The Beginner’s Mind

Anyone grown up in mainland China remembers a catchphrase: 好好學習, 天天向上 (“Study hard, and improve every day“). It’s a slogan in red-paper cutouts plastered to all elementary schoolrooms. The English translation may sound dull and banal, but the original Chinese rings to me still as perky as ever, after all the years. It strikes me that many ideas we adopt by choice later in life can be shifting and fleeting, but anything instilled in us by design from the beginning – they will stay and prevail. There’s probably no escape.

In Western way of pep talk, “You can be anything you want to be” has the same prevailing effect. Although it works only to certain extent, not all the way through. Sooner or later, you’d come to realize you can’t be anything you want to be. The only thing I can be is myself – this has become indubitable a long time ago.

You can change the location, but not the situation; you may change the object, but not the subject; you might even change what you are, but not who you are. I have been trying not to be like my parents, but I will most likely end up being like my parents.

The idea of “好好學習, 天天向上,” however, has a slight advantage over the belief of “You can be anything.” At least there’s no disheartening epiphany awaiting to strike, no glass ceiling to hit upon. You can simply carry on studying hard for as long as you want, trying to improve yourself, even if nothing has ever improved.

I don’t see much improvement occurred to me, after this forever strive to improve myself. I might have changed somewhat over time, but things fundamental always stick around. I am still the most solitary and seclusive person. I remain an overthinker and underachiever. I am not yet the lighthearted, carefree, loving type I would like to be.

In spite of all the inspirational quotes I immerse myself into, prepping myself every morning to be someone else – someone delightful and beautiful, or at least more likeable, I fall right back into my old self before the day is even half over. Steely resolve doesn’t have lasting influence on the innate character.

However, one of the small pleasures in my uneventful life, remains to be imagining that life has infinite possibilities. That the best is yet to come. “You can be anything you want to be,” this little piece of willful thinking conjures up a jolt of newfound interest in life, every time I try it. It infuses me with feel-good hormones. As it turns out, whether I can be anything I want to be doesn’t really matter. The pleasure lies in going about my day as though I could.

“You must know you are pathetic, clinging to such pompous ideas at this age,” I say to myself in amazement, whenever I catch myself thinking. It feels good to know that no amount of pomposity would dampen my faculty to remain reasonable. But you don’t want to go overboard being honest with yourself all the time, so I tell myself, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” The mere thought of it evokes ripples of delight in me, like the chirping of a bird outside the window – chin! chin! chin! video! video! video!

Perfect pieces of exotic fruit are dangling high up on wild vines, luscious and promising. In the end, life comes down to just thinking whatever makes you feel good.

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14 Comments

  1. Great post ! Words of wisdom

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a newcomer to WordPress, there’s a great deal I have yet to learn from the brilliant works of yours – from mastery of expression to real life experiences … I appreciate your presence and admire your spirit.

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      1. I’m quite honored and humbled by your compliment and it’s very appreciated. You are a master of language and writing already. I can’t wait to read more of your works ❤❤

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I will try my best not to disappoint you ❤ I can’t find the words felicitous enough to let you know how much the words ‘a master of language’ mean to me. They’re the words that truly matter to me – I constantly feel I am fighting a losing battle with language. It took me more than 15 minutes to come up with this response to your message – clearly it’s a language I have yet to ‘master’ so as to live up to your kindhearted encouragement 🐾

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I doubt I’ll be disappointed 🙂 As for writing, I love wordsmithing and I find it takes much longer than I ever imagine whenever I write a post. Even when I consider myself to be in the “zone.” In part because I like to polish, over and over again. Looking at word choice and making sure it has the tone I want – at least to me. I just finished a piece and it took a while. Good writing always does. I hope this post is a good one 🙂 And I love what you’ve written.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Perfectly I know what you mean by ‘wordsmithing.’ I live with the exact same syndrome, although my aftermath is far less ‘polished’ comparing to yours. I have read your new piece, and it is a good one. Actually the word ‘good’ doesn’t feel satisfying enough, I need another word. But I am an early riser, which means my mind stops functioning after 7. During evening hours I can only manage ‘no brainer’ activities like watching light drama on Netflix or such. So I have to wait until tomorrow to leave my comment at your site. Good night for now 🐱

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Thanks and good night. I’ll look forward to your words tomorrow in Midwest time 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

  2. You could turn your cat pictures into a story board – Adventures of Kitty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Adventure’ might seem involve too much commotion. Since I intend the cats to be sort of a watcher, or onlooker, no matter how much fuss they display … Maybe it could be called ‘Not Exactly Adventures’.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Or Kittys View. Ill leave it to you… but worth pursuing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Timothy Price

    The problem with “You can be anything you want to be” is that your Chinese catchphrase: 好好學習, 天天向上 is not often included with “You can be anything you want to be”. The two really cannot be separated, and most successful people know that it’s hard work, study, and practice over and over again that makes them successful. There is luck, there is personality and there are connections that certainly help many people with their success, but even the most talented, well-connected people have to practice and work to be what they want to be.

    Given that we are who we are, and, although it’s very difficult, I believe we can make changes in ourselves. But as I detect in your musings, age may be working against you as it does me. You have the added burden of English as a second language. Also, DNA can be very much for or against us as well. Physiology and health certainly play a part in either helping or hindering one’s being what one wants to be. But we can study, practice and work at what we like and be happy with the small improvements we make each day, even when there are major barriers such as age, language, and health (my case).

    I love your blue kitty sketches. They are really wonderful. The kitten has a lot of personality.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every word you said is so true, wise and genuine, I enjoy them very much. You have such amazing power to make people feel instantly connected and energized. The uphill battles don’t seem too dreadful when you know you’re not alone. It’s possible to make small improvements along the way. Although I wish you would get big improvements on your health this very new year – compassionate people like you deserve great things 🐱 I appreciate all the good vibes you spread.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Timothy Price

        I’m touched. Thank you for your kind words. I am doing very well considering, and at least holding steady. I can do most things I really like to do. The kitties help so much. I feel bad for you that you love cats and don’t have a cat. Cats offer so much therapy. Drawing your blue kitten must be very good therapy, and the results are excellent therapy for your readers. Your kitten is happiness.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Indeed it makes me very happy drawing kitten. And even much so hearing you like it. I had a cat when I was a child, and I loved him very much – still hold him so dearly in my thoughts.

          Liked by 1 person

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