On Idealism

Originally written on April 4, 2012, with the title, “Idealistic Me :)”. The author is migrating her works to Medium from other platforms.

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1. A person who cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc. Synonyms: optimist, perfectionist, reformer, visionary, utopianist.

2. A visionary or impractical person.

Synonyms: romantic, romanticist, dreamer, stargazer.

3. A person who represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are.

*from dictionary.com

My best friend and I had a chat last week and one of the topics that were mentioned in passing was being idealistic — is it good or bad? I told him idealism is not bad, provided that we use it properly. Let me try to explain further.

I am one of those people who loves to daydream about every aspect of my life. Ideas flood my mind every day and I do agree that sometimes it gets so crazy because I tend to change my mind every now and then when a “better” idea comes along. When I was in high school I dreamed of becoming an astronomer and working in NASA. When I was in college, I dreamed of devoting my life to serve others. And now in grad school, I dream of bringing humanitarian engineering into our department. Haha, I know it sounds too good, too idealistic. You might even say that it’s impossible.

Idealism allows me to dream big. Once you have a dream or a goal, you have a purpose for waking up every day. I started grad school with enthusiasm. I was eager to learn from professors who had PhDs and from my classmates as well, hoping that I could get something to fulfill my humanitarian engineering dream. I already had a thesis topic in mind and I was doing great in my classes and exams. But during the latter part of the semester, I was starting to feel that something is not right. I started to see that the academic world I am moving in is not what I expected it to be. The three things I saw were the following:

First are some of our professors. I was disappointed because there were a lot of times that a professor would forget about his/her class or meeting. Students come from different places (Laguna, Bulacan, Antipolo, etc.), and time, money, and energy are wasted just because of a teacher’s irresponsibility. I asked myself, “Ganun ba talaga pag “Doc” na ang tawag sayo? Pwede ka nang ma-late at mahirap ka na hagilapin ng estudyante?” No. I refuse to believe that. I understand that Docs are extremely busy, but that is not enough reason to disrespect other people’s time, money, and energy. Besides, other Docs are very diligent in the classroom, which means that it is really possible to balance things out. This disappointed me so much because these are people that I look up to.

Second, are some of the students. Many incoming second-year students still don’t have a thesis adviser. Based on conversations I had with some of them, they just do thesis for the sake of graduating. Perhaps I understand very little about research that is why I am able to say this, but I find it frustrating to browse the archives section of the library and find so many research projects that will probably stay on paper forever. We are engineers. We are supposed to put theories into applications, not only on papers. I do not want my thesis to stay on paper and get stuck in the library. I want people to benefit from and use my research.

The third is the system itself. I realized that the postgraduate program is designed to produce industry workers. This revelation really shocked me. I do not plan to enter the industry so why did I put myself in this place where I am being trained to become an industry worker?

The three facts above overwhelmed me, especially the last one. Obviously, too much idealism spells disaster. It can blind us. I searched the Internet for articles that could help me. True enough, there were many out there who have a similar dilemma as I did. One article* hit the spot. It said idealism can cause us to

be so blinded by your “shining” ideals that you forget others are free to have their own opinion and become discouraged when you think no one is listening to you.

I was indeed discouraged for a while when two of my professors did not consider the thesis topic I had in mind. One of them suggested a different topic and said something along the lines of “no one has done research on that topic, choose another one.” Okay. I knew I had to change the way I see things or else I’ll end up quitting the ERDT program.

Paradigm shift.

I prayed for God’s guidance and made a new plan: I will finish my master’s and accept everything that it is for now. The professors, the students, the system, everything. I will respect my professors for their position and experience, I will respect the freedom of my fellow students to make their own decisions, and I will respect the fact that the program was designed for industry. I will not judge any one of them. Besides, obtaining a master’s degree is my ticket to becoming a full-time faculty in the department. Unless I get in, I can’t do much for my humanitarian engineering dream. I need all the knowledge, experience, and wisdom I can get on this journey.

Before I end this already looooong blog entry, let me share a passage from the same article stated above:

…being an idealist is really about being a visionary. And visionaries are inspired people, with creative and innovative ideas, with insight and resourcefulness. Visionaries think and then plan their future with imagination combined with wisdom. I’m not there, yet, but that is my ultimate goal.

…idealism is about values, and always acting with those values in mind. When a person lives their life and acts from a higher place, an ethical place, that is right and realistic.

Do you see? Being an idealist is not really bad. We just have to be careful about how we use it. :)




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