“The Factory”

Mai Lee - Senegal

August 2, 2012

Fresh, raw, and unknowing of the surrounding world, we are placed at the start of the conveyor belt at birth. Yet to hold an identity or purpose, all we possess is boundless potential and curiosity.

And so the process begins; each step shapes us to fit a pre-made mold, designed under society’s standards for “the greatest” and “the best.” Yes, the guidance is great for ones without a direction to head, but what happens when our shapes start to form? When innocuous blobs transform into defined qualities? The mold doesn’t fit too well—restricting, even.

Unique shapes are chiseled down to size, and the “unqualified” find themselves being stuffed down the garbage shoot.

What happened to the value of handmade? When did we stop giving each plenty of love and care? Why do we long for material gain rather than the emotional or spiritual?

Education nowadays has become a seemingly one-way street. Traditionally, students move from elementary, middle, to high school, catapulting themselves straight into college and then their careers. By the time we’re 18, the education system assumes we know how we want to live the rest of our lives.

I, along with many others, am not designed to function in this sort of environment. With my interests spread across every corner of the spectrum, I find myself distant from being able to honestly answer the dreaded, “What do you want to be?” question. And I swear there is nothing wrong with me; sure, I sometimes have this terrible indecisiveness problem, but I’m in no rush to pinpoint a career. There are limitless opportunities waiting for me out there that I have yet to even scratch the surface of.

This is why I decided on the idea of a bridge year. I am passionate about learning about the world around me and have this unparalleled curiosity, and I definitely could have gone straight to a university after graduation. But frankly, I’m burned out. This year in Senegal is my chance to live for myself and do things the want to do. A self-exploration excursion of sorts.

Even after I say all this, I still believe the Factory isn’t all bad. It’s just designed for a certain type of person who has a clear idea of how they want to spend the rest of their lives—those doctors, engineers, and others who have already found their purpose in life. The fast-paced system works perfectly for their benefit, as their dreams are attained without any loss of time. I’m not trying to bash education, but rather the assumption that there is but a single way to go about receiving it.

As for me, I’ll travel at my own pace and I know things will eventually find their way. I’m ready to do a little inner exploration.


Mai Lee