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.
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!
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.