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  • Allison B.

Balancing Act

"You can't be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others." -Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

For most people, the duty to "do good" is ingrained in first memories. We adopt a moral compass early on in life, shaped at first by the people who raise us, important figures in our lives, and our own experiences. This concept of "good" that we have in our brains, however, is very much rooted in the culture surrounding us.

I've touched on this in previous blog posts before, but I want to dive into a little bit more detail. Many Asian cultures (like Filipinos) are past-oriented, while the culture in the U.S. is future-oriented. (Although this scenario is specific to my own experiences, I encourage you to think about where you fit into the spectrum and contrast your own perspectives and traditions to those of the culture you live in.) Because of this, some cultures are more heavily influenced by the past and tradition while others are more future-thinking.

I have noticed that there is an almost rivalry-like relationship in place between these perspectives. Future-thinking cultures often criticize past-oriented cultures under the claim that, because they are so rooted in tradition, there is no room for growth or improvement. However, past-oriented cultures criticize future-oriented ones because they believe that focusing too much on the future causes the forgetting of traditions important to the identity of the culture and moral compasses of its people. Meanwhile, both past- and future-oriented cultures may view present-oriented cultures as having nothing that "grounds them," i.e. they are so focused on the present that they are not motivated by tradition or future-goals.

My Filipino family may often shut out more progressive trends in our society. My forward-thinking assertions may often be received by confusion and even anger, placing blame on me spending too much time outside of my roots. However, my friends may often question tradition as being too outdated; who else was told, "But you're 18-years-old now, you should be able to do whatever you want?" It's not that easy when you have to weave between long-established cultural views, which involves entirely reshaping how individuals view the world. Looking back, I guess that's why I often had identity crises, to be completely honest. I never knew what was truly right and what was truly wrong, because the two cultures I identified with told me the complete opposite of what the other believed.

In the grand schemes of things, no perspective is better than the other. I think there's something to be learned in each perspective, but when you're sitting on the fence looking on which side to land, it's difficult to understand that. In terms of shaping who I am, I'm thankful for both sides because I get to be this hybrid of cultures and patterns of thought. If I'm going to make an impact on this world, I have to accept that not everyone is going to support the changes I make. Not everyone is going to applaud me on the work I do. I will always be walking a tightrope towards my goals, and while you may say, "Isn't that exhausting?" it most certainly is. Most things that are worth it are.