Our blog this week has been written by Nicky Pham, one of  our magnificent interns.  In this post, she writes of her . . .writing life.

My name is Nicky. I’m a transfer student at Montgomery College and an intern for the Potomac Review. I hope to write and make positive impact on the world through writing. I’m becoming the cat lady that I never imagined myself to be. I love creating and hope to fulfill a career in the Arts or Humanities.

Everyone reads. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, we are reading more now than ever. The emergence of tablets, iPads, and smartphones accommodated by social media has revolutionized the ease of access to information. A massive amount of information is readily available for anyone to read at their fingertips—online articles are leaked and shared among sites such as Facebook, omitted travails such as the Kenya massacres, police brutality and prejudice, and even down to the recent phenomena on the white and gold or black and blue dress, we are reading more than we ever have been. And exactly, how are we reading at all? Because… writers.

I don’t want to be a “writer,” I want to write. But according to my jobless friend who graduated with a C average in Computer Science and still lives with his parents, while on his 3rd double IPA and working his 5th cigarette of the day… in broad daylight, my seizing writing as a career is equivalent to becoming, and I quote, “a broke alcoholic, cigarette smoking hobo with body odor and greasy hair.” When people ask me what I’m studying, what my major is, and what I’m going to do with that major after graduation, I want to rip my arm off, backslap myself in the face, then throw it at them and take off. There is no point in speaking about something nonexistent, knowing an opinionated life lecture is forthcoming. So, in response to those questions that dictate my life and question my entirety, as my insides would scream while a squeamish qualm would tickle my guts, I’d utter lies to dodge their opinion on, “realistically,” what I should really be doing with my education.

The hypocrisy of education in America has been parasitic to the lower to middle class minorities of my parent’s generation, eventually infecting the majority of the kids in my generation. The American Dream was ever so tangible, ideally bedazzling. Opportunity for success marketed at the price of education. And little did my father know, the promising dream for prosperity and success would cost… prosperity and success. An eye for an eye, and I’d be entrapped by extrinsic motivation for a higher education if I’d remained obedient. A lawyer, engineer, doctor, biochemist, or business executive is exactly what my family had in mind when sending their youngest and last hope to college. And I have to admit, it isn’t their cup of tea that writing is one of my areas of interest. My best friend’s mother, Rhonda, whose house I often visit for late night study sessions, frequently enjoys creeping about the room, without announcing herself while startling me to a near heart attack, to offer me some more food. Though, I’ve already force-fed myself the inhumanly large plate she’s prepared out of love. Then, she weasels her way into nagging me about my future career choice and compares me to her acquaintance’s daughter who is 25 and working in Wall Street. I seldom nod and make erratic eye contact with her while she attempts to inspire me to pick a stable field to study. Over half an hour later, I’d managed to completely tune her out while petting my cat, Casper, until his highness bites and run to hide somewhere—something I’ve considered doing to Rhonda.

Yet, realistically, to all the currency contaminated eyes, success can only be measured by mansions and Mercedes. My definition of success does not entail wealth. The adverb “realistically” followed by a gerund as despicable as “speaking” often resounds through opinionated voices as I go about my days. I’ve grown absolutely sick, yet, terrified of this misconception of pragmatism for realism. Torn between the dollar, they’ve become reluctant of dreaming; and, adrift along the current, they’ve been imprisoned by capitalism. Stagey and accosting, I know, but realistically, even science defies the social standards.

The intrinsic reward I achieve from writing defies even the nourishment I get from wine. The study of psychology suggests intrinsic motivations to be psychologically and intellectually nourishing, as oppose to extrinsic motivation. Motivation is a basic human initiation to act. As motivation is active, a reward is anticipated. When one participates in an activity and is motivated by extrinsic means, such as going through medical school for the future assurance of a 6 figure salary, or exercising to show off one’s aesthetics, the motivation for rewards eventually ceases. However, an intrinsically motivated chap is scientifically proven to perform more productively, creatively, and progressively. Enjoyment and appreciation is internalized, stimulating the overall continuation of that motivation.

Ever felt so empty and uncertain? Most of my peers are going or have already gone through this frustration. That specific void we’ve felt, that’s our intrinsic motivation screaming to be nourished. While the temporarily fulfillment of by extrinsic rewards remain insatiable, the soul remains hungry for the nourishment of intrinsic rewards, leading one to seek alternative means for the neurochemical reward experienced through intrinsic motivations. This is why I’ve learned to excuse the pungent taste of vodka. All my friends are high; “I like having something to look forward to,” my friend, the medical school student and golden child of his family, justifies himself for being doped on MDMA every weekend at Echostage.

To the bigot, materialistic, and self-proclaimed ‘realist,’ you and your stagnant office cubicle are welcome 9-to-5 your life away. You can question my appetite to fulfill my dreams, but I’ll remain insatiable even if you lavish me with money. You can tell me I’ll starve, suffer, and die a nobody. But, you can’t lie to me about the naked truth that modern civilization is built on dreams. Dreams live. Dreams live in the nights of snoring fathers and restless insomniacs. Dreams have been living across our centuries for as long as starlets have chased the stars to conquer the skies they now occupy. Dreams have erased the illusion of race and unchained our brothers and sisters of slavery. Dreams have ignited cities by cities and awoken those whose lives belong to the night. Dreams have conquered as they have killed those who’ve died chasing them. For what it’s worth, I’d rather starve, suffer, and die chasing my dream than live, floating alongside the current as another byproduct of the social standards.