicated since then, but the general principle behind it remains the same.
"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific."

User Info: willis5225

willis5225
6 months ago#3
I shall meditate on this in the coming days and then come to GF intending to write a thoughtful response only to find that the topic has been locked.
Willis, it seems like every other time you post, I need to look up a word that's in the OED or Urban Dictionary but not both.
-Mimir

User Info: HeyDude

HeyDude
6 months ago#4
I, also, read this and thought it very interesting and worthwhile to respond to, and thought I better come back to it when I have more time.

User Info: HeyDude

HeyDude
6 months ago#5
and yet the experience is that it a big moment in each individual person's experience and their circle of friends and family


Not sure what you meant here?

also have to endure the problems, the challenges, the valleys, if you will, of their footsteps.


An interesting point.

But now that I'm here, it turns out I can make the decisions I want to.


That's such a great feeling. I experienced a huge, heady hit of that feeling when I bought my first house. Like geez, I could do literally anything I want to this wall!

is this a tension you've all experienced? The expectations vs reality of adulthood setting in, and what expectations you thought would be expected of you that turned out to be choices, or vice versa, especially on lines related to your heritage, history, culture, or background(s)


I don't understand why you're calling it a tension. You sounded previously like you're feeling freed, and now it's a tension. I guess I experience it as a great and somewhat difficult freedom: the unbearable lightness of being, as one may say.

User Info: Kylo Force

Kylo Force
6 months ago#6
HeyDude posted...
Not sure what you meant here?


I wasn't typing fully coherently here. I meant that it's a really big moment for the graduate themselves and their own circle of people, and a big moment in general, but it's also sort of unusual in that it's a big moment for every graduate and their circles completely separately from each other.

Like this past Saturday, my good friend received her DNP (doctorate) and they read her name as she walked across the stage, and it's an undoubtedly huge moment for her and her family and friends, but it's an equally huge moment for the doctor they announced before her and the doctor they announced after her, but I have no idea who either of those people are, or for the rest of the greatest majority of any of the graduates in the stadium. And it's the same for that next family- it's the biggest moment for them, but it's safe to assume they have no idea about anything of my friend or her accomplishments or story to get through where she is.

But moreover, I think I call it a tension because there are so many things, imagined, expressed, or otherwise, that I've either expected to be or been expected to be as I've gotten older. The realization(s) here -are- freeing, but in the communities that I'm involved in (or trying to be), there is always a tension between the person I am trying to be, and the expectations of the "elders and experts" of who they would like me to be and how they view me, and the limitations that often come with that. It's the tension of being the person I am and wanting to work and interact in the independent way that I want to, while still trying to work in the box of elders' expectations.

I don't know if that makes it any more clear, but when I have a bit more time later on I can try to explain it better.
"Sa taong walang takot, walang mataas na bakod."
"To those without fear, there is no such thing as a tall fence." - Filipino Proverb

User Info: HeyDude

HeyDude
6 months ago#7
That makes it much more clear. I don't relate much because I have no elder community to speak of.

User Info: ShadowSpy

ShadowSpy
6 months ago#8
So when thinking about graduation the way you described it earlier, it helped me to think of an intensely private celebration and compare it with an intensely public celebration. So for instance, a birthday is intensely private, in that only one person and their close personal connections will be celebrating the event. Whereas Christmas is intensely public and is celebrated on the national/global scale. Graduations seem to be a strange mix of both.

Maybe it's better described as a public celebration that only certain people care about? It could be compared with movie award ceremonies, or football games, or other such niche, public celebrations.

As for the phrase "shoulders of giants", I never had a problem with it, even if it has a congratulatory connotation. I think it's because I understand that despite the struggle and setbacks of previous generations, there is always something to learn or build upon from past bodies of knowledge. Even if that something is "Don't make the same mistake" or "This theory has been disproven."

As for my expectations vs reality regarding adulthood, I don't think I've had that struggle because I think most of the adults in my life were positive and accepting about life in general. I think one of the lessons I learned growing up was that "As an adult, I have the choice and the responsibility to choose my own path", and that meant I wasn't expected to go down a certain life path. I think I was lucky in this regard, since many East Asian parents have a heavier hand in determining their childrens' life path.

Because this was a lesson I learned as a child, and because of my general easy-going nature, the only real solid "life path" I wanted to pursue at the time was one where I could be a happy person regardless of my financial, social or career situation. It's a very zen philosophy, and was a bit unrealistic, but I still hold on to the core of that idea nowadays. I really, truly believe that happiness is an intrinsic thing, formed by your own attitudes and perceptions about life, rather than an extrinsic thing formed from material possessions and status. So for most of my life, the thing I mostly focused on was my attitude.

Maybe even this viewpoint is a bit idealistic/unrealistic, but it's an important one to me, and I think I will continue to revise it so that it can carry me through the hardships of life. At the very least, I can say that I am happy with my life situation right now, and am content with the personal, social and career progress I have.
"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific."
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