My informant K told me about a Korean ritual called “Dolijabi” that occurs on the 100th day after a baby is born. On the day, the baby’s parents will place different items on a table, like a book, pen, paintbrush, stethoscope, etc., and depending on what the baby touches first, it determines their career path and their future. K told me that when they were a baby, they grabbed the book that their parents set out on the table and their mom said that they were going to go into academia. They said that it did end up coming true because they are now in the Marshall School of Business here at USC studying marketing.
I had heard of this ritual growing up and found it fascinating. I sometimes wonder what I could have chosen when I was a baby and how that decision would have changed my life path compared to where I am now. I have heard other stories about Dolijabi from my other Korean friends, and some of them said that they did end up picking a career path that resembled what they picked, and some ended up doing something completely different. However, they all told me that it is more of a fun tradition for the family and that it is more of a starting point. I do think that psychology places a big part in this tradition as well because if you were to pick up a paintbrush when you were a baby, your parents could think you were going to be a painter and get you a lot of painting materials and enroll you in painting classes. Or if you had picked up a ball, your parents could sign you up to play recreational sports. If you grow up thinking you are meant to have a certain career, then it is likely that you will pursue it. I personally don’t think I would have ended up doing what I would have picked because I always thought I was going to either be a hairstylist or open a bakery when I was younger. It wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I realized I wanted to be an actor.
Yù sù zé bù dá
Translation: “Want speed, then no achieving”
Background: Y is a 21-year-old college student from Taiwan who is navigating her new life in Los Angeles, California. Having grown up in and gone to school in Taiwan, she is incredibly familiar with Taiwanese folklore and culture.
Context: Y recalls hearing this proverb from her parents, teachers, and coaches in Taiwan. She says it means if you try to accomplish something quickly, you can fail badly.
Analysis: This is a proverb that came from the Analects of Confucius. It means that working towards something at a fast and unreasonable pace will inevitably lead to failure. It suggests that taking your time and being wise with your decision-making will ultimately lead to success. The proverb demonstrates the central role and influence of Confucian philosophy in Taiwanese culture, as it serves to provide a focus on personal morality and wise attitudes toward life. The proverb also reflects the need for and importance of reaching some ultimate end goal. This proverb is similar to the proverbs: “Haste makes waste” and “Slow and steady wins the race”
The graduate with a Science degree asks, “Why does it work?” The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, “How does it work?” The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?” The graduate with an Arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”
In a group discussion including college freshmen and high school seniors over what major the students were studying or thinking about studying, one high school senior said they were trying to decide between being an engineering major versus an art major. One of the college freshmen then shared the joke. The group was comprised of students and alumni of the robotics program, so all were at least thinking about pursuing STEM majors.
This is a commentary on the massive pay difference between the average engineering (most STEM) majors and arts majors. It is a way for the rivalry in high school between those who are more STEM minded versus the arts-minded to poke fun at one another. The joke can mean a couple of different things. One, it can be a reminder to students who have interests in both fields that a job in the arts is less stable and guaranteed paycheck wise than a career in engineering. The second is to feed the ego and feelings of superiority that many want-to-be-engineers have in the pre and early college years (and beyond for some).