Thursday, March 06, 2008

二八年華's Woes & Joy

There's nothing more strange than finding friends' latest updates NOT from any personal/group e-mail's but from a random peak at their "relationship status" or, to be more precise, their "engagement status" on facebook.

Even though until a month ago I was NEVER on facebook and hardly knew any of the features in there ...

Some of the updates put me in shock - friends who weren't dating when I left the states or in the process of beginning to date someone or still talking over the phone with me about getting a thing about someone yet not being sure of whether he/she is the one ... Now all those friends are engaged.

Shocking, as I said.

One of the couples with whom I even had the most random connection as being the only "mutual" friend of theirs at the very beginning stage of their relationship ...

How much life passes by you and you don't even notice ... How many moments of "THE most important days of my life!" of your friends pass by and you don't even realize. How much of your own life passes by and they don't even have a clue ... How much of your own important/unimportant moments pass by unshared by those who once were called dear companies/friends in life.

All b/c of a lifestyle of mobility that I'm in, I suppose. "Out of sight, out of mind," as people say. It goes both ways, however, and neither my friends nor I are guiltless of that statement.

Still, how many weddings/engagement stories/baby showers am I going to miss before one day I realize that there will be hardly anyone there sharing my engagement/wedding/baby shower story?

If there are going to be any, that is ...

I have never felt more useless and small and incompetent about myself as I have over the past few months (or years maybe?). The constant feeling of having not read enough, not studied enough, not gotten used to the theoretical jargons enough, not exposed myself to a wide of disciplines enough ... The feeling that if I don't publish I am indeed going to perish even as a grad student the next minute ... The feeling that if I don't get this bs-ed abstract accepted by this conference panel then I stand good for nothing in front of the eyes of some of the distinguished seniors of my field ...

I can't even remember the last time I "dreamed" - dreaming in the sense of believing in a greater cause in life, having a sense of purpose, holding on to a meaningful reason to go on, or bursting out with passion for something - or even had the slightest faith in such things.

Literally - if a 10, 12, 15, or 18-year-old comes up to me and asks, "What do you wanna do when you graduate? What is your dream, Ms. Shaw?" I'd be tongue-twisted. It's a simple question, I know. But I no longer have the answer (or am I too ashamed of the answer that I could possibly give?).

'Cuz to me, "I want to be a professor" just doesn't sound right. It doesn't sound right b/c I don't know what would be the second part of the sentence be - "I want to be a professor b/c ..."

B/c of what?

B/c then I can get a base salary secured before the 7th year hits when I'm left open on the academic dissection table around which a bunch of senior colleagues tell me that I may stay or leave?

And for them to tell me whether I'm worth it or not? Or if I have any worth at all?

Sorry for the cynicism, but somebody did tell me straight out the other day - "You have no excuse not to write b/c that's the only way to prove your competency in scholarship".

Even if I know - or I "think" - I'm still worth *something* even if I have no competency in scholarship?

So perhaps one of the hardest things about staying and succeeding in academia isn't about getting the chapters done or the papers published or the conference proposals accepted but about keeping one's dreams and passions and the confidence in those things up high.

'Cuz the chapters and the papers and the conference proposals may be done with or without a heart - most of the academic productions are like garbage dumped onto the next journal or next conference in line regardless of if they actually behold much true value or break any grounds in human society. But to stay alive and passionate and human, it's not about the chapters/papers/proposals.

Academia asks one to be smart, precise, accurate, logical, knowledgeable, evidence-giving, and counter-argument-well-thought-through. However, academia doesn't ask one to be gentle, caring, compassionate, emotional, sentimental, broad-minded, multi-interested, or - in one word - human. Nor does it teach it.

Education does. Academia doesn't.

(even though how ironic it is that academia supposedly is the resource pool for the pillars of education called "teachers" or "prof's")

After 4.5 years, I finally get it.

Thought from a brighter perspective - perhaps b/c it has cost me all this time to see the flesh and bones of academia that I may have no more illusions or rosy pictures of it that I may once and for all move on to focus on what I do want and what I do believe in, and go after them with all of my heart.

I have a responsibility to finish; but I have a greater responsibility to be human and be stewardship of the heart and soul and passions and values and perspectives that God's given me.

So coming back to my original point of finding out friends' engagement status on facebook ... Sometimes I feel pathetic about myself when I see people around me move on to the next stage in life while I'm still here struggling with the basic Q's of "who I am", "what I wanna do", or "what dreams do I have" as if I'm a senior year girl in high school ... And it seems like I'm hopelessly recalcitrant about letting go of myself and stepping into the next stage in life unless I have those Q's figured out first ...

But hey, according to the Chinese idiom -「二八年華」- I still have a right to party and be free with my mind and go crazy about living like a nomad who's about to move in 3 weeks yah?

Nod please.

梅ちゃん at 3:02:00 AM



at 3/20/08, 1:24 AM Blogger Ferdinand said...

Nod. :)
I like the tone in this post, May-yi...

at 4/24/08, 11:13 PM Blogger Chat Noir said...

nod here. :)

at 4/28/08, 1:53 PM Blogger greengelato said...

hi mayyi... margaret lee here, hi. :) i forgot that you had a blog- now that i use google reader, i can keep better track of these things. :)

lots of resonating here at this end of the coast. do you know what's actually *helping* my productivity? i picked up a full time job. i think it really helps to have something non-grad school related that kind of grounds your work identity in something other than the academic rat race. it's not really sustainable (can't do this next year) but it's done some major self-esteem damage repair. :)


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