Checkmarks

February 5, 2017

One day, just one day
I’ll finally reach that perfect state of being
Where I finally, once and for all
Check off all the boxes on my to-do list
Big, black, bold checkmarks on every single box
To show that I’ve thoroughly accomplished
All the things that are meaningful to me
Here, I’ll list a few:
Explore the world, particularly in
Southeast and South Asia
Learn all of their languages and speak them fluently
Visit the places in the world that are dear to me
Like Amsterdam and Gyeongju
Help as many people as I can
In all areas of the world, and
Try to make each person smile
To do this, I would have to
Join a volunteer organization, perhaps
Get a degree in the science I’m passionate in
It has to be engineering, though, because
Mother and Father says so.
I guess I’ll pursue environmental, or chemical,
Or biomedical engineering!
In order to get those degrees, I have to now
Go to a good university
The information and knowledge I gain is most important
In my opinion, but my teachers
Mention how a good university really shines on that resume,
That other checklist, with all the things that you’ve done
That show that you’re accomplished, that you’ve done
Meaningful things, or at least meaningful to those who
Actually read and judge your resume.
So I have to get into a good university, as if I know what really
Defines a good university; Brother tells me that they’re usually
Schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, because
You have to show off, Sister, you have to show
That you’re accomplished, that you’re brilliant.
In order to get into these distinguished schools
I have to do things in middle and high school.
Join clubs, start organizations, do something
Science-related, show others that you are passionate
About what you want to do—become a nerd at
What you want to study and major in, read
All the textbooks, compete in every competition you can
Do all of your homework
Get straight A pluses, no more, no less
Maintain above that 3.9 GPA
Father and Mother hover anxiously over me—
Colleges are expensive, Daughter, maybe
You should get a job—but in what, Mother?
Get a job and make money to pay for that prestige.
It doesn’t matter what.
Just go do interviews. Do all that you can.
Work after school.
Remember to participate in those clubs you signed up for.
Competitions, competitions!
Medals need to start coming home, Daughter.
You need to show that you’re doing
Something worthwhile.
I don’t understand, though. What does
All of this have to do
With my end goals?
I thought you cared about
What I wanted to do?
It’s the little steps, the little checkmarks along the way
That you have to do. Trust me, Daughter.
Those checkmarks are important.
But what about helping the world? Meeting people?
Visiting world cultural places, helping people,
Doing environmental work, researching
At a lab with top scientists?
The big checkboxes? The big checkmarks?
Naïve daughter, those opportunities, those
End-goals, “checkmarks,” as you call them,
Are given only to those who compete those little checkmarks.
If you check off enough of those tasks
You will soon earn those chances
To do what you really want to do.
But Father, have you earned enough checkmarks to do
What you really want to do?
Depends on how you see it, Daughter. I think that my job
Pays well and sustains our family, and that’s
A big goal that I’ve accomplished.
And Mother, what were your end goals
In life, your ultimate wishes?
Have you done all that you need to do
To achieve your dreams?
I haven’t thought about my dreams. I’m not sure
If I really had any, since it’s been so long. You can only hope
When you’re my age
That you’ve done all that you can in life, Daughter.
Brother, you certainly have achieved a lot
And you’ve come far! Have you checked off
Any of your big checkboxes?
Well, Sister, my goals were too far-fetched, so I reduced them slightly,
So I guess I have. I’ve been able to get a job!
But isn’t that a small checkmark? That’s
What Mother said?
Sister, in this age, getting a job
Especially a well-paying one
Is a big checkmark.
Is it your dream though, Brother?
It isn’t, Sister.
Then what is your dream?
Traveling the world, Sister.
That’s mine, too! Let’s do it, then!
I can’t.
Why not?
I’m not young, enthusiastic, joyful like you are, Sister,
Those dreams that you have
Will eventually dissipate into the thick smog
Of city air, the atmosphere of the place where
You will spend a good portion
Of your life, working to pay off
Bills, rent, food, clothing, and
Other necessities.
Because in this world, the truly big checkboxes
That we all hope to make big checkmarks in
Are unachievable without doing
The small checkboxes.
Then what, Brother, is the point of life, then, if you spend
Your entire life on those small checkboxes? Without
The big checkboxes to motivate you, then
What do you truly have to live for?
Nothing, Sister.
Nothing at all.






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