[“Don’t Tell Me Your Major Theme” By Malena Ramnath]

Malena: Hey guys! My name is Malena Ramnath.

Hannah: I'm Hannah Fredly.

M: And we are your hosts and sophomores here at Northwestern. This is Don't Tell Me Your Major, an interview podcast where we avoid getting to know people on the surface level with questions like what their major is, where they're from, and how old they are, but try to get to know them on a more profound level. That's how you really get to know the kind of person someone is rather than judging them based on pre-established stereotypes. So today, it's just the two of us because last episode, we had a guest. So today, it's just us, the hosts, me and Hannah. And today, we really wanted to talk about the idea of imagination, because it's COVID still. We're still stuck inside. It's a panda-nemic. And I think our imagination can oftentimes be our only escape from this kind of stuff. Right? So, my first question for us to answer here on our podcast today is: Did you ever have any imaginary friends when you were little, Hannah?

H: So this is gonna be a really boring answer, but I did not actually. I knew a lot of people who did and I have some funny stories, but I myself never had one.

M: OK, at least give me a funny story about it.

H: So I had a friend back home who used to have an imaginary friend. And so when she was little, she was walking down the street and she used to talk to her imaginary friend. And so she would tell me that people low-key thought she was crazy sometimes because she would talk into thin air.

M: Oh my gosh,  I couldn't do that. I couldn't just talk into thin air. That being said, though, I definitely imagine that my stuffed animals and teddy bears have personalities. I still kind of do. I think it's a remnant from Toy Story being a thing. I definitely, you know, had my teddy bears and they have personalities. You know, my boyfriend isn't necessarily so happy about the fact that I'm still a 5-year-old inside, but that was – they were like my imaginary friends. You know? Also, because my parents never really bought me – maybe it's like a gender stereotype thing, but also, I didn't mind it – they just never, I never even really had  Barbies, or like, Legos or anything. I just had a million teddy bears. So, yeah, I guess it was safer, child-safety-wise, to just surround me with soft, plush things.

H: Yeah, actually, you want to know something funny? So back home, in Norway, I used to have a fat big drawer only full of teddy bears. And there were some teddy bears that was like, they were too big to fit in the drawer and be like huge giraffes, like the size of my body, my little child body, like big bears. And if I put them all on my bed, I wouldn’t have space for myself in the bed.

M: Yeah, I know exactly. My sister and I would – oh my gosh, this is so silly, she's gonna hate me for saying this on the podcast. But we would do this thing called a "dolly hash," where we would take all of our stuffed animals combined – easily, at one point, like 100 of them – we would (consumerism at its finest) cover our living room in them. And there's photos of me and my sister just passed out and you can't see the carpet. It’s the two of us, asleep on our teddy bears and our parents like “What have we created?”

H: I'm not gonna lie. If I were a parent and I came home to that I'd be thoroughly terrified.

M: But imagination comes in a lot of different ways. I think we all have daydreams, you know, from our imaginary friends to our dream jobs and things like that. And I think that plays into this question that I've had for a long time of like, idealism versus realism, because I feel like, you know, for me, I'm more of a cynic. I would say I'm more of a realist, I've always seen idealists as kind of living in their imagination, like, “Oh, you know, I'm gonna be like, some big, you know, music artist or something.” You know? And that's often – sometimes – really hard to achieve fame in. And for me, that's part of living in their daydreams – living in their imagination. There's not something as real about it as like, having a structured salary, like the classic, you know, go to college, earn, like, six figures, you know, just go on to whatever you need to do next. So like, do you think that there's, like, idealism isn't what people should look for in life, especially in this day and age? Or do you think it's better to be an idealist than a realist?

H: OK, so I think there's value in ideal – I think, first of all, balance the two. But I think there's value in idealism in the sense that you're much more likely to achieve something if you believe yourself that you will achieve it. So I sort of believe in the law of attraction and of how, if you really believe that you're going to do well on this test, then odds are, you're going to do well. If you go out with the mindset of like, “Oh, I'm never going to achieve this anyways”, then the odds that you ever achieve it are so much lower. So idealism has value in the sense that if you're shooting so far, so high, and you're like, “I know for sure that later in life, I will achieve this, I will get this job, I will, like, be able to work with this and this and this,” then, even though it might not be fully accomplished, it still makes it more likely that it will happen just by you believing it.

M: I think there's definitely something to be said for that. And I think that there should never ... it should never really be because I had to kind of check myself. I have friends who were real idealists. I'm such a cynic, such a realist. I'm very much of the mind that you have to make money and then follow your passions. You know, like make money, build yourself that nest egg, build your family that nest egg, and then go ... paint. That's what I kind of grew up learning as well. And some people definitely have that mindset. But I think there's something that's braver about going to follow your passion so that you're not going into work every day doing something you hate, doing something that's not making a change in the world. I think like you said, it's everything in moderation. It's about finding that balance between what you're passionate about, and what's gonna make you money because, I read this statistic the other day that said – it was on UberFacts. So you know, obviously take this as what you will. But if you – happiness, sorry, money can buy happiness, if it's up to $70,000. Right? Yeah, once you hit that $70,000 a year mark, you're going to be – pretty much plateau of happiness, thanks to your money. And it's – your happiness is going to come through other things like love and family and when you're not thinking about your survival anymore.

H: Yeah cause this is what, like Maslow's Pyramid of Needs.

M: Yeah.

H: It's like, if you can get a nice shelter, enough to buy you the food you want to buy, and everything like that, then that's covered by money. Self actualization, like your social life – that can't be bought by money.

M: Exactly. And so, I think in that way, your imagination, like thinking about, “Oh, what can my passion be?” like having – I think when you're little, having the freedom to explore that is also really interesting. Rather than just like, since you're five, being told you're going to be a doctor when you grow up, you know?

H: You know what else I think is really important that our generation kind of loses sight of sometimes, is that there's such a big dialogue about nowadays, “Oh, you should be doing your passion, you should be doing, like, living your fullest self at every moment.” And like, for a lot of people, they don't know what their passion is. I think too many people worry about if they're doing the right thing. Worry less about if you're doing the right thing, because at a certain point you stop – you stop living. If there's, you're like, “Oh, am I doing the right thing by doing a math major? Like maybe I'd be happier in statistics? Maybe …” You start asking yourself too many questions, then you get paralyzed by the choice. It's like, stop worrying all the time, if you're doing exactly the right thing, because things will turn out fine.

M: Yeah, I really like that mentality. I think it is really applicable to the college student mindset, you know, in just that, like, it's so many kids are just like, “Oh, I'll figure it out eventually,” because they're like, paralyzed exactly by like, the amount of options that are open to them. We've had the deep conversation about, you know, what we kind of want to be when we grow up in terms of mindset, right? When you were a kid, what was your favorite imagination game. Because I also talked about, you know, games that build creativity in kids because I think that's something that education is going to focus more on – when you were little, what was your favorite imagination game? Did you play house? Did you play dress up? What would you do that was an imagination game?

H: Oh, so me, my sister or me and my cousin's. It's always with the cousins, by the way, for some reason. We would create these like fake little shops on our roofs – we'd make stands. And then we invite our whole family to come by our stands and pretend they were buying stuff from us. So we'd pretend we were a bakery. Pretend we were like a jewelry store, stuff like that.

M: Oh my gosh, we literally – OK, so, I would do this daycare program after I finished elementary school because we'd finished the day of like, fifth grade, but my parents couldn't pick me up till 5 p.m. when they got off work. So, I'd stay after school and we’d play games. And there's like 20 other of my best friends who were  also doing it. Not that I had 20 best friends but you know, Miss Popular in fifth grade. But regardless, we literally did this, it was called "Mini City." And all the other kids were like actually doing things with their imagination. They were like drawing, they're like making necklaces. They were, you know, giving out fake whatever. Because it was just like, they gave you fake money and you had to go to the different stands. But people's businesses were all imagination based, like there are no real products. And I was like, I found a niche in the market. And I got all my friends together and we made a giant stand that looked like a cupcake out of like the reusable cardboard in the dumpster. Why we were – literally so much is wrong with this. But then, I got all the parents to bake stuff for their kids to bring in and we were the only people selling  genuine products that anybody wanted to the point where we had so much money that our like toy cash register was overflowing and this is all fake money provided by the daycare people. But then, at the end – this is a distinct memory and maybe why I'm an econ major today – we laid the money. We had so much money, we laid it all over the floor, threw it up in the air and then rolled around in it. The big money. And I think that’s why I’m an econ major.

H: Business mindset. You were a hardo from day one.

M: Oh, no, dude, I feel so exposed right now. But OK, OK, last question. I think that it comes off of that really well is so when you're kid you kind of have like the stars in your eyes and maybe it does relate a little to the idealism/realism thing, but do you feel like, I feel like so many things nowadays, they're like, “Oh, we want creativity in the workplace. We want imagination in the workplace to come up with innovative solutions.” But do you think like, you know, when you're in a job in the future, you're really going to be using your imagination?

H: You know, it's an interesting question, I think it's kind of linked to AI in a certain way, or like, automatization. So, computers are really good at brute forcing stuff, like going through stuff in a systematic method. And humans are very good at being creative. So they complement each other very well. So, all the jobs that are non-creative can be taken over more or less, and humans are creative. And so that's how we compliment it. So, I think more and more we’ll be creative in the workplace in the future.

M: I think so too. And I think like, you know, I'm in a peer tutoring program. And so I go to a lot of these professional development, education seminars and stuff. And the more I read about the education process, the more I realized that kids are falling short because they're not taught to be creative. They're just taught to get the best GPA. I graduated from high school in Singapore. And so when I was growing up in my education system, it was all about memorization, memorization, memorization, and now I come to Northwestern. And it's a struggle for me, because so much of the education here is about problem solving and creativity and coming up with your own themes in ambiguous situations. And so you're right, I think that it's something that's really very much the future of who's going to excel and who's not going to, you know.

H: Yeah, I fully agree. I think it's more important to teach kids problem solving rather than memorization.

M: Yeah, exactly. Well, unfortunately, that was a bit abrupt of an ending, but that is all the time we have left for today. Hannah, thank you for being here. And you know, we are hosts telling you guys a little bit more about what we think of imagination in our daily lives. And I hope that, you know, you guys had some time to think about it, and feel free to drop your thoughts about it into the Google form at the top of our Spotify description, because we'd love to hear from our listeners. And we hope that you have a spectacular week. This has been Don't Tell Me Your Major, an NBN audio podcast. Have a good one.

[“Don’t Tell Me Your Major Theme” By Malena Ramnath]