Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Measures of Personal Success and Failure: A Self-Assessment, Applying the Sociological Imagination

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Measures of Personal Success and Failure: A Self-Assessment, Applying the Sociological Imagination

Article excerpt

I sometimes look back and ask myself a series of questions: "How am I doing? Am I having a successful life so far or have I had more failure than success? How do I measure my personal success and failure? Was my success or failure based upon my own standards or other people's determinations? How do I decide my standards? Are they influenced by other people's perception? What is considered to be a success and what is considered to be a failure? Was my success really successful or were they considered successful only according to other people's considerations? Did I really fail in my failure or was I just locking myself behind another set of bars created by other people? Am I the only one who has been living in such a life pursuing this kind of success and avoiding that kind of failure or am I just one of many others whose eyes are blindfolded by the society's perception?"

As I am trying to search for the answers, I find one question leading into another one. The deeper I get into these questions, the more I find that some common senses aren't so common anymore, because I cannot tell whether my common senses represent the principles of how things are and why things are; maybe my common senses are just "Islands of Meaning" (Zerubavel 18-23) in Eviatar Zerubavel's words, I have "sorted my personal experiences into distinct categories" (Zerubavel 18-23). Or maybe I was "born into a world already interpreted and organized by others" (Zerubavel 18-23). Perhaps I should use the " Sociological imagination" (Mills 1) described by C. Wright Mills, to do a self-research by linking my personal experiences with society and history.

I was born in a small town in China, grew up in an ordinary family, somehow managed to cross the ocean and come to the United States. Thirty one years old today, I have a respectable job with decent salary; thirty one years old, I have just had my American Dream come true, owning my first house. To a lot of people, they think I am having quite a successful life so far; but then I look even closely at myself: thirty one years old, I am still working on my first undergraduate degree; thirty one years old, I haven't done anything that is really meaningful other than just working and working to make money; thirty one years old, I still don't have a clear picture of what I will be in the next thirty years. To some people, to me at least, it is a failure.

Ever since China opened itself up to the world, although the thousand years long of traditions still root in most Chinese, western cultures have always been the exceptional ones in the perspectives of many Chinese. As China is blooming in economic and many other areas, western cultures have become even more dominant, American culture is the most prevailing one among them. Walking down the streets in China today, you find you are surrounded by American cultural symbols--Nike, Adidas, one store after another; McDonald, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, from corner to corner. You can see people are lining up in every one of them. They all believe what they get are much better products, because they all believe USA is better than China when it comes to anything other than the national pride.

I was, or maybe I am still, one of them. I came to the United States because I believed I would make a better living. Stories heard from parents or seen from TV about people who migrated to America are always wonderful; those people always come back with money and prestige and they all seem very successful. People envy them. I envied them. That was the reason I did not hesitate to make the decision to come here when I got the opportunity to participate in a student exchange program between US and China. My parents were very supportive too even though the application fee and other expenses were quite costly. My parents didn't have enough money to support me but they managed to borrow money from friends and family knowing that they would have to work twice harder and I would have to work just as hard as they did in the next few years; however we all believed it would be worth it at the end. …

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