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being catholic

Despite all the pressure from research and my approaching qualifying exam in August, I somewhat felt broed and lonely.  This was not the first time I felt as if I were Mr. Lonely, but ’twas definitely the first time when I did not have the urge to move forward.  I still got things accomplished, but I noticed that I had been in front of the computer a lot more often for the past two to three days.  My true self would be around town exercising, mingling with people, or simply biking around…but I noticed that the me for the past two days would be watching movies or searching for people to chat with, which could be sad.  I also could not fall asleep since I yearned for someone to be beside me…Things changed today though, as I went to one of the Thursday events at church.  I had not been attending those events since the beginning of the school year due to my busy schedule, and I thought ’twas time to go back.

Tonight’s’ graduate student and young professional group merged with the undergraduate group at 7PM due to a Dominican sister giving a talk about Ave Maria.  Since I had free time tonight and since I went to a Catholic elementary school ran by Dominican nuns, I thought of attending the event.  I was sitting by myself at first, but then a young lady invited me to sit with her group.  We did not chat too much since I am usually shy towards strangers and because I had a long day.  Plus, the presentations forbade us to interact.  She left early though, ditching her friends behind.  So I sat in the middle of the crowd, said hi to James when he passed by, listened to the talk, sang some songs, and then off I went to mingle!  I did bump into some of my current students and said hi to them, and then I joined the graduate student and young professional crowd.  I first met Doug, who was my friend and buddy from the 11AM Mass choir and Bible study, and then we headed downstairs to the basement to meet with the others at 9PM.  ‘Twas actually great to be back and to see faces I did not see for almost six to eight months.  ‘Twas amazing to be able to reintroduce myself and learn names of some, to talk to Liz and Kenny, and to join a group circle by being entertained with conversations.

Although I did not really know the people that well, I at least knew them of their names before since I interacted with them through service activities, men’s night playing poker or grilling out somewhere, or other events.  Before though, I tried to distant myself from them since I thought that I was not as Catholic as they were, but they are actually fine young men!  Just to see Luke and Andrew being so joyful and humorous, just to see people in the circle being so expressive and accepting of others, just to be united with these men made me feel that perhaps I do belong somewhere and that there are people who would accept me for who I am and invite me into their group.  Although I could be quite accomplished in many ways, I mostly felt that I would be used by others to help them move furniture to their new place and never heard back from them (eh hem, such as my Ayn Rand following “friends”) or even in the dating scene.  ‘Twas great to be back, and I look forward to making up for what I had missed for more than a semester and to get to know them.  ‘Tis possible that a few of us will go on a trip together next year, but I will write more about the trip when it is official.

The interactions ended at 10PM for me since I needed to go buy avocados and they were heading to a bar.  I wished Doug well since he was thinking of working on some research tonight and some of the others that were heading to the bar.  Since 7PM, I thought of emailing Erich since I lost contact with him since the beginning of the spring semester.  He is a great and holy guy, and we shared many wonderful memories together: talking about our lives and helping each other, going to Caroline’s place for pancakes and breakfast, going to ballroom dancing, and much more.  We would often bump into each other on State Street, and the last time when I saw him was in January.  He was planning to study abroad in Bonn this semester, but he changed his mind.  He also seemed to be frustrated and gloomy when I saw him in January, and I thought of him throughout the evening and planned on emailing him when I got home.  Who knew that when I went out of the center after parting from the graduate student and young professional group, I saw Erich standing in front of me!  He saw him, had his eyebrows raised with delight, and soon we were embracing one another!!!!  Who could have known that God works in mysterious ways?  We soon started exchanging questions to see how we are doing in life, and he is doing well.  He is still a caring guy, and he will be graduating next semester.  He also has been taking care of this elderly guy with Parkinson’s Disease, whom I saw before in Mass, and know they would go to a church in Middleton.  ‘Twas great to see Erich cleanly shaved and smiling too, for he is a handsome man with a big heart.  We chatted for around twenty minutes, and ’twas great catching up with him.  Since he thought of talking to another person, I let him go before ’twas too late at night, but hopefully we will be able to grab lunch together sometime with his friend!

Love does not mean to find some attractive and to sleep with him or to perform sexual acts.  Love does not mean to use someone as kleenex and then throw him away.  Love is something a bit deeper that requires patience and sacrifice, for love is when you reach out to people beside you and to welcome them into your circle.  After tonight, I do not feel as lonely as the past few evenings.  I felt that there are people I can talk to and be with.  Sure, we might have disagreements and different views, but we could talk about those with one another and that I am never alone.  Even if I feel despair, I need to recognize that God loves me, and that Mary will be with me.  I got many amazing friends and people around me, and I just need to make sure that I am not blindfolded and being self-centered.  Similar to the great folks from tonight, I hope and pray that I can carry their traditions and reach out to others as well, whether it be a small step or not.  Seeing that ’tis 11:30PM, I know that I will be sleeping quite well tonight 🙂

Nope, ’tis not a wedding anniversary since I am still single, nor is it the anniversary of this blog (which I would never celebrate anyway)…but ’tis an anniversary of spiritual rebirth.  Some people would call it a one-year-old birthday celebration…but for me, ’twas a great time to reflect the growth I had in a year.

This year’s Holy Week coincided with spring break.  Unfortunately, spring break did not seem to exist for a graduate student in the biosciences.  Many guys I know were in town working on research or preparing for teaching, including my befriended animal staff Patty.  When I attended Dr. Irv Weissman’s seminar session last Tuesday, I was amazed to see the entire forum filled with graduate students and faculty, including one of my committee members whom I know quite well and one good friend of mine who is aiming to finish his studies in the summer.  Of course, Dr. Weissman is famous for his works in hematopoietic stem cells and his seminar would attract many, but the gyms and campus was a lot emptier during break without much undergrads around.

Since the last time I updated, I made quite a few progress in life: getting certified as a doctoral student after meeting with my committee members and obtaining their John Hancocks after answering questions with my best ability and hearing their suggestions (with two I took that were helpful), officially announcing the date of my Qualifying Exam in August 2012, getting approval from a professor in Japan to use his knockout mice, getting some results to analyze, and continuing with my work,…I also got to spend quality time with myself and others.

My “spring break” or Holy Week kicked off with four hours of volleyball followed by four hours of hanging out in front of a bonfire with food and conversations.  Other than that, I also got to catch up with friends through coffee or Korean food or Indian food buffet (instead of the typical Easter brunch) for two hours each, those from Bible study at the Terrace with beer and popcorn on Tuesday evening for two hours, meeting up Saturday morning for an hour and a half with Michael (who is getting married in June),…and the list goes on.  I enjoyed spending time with great friends and good people, and ’tis a blessing to have them in life.  Other than human interactions, I also enjoyed spring break with bike rides, six-mile runs, walks around town, almond croissants, and some of the littlest things in life.  ‘Twas funny to see that week went by quickly too.

This Easter also marked my first year of officially entering into the Catholic church.  ‘Tis true that there are some areas of the faith that I would debate on, but most of the topics were deeply absorbed by me since when I was young.  In college, I lost touch with church and Masses, and I was brought back to faith when I was in New York over a year ago.  I was a tourist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral taking photos, and suddenly a voice in me encouraged me to stay for the 1PM Mass.  I then sat in the pew and stayed for the entire Mass, noticing that I had missed the beauty of the Mass and homilies during the past four to five years.  When getting back to Madison, ’twas the move-in/move-out weekend, and I got so many blessings and free furniture and dishes from friends as I moved from a three-bedroom into a one-bedroom.  I decided to go to Mass that weekend to give thanks, and I met some great friends by then.  I became more involved in choir, eventually participated in an all-male graduate student/young professional Bible study, and volunteered in events if I could.  I was not hardcore though, for I did not attend Mass everyday or befriend the priests and many in church, but my whole being changed with this encounter or call-back.  After being baptised and confirmed last year, I felt that I became more tranquil with no short temper or impatience.  I treated things optimistically while planning for the worst so that I would not be surprised, and I would not lost hope if the worst happened (which occurred with one of the collaborators earlier last June to November/December) but continue to plan ahead and move forward.  I guess I became a happier person while searching and observing the simplest joys in life without materialism, sexual desires/lusts, and more.  Yeah, many of my friends and even parents would consider me living as a Catholic monk since I do not live in bars or that I do not bring folks back to hook up with, but I prefer to live simply without having too much drama and sexually transmitted infections.

Although many would say that science (since I am in the field of microbiology and immunology) and religion do not mix, I would consider them wrong in conversations.  Most people I talked to would be extremists, relying on one or the other.  Most greatness comes from people who have a balance of the two.  Without science, we would not be able to cure diseases with antimicrobials and knowledge of first aid through physiology.  Without faith, we would not be able to realize our wrongdoings and to maintain some moral codes.  Of course both are dangerous when politics is involved, but the roots of science and religion is to contribute to society in a good way.  When people analyze the Bible, they would interpret it in their own ways too and even condemn people to hell.  How would they know if that was really God’s intentions?  Did people also take the historical context into perspective?

As I sang during the Easter Vigil and Sunday Mass, many friends and acquaintances would wish me a Happy Birthday or Happy One Year Anniversary with smiles on their faces.  When I saw people willingly to be baptised and confirmed, my heart was filled with joy.  Even the music sang soothed my mind and soul, and I was reminded on the greatness I experienced for a year.  Although I was tired at the end of the Vigil and going into the Sunday Mass with sleep deficiency, I felt as if I was welcomed back into the church again by renewing the vows.  Perhaps the joys from Easter came indirectly from Lent.  ‘Twas a sad period for my family due to some matter, but when telling friends that I gave up alcohol for Lent, my social life did not change at all.  I felt healthier without drinking, and I enjoyed my friends’ company a lot more.  Perhaps drinking would make someone depressed, even with friends…but I still would not mind getting beer with friends once in a while 🙂  Interestingly, tons of beer were provided after the Easter Vigil during the celebration, but I decided to go home to bed instead to prevent myself from passing out after drinking…

The Easter celebration also reminded me to continue working to get my PhD as soon as possible.  With aims to attend a conference next year, I am hoping to do well on my Qualifying Exam and to get some results in order to submit an abstract or a paper.  I also hope to continue excelling in teaching and hopefully be nominated for a teaching award.  Another goal for now would be to continue running and eventually sign up for a 10K run while getting more muscles and being fitter.  I do try to keep myself busy, but I am also open to meeting new people.  I went on a date on the Monday after Palm Sunday for four hours, and ’twas fun to meet new folks.  However, I have to constantly remind myself that I am not that desperate to hop into someone’s pants and that at least I have God in life!

This year brought many rewards and harvests, and I could only pray and ask that I will be similar in the future.  So many individuals brought love into my life, and I also hope that I can pay those forward with my abilities.  School will be starting tomorrow, meaning that I will be back teaching and such, but the summer will be here within four to five weeks!  Hopefully things will continue to go smoothly without violent winds and thunderstorms…but if catastrophe happens, I look forward to seeing the rainbow in the near future!

Thanks to LMFAO, I have been feeling sexy these days for many reasons.  Not because I’m high on testosterone and that I am horny, but because many wonderful things have happened since the last time I wrote.

My cousin Mel, the Texan native, visited last weekend and we hung out for a bit.  The visit was on a short notice, so we did not have anything planned.  My brother and I were excited though, since we have been telling her to come visit Madison.  She came with three friends (one is working here in a software company and engaged to his gay fiance who visited as well, and the other is a lady who is interested in psychology and sociology).  Although their flight was postponed and the arrival time changed from 11AM to around 11PM last Friday, we still managed to meet on Saturday.

The gang arrived at 6PM, and everyone chillaxed a bit at my place while my brother poured some of the New Glarus Wisconsin Belgium Red for the guests.  Similar to Ben’s Wisconsin friends whom I met in Chicago over New Year’s Eve, the UT-Austiners loved the drink.  We chatted a bit more and then headed out to dinner at 7PM.  Unfortunately with no reservations, we could rarely find a spot for six without a more than forty-five minute wait.  We walked along Capitol Square and State Street, and then my brother and I decided to take them to The Nitty Gritty.  My brother left when we got to the establishment since he needed to go to an 8PM discussion, so the five of us dined there.

Dinner was nice with conversations, and I was surprised by the two gay couple who are engaged.  They were not too handsome or hot, one of them has some gastrointestinal related illnesses and some other diseases, they were nice folks, and yet they look so wonderful next to each other.  I really do admire the both of them since that is true love right there.  They did not love each other due to lust or bed-related actions, but they looked beyond each other’s imperfections and linked their hearts together.  The strong support they provided for each other fascinated me, and I just hope that I will be able to find the special one too.

After dinner at around 8:50PM, Mel’s three friends decided to go back to their place since one of them needed to finish writing a paper.  I was going to send my brother a burger I bought for him, and Mel decided to come along and stick around!  We met up with my brother at 9PM when he was on his way home.  He was going to have a short night and head to bed soon since he was under stress with exams and studying, so Mel was left with me.  I took Mel for a walk, which she enjoyed with the fresh air although ’twas a bit chilly.  We walked around Memorial Union, then hiked up Bascom Hill, then onto Observatory along the lake, then to Tripp and Adams (where I resided during my sophomore year and first year of house fellowship), and then we took a break by the lakeshore area for some ice cream since Mel had not have ice cream from the Dairy State.

We shared a sundae with chocolate peanut butter ice cream, Heath, pecans, and Reeses…and sat on a booth and started catching up with life.  We did talk a lot about academia, her plans after graduating in May, law school, her trip to Italy, dating, and many more.  ‘Twas a great break with many exchanges of thoughts.  At first, I was worried that our four to five year age difference will not have too much in common since Mel was a bit more talkative to my brother earlier during the evening, but I was wrong.  Even my aunt told my parents (who told me later) that Mel has always respected me as a big brother and valued my conversations with her since when she was in high school.  She is hoping to work in Chicago through a law firm after completing an internship through the firm, and I will be glad to take her around Chicago with my brother!

After the break, we walked along Linden, passed by Henry Mall, and went into Union South.  Later, we walked along Johnson and Park Street, and then went into Library Mall and started walking along State Street.  ‘Twas the weekend of WIAA High School Wrestling, and there were many topless youngsters running past by us as celebration after the tournament.  Mel and I even laughed when one of the youngsters slapped my ass so hard that we both heard it.  If I were in an office, that could be sexual harassment, but ’twas fun for the both of us to see youngsters bearing the cold and cheering for their accomplishments.

Mel’s friend called at around midnight indicating that he would be going to bed soon and would like to pick her up since she was staying at his apartment with the others.  We then walked from the Capitol to my place, and she was off at 0:35.  She said bye before she boarded her plane on Sunday, and she enjoyed her visit too.

This visit also affirms my view that family members are the greatest and closest support for one another.  During the period of mourning for my grandma, whose funeral took place on Monday in Taipei, the visit reunited all the youngsters from my mother’s side who are in the United States.  Each visit, similar to the one in Chicago with Ben and those meals and walks with friends, are ways to renew relationships of any sort.  Even a small sundae with great ice cream and Heath toppings could make one smile for a day too… ‘Twas a great visit, and I could not believe that I had not seen her for five years, with the last time being before I went to Germany!!! I do hope that my brother and I will be able to visit her in Austin soon before she leaves that campus.

On a different note, I heard back from my advisor regarding my research proposal two days ago.  I am glad to finally see progress since he had the document for more than a month.  He made some great changes, and I am glad to learn from them and see his thoughts and intentions.  I am hoping to have that done soon so that I can meet with committee members to get their approval and take my qualifying exam soon!!!

Teaching has been going well too.  Students are learning about arthropods this week, and many of them were squeamish and excited.  Some of them were similar to Dora the Explorer (English and Zoology Edition) when observing hexapods, crustaceans, chelicerates, and myriopods with curiosity.  Some of them even dissected the destroyed the entire crayfish, which would need to be used by the next class too 🙂  Anyway, my students (especially the Monday and Tuesday ones) have been doing great this semester, and I hope that they will continue to be this motivated!

After working yesterday, I decided to take a walk in the afternoon and even call the afternoon off.  I left the lab at 2PM, and then bumped into Megan!  She was a former co-TA and a friend, and I was surprised when she walked by me and yelled out my name since she usually has a soft voice!  She was on her way to the library, so we walked together for a bit and caught up with one another.  ‘Twas great to hear that she missed teaching and that she is planning to come back too.  After she left, I continued walking, and eventually revisited Bakers’ Window.  I got to chat with the couple who baked the goodies since the wife started talking to me about organic milk in glass bottles and their use of organic materials.  The husband chatted more with me when the wife went to deal with the delivery man, and I discovered that they went to Munich together before.  They also learned to bake in Paris and also in San Francisco, and they are aiming to open a bakery under their names in the future without another owner or landlord.

My first visit to Bakers’ Window was last Saturday, and I had a great impression of the pain au chocolat.  There were more selections this time, since I went there during their normal hours when compared to thirty minutes before opening.  I got some pain au chocolat for my brother and Michael the co-TA, a Danish for myself, and carrot almond cake.  I am a big almond lover, and I loooooooove carrot cakes as well.  The mix of both made it an expensive dessert to make, and the cake made by the couple who baked all the goodies looked marvelous.  I tried some, of course…and ’twas surprisingly dense that I could only eat one-fourth to a third of a slice each time to feel fulfilled.  The cream cheese frosting and the cake overall was not too oily and sweet as the carrot cake made in other places, and the almond was a great compliment.  In many places, even those in the Farmer’s Market, the pastries and cakes would be swamped with frosting or sugar, but the baked goods from Bakers’ Window have always been simple.  ‘Twas not too plain, but the sweetness tasted came from the ingredients inside the pastry instead of a huge sugar-coating.  The cake was delicious and was worth it.  I am a food lover who would bike or drive for miles just to taste some dishes, and I can now say that Bakers’ Window is the best bakery I have experienced in Madison.

After being indulging on pastries for a while, I finally decided to visit the gym in case if I become a fat jolly Buddha.  I still go to the gym to play volleyball, such as my four-hour session last Saturday.  However, I have not been great at going to the gym on weekdays due to things to do, meetings to attend, and bad weather.  I finally made it to the gym at 7:30PM, started stretching, rowed 5000m, ran and hiked on the treadmill without phobia nowadays, and finished with sit-ups and stretches with an exercise ball.  I then saw Danielle, a grad student I know from a course I took last semester, and we started catching up with one another.  ‘Twas great to see a familiar face in the gym who is striving to live healthily too 🙂  So other than the awesome feeling of perspiration and meeting a familiar face during the work-out session, I felt wonderful after coming out from the shower.  I felt so relieved and clean, and I smelled great! 😉  I even flexed myself in front of the mirror, and boy were my arms getting larger and larger compared to the scrawny and flappy ones I had when I was bigger.

So yes, I’m sexy and I know it…I work out!!!!  Life and God have been good to me, and I just hope that I can continue visiting the gym and started going five to six days again like my usual routine.  I am doing well with my Lenten sacrifice: giving up alcohol.  I wonder if I can survive to forfeit having baked goods or sweets, but we can find that out in another Lenten period.  I hope that I can continue to make more progress with research, teaching, and in social life…and become more muscular soon, especially if I will need to put on swim wear and show my body if I go to Hawaii one day!

February started a bit on the sour note for me.  I became occupied with research and teaching, especially on grading weekly quizzes…but I still go to the gym and play volleyball.  The broomball season was actually short since this winter has been warmer than usual, and water has been seeping through ice on the lakes. 

On the evening of 13 Feb (which is the morning of Valentine’s Day in Taipei), I received news that my dear grandma (from my mother’s side) passed away that morning in Taiwan.  This brought a new meaning to the fourteenth day of February for me, and I was feeling awful for weeks since then.  Even my faculty advisor and the coordinator of the course I teach noticed that I was not myself at all.  I only shared this news with close friends and co-workers around then, and I have been in close contact with my parents and brother as well.  ‘Twas interesting since my grandma has been an amazing lady in my life who taught me many things ranging from portraying beauty to the world, showing care to others around you, and staying strong and being happy during the worst of times…She was unconscious and in pain, and she reunited with the grandpa I never saw since birth on a special day.  I became more and more open-minded after a few days instead of burrowing myself constantly in grief since she did live to the old age of ninety-one.  Although I could not attend the funeral in Taipei, I made a recording of myself singing Schubert’s Ave Maria with my cheap digital camera and sent it home.  It will be played during the funeral on Monday, 27 Feb.  My grandma would always applaud and cheer when I sing to her, and I remember that tears streamed across her cheeks when I sang to her last May when I went back home for the urgent two-week visit.  Although she was a vegetable, she would shake when I held her and even wiggle a bit as if she would want to talk to me.  I just hope that the song sang from my heart will be a good send-off for her since her baptismal name is Maria.  I still carry the photo of her and me and would glance at it each day, and I will definitely not forget her.

The Taiwanese custom is that relatives of the deceased will have to abstain from parties, visits to people’s houses, celebrations, and other large-scale joyful/social events.  Interestingly, this period coincides with Lent for me.  Before the incidence, I made plans to grab drinks with co-TAs and friends, to meet and socialize with prospective students of my program through drinks and potlucks, and more…it felt awkward to cancel all those plans, which included telling some curious folks the reason of my absence.  However, most of them were understanding.  Some, such as my professor, the coordinator of the course I teach, and the coordinator of my program, shared their grief and would share their experiences with me too.  Due to limitations in parties and such, this is why I am giving up alcohol for Lent.  It can be healthier for me, and that opens more opportunities for me to go to the gym, walk or bike around town, and keep myself active.  This period also made me closer to my family too, and I am grateful for that.

Throughout this period, I still interact with great friends.  I bumped into Jordan a few days ago, and I remember him as a scrawny kid two years ago when we took a course together.  He is still tall, but perhaps more muscular and mature, and I was surprised that he is still in Madison.  He declined an offer to go to medical school and found passion in teaching and parasitology.  Therefore, he is tutoring students through the Department of Zoology and is working in a company while applying for public health programs in different universities.  I also bumped into many former students, such as Alex the ATP guy, Logan (whom I wrote a letter of recommendation), Stephan (who just got engaged), and Jenn (a great mom and soldier).

Michael, one of my co-TAs, has been amazing since January.  He started as a newbie for teaching who avoided any courses and opportunities for public speaking in the past…He did not do that well during his first week and eventually broke down in tears, but he became a different person the following week and has been doing a brilliant job in standing and delivering.  He became more confident, although he would still say that he is nervous and that the students are plain stupid (he took this course a loooong time ago and got an A without trying too hard, and there are tons of students who have been getting poor scores and cannot organize thoughts or reason through things)…but he is a great guy to talk to one-on-one.  He is funny and great to talk to, and he became a great friend.  I guess that we have been encouraging one another in little ways.  On Mardi Gras, I bought students donuts from Greenbush Bakery and saved one for him since he mentioned that Mardi Gras was his most favorite holiday with hurricanes and parties and that I knew that he would be stopping by the building when I was teaching.  After teaching, I noticed that he was selling like hotcake with five students surrounding him in the TA office, so I dropped off the donut and left.  Who knew that he would run after me and graced me with a red and a blueish green strains of beads?  He is such a funny guy…and he even brought me a huge Snicker’s bar after meeting his wife for dinner prior to proctoring an exam on Thursday.  Speaking of his wife, Michael would describe Brooke in a manner that made me vision her as the one with the whip during S&M play, but I actually meet her on Monday evening, and she was a cute and lovely lady!

At the same time, I still go to Bible study with the same gang and would text and meet-up with my friend Chuck.  I also would text and chat with Matt through gchat, and we went for a walk together after I was done proctoring on Thursday.  We walked around the neighborhood for forty-five minutes to an hour, appreciating the snow and each other’s company.  He has accepted a postdoc position in Detroit since he did not get offered the faculty position at Gonzaga, and I am glad that at least life is not too uncertain for him now.  it turns out that he went to Mass on Ash Wednesday and is giving up alcohol for Lent too!  I gave him a can of beer earlier, and he told me that ’twas still sitting in his fridge due to Lent.  Throughout the walk, he told me about a new bakery in town, and I decided to check it out today.

I walked along State Street and passed by the bakery yesterday, just to notice that ’twas closed although the label and facebook indicated that it should be closed after two hours.  I left, hoping it visit it the next day, and so I dragged myself out of bed to be an early bird who gets baked goods straight out from the oven from Bakers’ Window.  I remembered the label indicating that the bakery would be opened at 8AM…I arrived at 8:30AM, and folks were still setting up things.  Who knew that they actually open at 9?  However, I was offered to enter and purchase goods.  Matt told me about the croissants, and so I purchased some pain au chocolat (with regular croissant being the other option since there were not many other items out from the oven) and was given a wedding cookie for free.  Those chocolate croissants were still hot and just out from the oven, but the bread had some buttery goodness that did not make the croissant too flakey and dry.  It was not too soggy either.  The chocolate was in a generous silky serving, and the pain itself was huge!  That was perhaps the best pain au chocolat I ever have in my life.  Before that, I had great memories of the ones by Cafe Soleil before it closed, but the croissants from there were smaller, the chocolate filling was one single strip in the middle (and could be hard on some days), and also more expensive.  Thanks to Matt, I will definitely pay Bakers’ Window a visit in the near future to try the scones, pies, and other baked goods.

Throughout my interactions with friends, I was also wondering if I should get a new cellphone since I have been eligible to upgrade my phone since last December.  I have one of those free cellphones from Verizon with a keyboard.  ‘Tis handy but I could not use internet and such on it.  I remember when I was crossing Los Angeles back into Las Vegas with a friend three Thanksgivings ago, we were lost and the GPS guided us into a desert area without paved roads but one filled with cacti…which scraped off the tires and ended with a tow truck carrying us back to Las Vegas so I could catch my flight back to Madison.  From then, I noticed that having a technological upgrade could be a plus since I would hope to find routes or maps with a cellphone.  Even my friend Max used his iPhone to search for bus routes when we went to Chicago for the Cubs game two years ago, and ’tis a great tool to search for restaurants and such as well.  However, I could not stand typing an email with a cellphone.  Surfing through the web might be okay and texting friends…but typing a well-written email or an entry like this on a cellphone can be unbearable for me.  When I am outside of my apartment, I also do not constantly use my cellphone since I would love to spend time with the fresh air and scenes around me, so I doubt that I will be facebooking when I am walking on the streets or at work.  I still like to have the feeling of a real keyboard instead of a virtual one.  Plus, while interacting with Matt’s smartphone a while ago, my fingers could be too big for the keys.  I also like the idea of having some apps such as angrybird, but I do not think that I will like the idea of having Grindr on my phone since it can be creepy for people to know where I live…However, Chuck is encouraging me to invest in a Droid RAZR (smartphone) since that is indeed a beauty (I love the Gorilla Glass), and Max has been trying to sell me the idea of getting an iPhone since ages ago.  Therefore, this is pretty much my dilemma: should I get a Droid RAZR, and iPhone, or just stick with the simple but yet functional phone I have now?

So in short, I am doing well and life goes on.  No matter what happens in life–good or bad–I will continue to look forward for the next day while cherishing the present.  I am glad that I did not make anything too regretful at this point; I know that I will not be able to forgive myself if I did not fly back to Taipei last May to see my grandma…and I am still surrounded with the simplest joys and love in life.

Before I started going into the greater content of this entry, I would like to thank two folks for their encouraging words from the last entry.  Joe (http://josepmac.wordpress.com/) has been reading my entries and have been thoughtful with his comments from time to time.  Another is the author of http://staystrongsojourner.wordpress.com/…Although I have never met the both of them in person, I am grateful for their thoughts and action.

I reread the previous entry again and again, and I noticed that I am flawed.  I am by no means a guy who sleeps with any other guy or girl, and I do give love to friends and family.  Yes, I do treat my friends like my own brothers, but I do know my boundaries too.  For example, I do not think I can French kiss a good friend unless if the friend is a signficant other or someone I am dating.  However, I thought about some of the relationships my friends have.  ‘Tis hard to just go on a blind date and actually get into a love relationship with the person without knowing each other well.  Even when two go onto a date or two, it can be too quick to jump directly into a love relationship.  Perhaps ’tis better for two to become great friends first and then develop romance.  Yeah…love at first sight exist in the world, but the probability of two to love each other at first sight can be slim.  Most people I know who never developed the friendship phase also seem to have short and disappointing relationships at the end. Perhaps it would be better to take things slower without ruining anything by moving too fast.  Perhaps that’s why the Catholic church teaches people to not be too sexually active and sleep with tons of people before marriage.  Although some people would argue and tell me that practice makes perfect, I for sure don’t want to get sexually transmitted infections from my partner!  Perhaps I just want to save the special moment for someone special.  Perhaps God does not want me to fall romantically for a guy but a girl.  Who knows?  I guess I don’t mind going on dates with folks of both gender and see where things go.

I went to dinner with a good friend yesterday, and ’twas a great night.  The Brazilian (who held a dinner event at his place a few entries ago) was late and time-forgetting as usual being the laid-back himself, but we had a nice two-hour dinner with conversations followed by walks and drinks at The Old Fashioned.  The dinner was well-executed with one of the most impressive services I have seen in Madison.  Our server, Matt B, was courteous and would ask us how we are doing.  He also fulfilled my friend and my needs quickly, and would even smile and joke around with us too.  The food was not bad either.  The arugula salad I had was fresh, the cocktail Matt recommended complimented the salad with its freshness, the chicken dish I had was moist and great without sloppy mashed potato…although the Brussel sprouts were a bit too salty.  I also liked my chocolate dessert dish, but the curd of my friend’s lemon meringue tart tasted like fish…there was a strong fish odor for some reason…perhaps because my friend had the fish soup and the grilled Norwegian salmon dish earlier…so ’tis just a fishy package.  However, the salmon dish was excellent, and my friend was happy with it since he eyed that on the menu a week ago.  We both agreed that our server was exceptional, and that definitely shows when we went to The Old Fashioned with a really mediocre (or crappy in my eyes) service for the evening.

Anyway, life goes on.  Today is the first day of the semester, which means that hopefully I will not be feeling as lonely as during winter break.  I should also live to my words: to focus primarily on my profession and to reach for a better place.  Even if I get involved in a relationship now, it’ll be hard later since I would like to move to somewhere else within the next three to four years.  Short term relationships can be a good experience, but I do not want those to be distractions too.  I cannot really change my looks or ethnicity, and I should learn to love myself more…although gaining abs and muscles will still be a goal of mine.  I guess that I am just going to put things in God’s hands without worrying too much.  However, I’ll definitely still make a move or message a suitable person if that happens!

Disclaimer: This entry is different and contradicting to my previous entries.

There are times when I want to cuddle and make out with someone, especially since the weather has been freezing lately.  There are moments when I want to be able to sit next to a person I love as we share secrets, thoughts, frustrations, sorrows, and laughter.  There are feelings in me to love and be loved…and I guess that I have been disappointed periodically.

Yes–many of my friends would tell me that I am a lovely person and that I would make a lovely boyfriend, but something is wrong with me.  I have been doing my best to make progress professionally, academically, physically, and spiritually…but no one really cares.  I have gone onto dates with seven guys, and I would be disappointed at the end.  Most of the folks are not what I am looking for since they seem shallow with their character and vision…and with the few folks I find attracted to, they would tell me that I am a good person but that they are not romantically attracted to me.  And yes, I never heard back from them again…except for two.

I tried telling myself that I am a great guy with great character, and that these folks do not deserve me anyway.  I kept telling myself that I will be able to find the person I love in the future and I just need to be patient, but I am tired of waiting as a twenty-five year-old with no record of love relationships.  There are times when I was tempted to go to a bar to pick-up someone or to have instant sexual pleasure through websites and such, but I am not the person who enjoys a hook-up.  I want something more meaningful.  I want something that lasts longer than an hour or weeks…definitely NOTHING like the Kardashian wedding.  Why is this hard though?  Am I really fucking ugly or unattractive?  Is it because I am not muscular yet, or that I’m just not twinky?  Is it because I’m Asian?  Should I have plastic surgery to be more Caucasian-like with a nine-inch penis?  Sure, I have friends and have met many folks along the way, but a lover or significant other is different compared to a friend or buddy.  At least I would treat someone I romantically love differently compared to a good friend.

I cried in my heart tonight as I someone dear to me told me that we should not have a love relationship.  I then thought about a conversation I had with a friend and former student, that I should consider becoming a priest since I’ve always been inspirational and encouraging.  However, it is sad when I could not even try to entertain or lift myself up tonight.  Is God wanting me to be celibate forever?  Why would a simple taste of a love relationship–even a short one–be tough to ask for?

I am tired.  I am frustrated.  I am disappointed.  I am depressed.  I have offered people around me love and care…and I am not even looking for sex.  Even people would tell me that I am a good listener, but what is the point if a relationship of any sort is single-serving or one-way?

Why, God, do you have to make my life this tough and lonely?  I pray each time that I will be able to find someone who would love me deeply…and why have you forsaken me?

I have been hoping to write this entry since most of my friends would cry to me about life in graduate school, their dissolving or empty love life, and many other concerns in life. I do face these worries everyday as well, and there are definitely moments when I would just want to burst into tears and leave my frustrations aside when I stood in front of Lake Mendota. However, numerous homilies I heard from Mass and words from friends would calm me down, and I hope that this entry will serve the same purpose to many of my friends and fellow readers.

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Most of us have been educated by our parents and the society to have goals in life. As a naive child, one would want to become a firefighter or the president of the universe. When one gains more knowledge and eventually become more acquainted with the social order, one would plan to get married one day, have a nice house with children, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, things are not that easy in life, especially when one leaves the family and learn to become independent in college. Some of us would notice that we do not even fit in the current social order and things need to be changed. Many of us would use all of our strength to reach those goals, but they might not be fulfilled due to the lack of resources around or due to the timing.

When facing obstacles, some might just avoid hardships and choose an easier route. This can be hiding from the true self and work a job that is not as fulfilling. Or that one might forget about seeking love and just give in to instant hookups. For many, even if we decide to choose an easier route, we would still feel awful at the end and bitch about life. Yes, life does suck, life is full of shit, life is pointless, life is just boring…

The society has influenced many to live in fear: whether a nuclear missile will be coming towards our way tomorrow morning, whether those chopsticks made in China are bleached and toxic, whether someone would break into my apartment when I go on a vacation, etc. However, the worst fear is the fear of losing what we currently have, and not gaining what we do not have and what we desire. Many people would worry about the apocalypse and lost the motivation to live fully each day. Many folks would wonder if the relationship is not working and simply let it rot instead of doing something to make the relationship lively again. Many graduate students, like me, would plan a year in advance to submit an abstract to go to a conference in San Francisco…but became discouraged when collaborators lost the samples and did not notify others for four to five months, or when the collaborators are just slow and did not even pick up the samples prepared four weeks ago, resulting in losing the opportunity to submit an abstract. Things do not work out smoothly each time, and we need to keep reminding ourselves that. It is natural for one to feel depressed, sad, lonely, abandoned, discouraged, and sorrowful in life. Perhaps we can never find true happiness on earth, but we have to learn from each moment when we cry, when we just want to cuddle with someone, when we hate ourselves for not being able to go to San Francisco for a conference and a little break from the middle-of-nowhere, and especially when we feel hopeless. These are just some of the road blocks we face in life, and we need to persist and persevere to overcome these moments. Afterwards, we will be able to taste the sweet fruits and we would feel better. Even when we look back to those depressing days, we would simply chuckle and become a better person.

The path to taste the sweet fruits ain’t easy though. I do feel discouraged for a period, and it would not take a minute or a day for me to overcome these negative feelings and thoughts. However, I told myself that this is not going to be the last of me, and that there will be more wonders in my life in the near future.

The first principle I have is to love myself. I used to think that I am ugly as a guy who is seventy-five to eighty pounds heavier, that I am just a hopeless workaholic who is being utilized by single-serving friends, and that I am just going to die at an early age. I used to treat myself with a whole cheese cake for an evening, but soon I realized that is the wrong way to treat myself. I learned to change my short temper and have more patient with myself. I learned to love my body and soul, exercise a lot more, become more active in life, and even attempted to go on a few days. I also became more social and confident with myself, and I became more cheerful as a person. When I accomplished a task, even a babystep, I would reward myself with a dark chocolate truffle or a short trip. When I am discouraged, I would tell myself that it is not God’s will for me to focus on a certain task, and that I should focus on other items on my list in order to give me more potential and abilities to accomplish that one certain task. No longer do I look haggard with extra packages, but I still treat myself to some cheese cake sometime 🙂

The second principle I have is NOT to quarrel about money with others and to love others, especially those who are greater than myself: God, parents, brother, friends, students, peers, etc. When showing love to others, I felt happy in my soul. Although some people and the old me would bicker about money, I learned that many relationships are dissolved due to quarrels about money. I told myself that I only live once, so ’tis fine for me to enjoy my time with others. Perhaps that is why I became more social in graduate school too: getting beer with friends, going out to eat, have friends over for dinner, attending concerts with others, etc. I do enjoy some of the finer things in life, but I would be frugal with myself as I eat oatmeal in my apartment. However, saving money and contributing them to family and friends could be a wonderful thing. If money would be an issue, do not take your friend(s) to a fine dining establishment and then complain about the cost later during the evening. Instead, go to somewhere affordable so that you and your peer(s) would have a great time.

With this said, I also notice that I tend to be the giving tree in most of the dates and relationships I have been, even brotherhood. This leads to my third principle: to never expect anything back from others. Of course, ’tis nice if someone would give us gifts or spend his or her time with us, but do not expect anything from others. Think of the ability to be loving and sacrificial to be a generous gesture, and thank God that you have the ability to support, help, and show love to others in the world.

Another principle is to be patient with oneself. Many of us, even me, would dream to be in a relationship with the perfect being…and yet we would be too aggressive in that area that we would be disappointed after each date. Learn from each interaction and experience, and prepare ourselves to become greater. What is not meant to be or happen should not be forced to occur. Do not take things too personally too. Afterall, everyone has a different opinion about everything in the world!

Last but not least, enjoy the simplest happiness in life. When we are sad, be grateful to those who would listen to our speeches with agony. When we are crying, be thankful to those who would ask us if we are okay and even offer us a shoulder. When we are hopeless, look for the simplest blessings God has offered to motivate us to live through the toughest of times. Never give up on oneself, and don’t stop believin’ either!

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On a personal note, these thoughts have been circulating and forming in my mind since when I finally told myself that I would never be able to submit an abstract to go to the conference. I prayed to God, and who knew that I would change my view on that and thought of it as a wake-up call for me to focus on getting certified as a candidate for Ph.D. and to take my qualifying exam during the first half of this year? By then, I would feel more comfortable and even less stressful as a graduate student.

Another thing that has been preventing me from reaching where I want to be is due to the situation of the lab. My professor is sixty-eight and was hoping to retire. However, he accepted me to continue for a Ph.D. after I defended my Master’s thesis…and I am grateful for him. Yes, that was the same year the stupid me only applied to one university for Ph.D. I thought about taking a few years off working in labs and then reapply, but my advisor saw something in me and accepted me. He has always been a fatherly figure who cares about me and thinks of the best for me. He also published more than two hundred papers, but I guess that due to his age, he was not too eager to apply for research grants. I was actually fine with that since I am gaining lots from being a teaching assistant, and I also expanded my social network through teaching. I knew that funding would be tight, so I might not be able to fly to Tokyo or Italy for a conference. However, I was surprised that I would spend thousands of dollars on research animals and supplies, and that I was encouraged to continue publishing papers (which ain’t cheap and time-saving, by the way) too. ‘Tis true that I always aim to be as productive and even more efficient than the graduate students at Harvard, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and other prestigious colleges. Perhaps most of them are better off financially than me with a large research team, but my graduate school experience has certainly made me more independent. Although I have some collaborators, I would be the one to shift the direction of the projects in the near future and I even have the chance to design my experiments too…which is different from other graduate students I know where a topic or project was handed to them. Even until today, I still aim to be as dedicated and motivated as I can be to not just rot in the lab.

Even with love, I have never been in a serious relationship and I never know if I will. Yes, I have been discouraged after dates that never work out–simply because I do not see myself being with the other person most of the time or that I never heard back from the other person. However, I am grateful for the dating experience and I am glad for the friends I have. My close friends have been caring, and we would often meet up and chat. Family is also another great support, as I still talk to my dad and mom every weekend, and my brother and I would often text message one another to see how we are.

Perhaps 2012 started on a sour note for me, but not really! ‘Tis this experience that will make me cherish God, others, and myself more…and I just hope and pray that things will be better in the future.