I was interviewed for a job where I was once asked:
What were your motivating factors in making decisions?
I simply hadn’t thought about it before. Through the years, my interests and personality have changed, and I’ve become things which I thought I could never be back in my childhood. For example, I was once so timid that I was sent to the elementary guidance counselor every year for being “painfully shy.” I backed out of multiple opportunities and competitions as a child because I was so frozen by the thought of going anywhere without knowing anyone. Nowadays, people I meet would scoff at the idea. Back in my undergrad, I even headed an org as president and did all the typical student leader stuff, including networking and whatchamahoozits. Now in hindsight, although these experiences seem to be in polarities, they had a common denominator in my brain. And… it was fun.
Breaking it down
Back in elementary, the moment training and competition came into conflict with what I thought then were important life experiences -e.g. festivals, friends, annual booths- was the spark that told me I should quit. Of course, most adults thought this was a mistake; I had booming potential in nerd Olympics and could only get better. I, too, had deep regret sometime in my early twenties about how I didn’t grab opportunities that were out of the ordinary. Doing a double take on that though, I am happy and thankful that people around me supported decisions based on my gut and not on my resume. I am no longer as resentful of my younger self because of what-ifs and have come into peace to terms with my thought process.
Getting into academia
I had not once considered going down the PhD route. I got in a relatively lucrative graduate role in corporate, and I thought I was happy at my first actual job. Taking to heart all the life advice from elders all the wiser, I looked for continuous learning programs abroad. It had been my personal goal to live in a different country and I heard the best time to do these outstanding “me” things was in your early twenties. I would agree but not only because of fewer commitments (no family, etc.) but also because of better physical health (lol). Long story short, I got into a master’s program of my choice in Japan after hyper-focusing on it for 3 whole years.
During these 2 years abroad, I grabbed all opportunities to go around the world and basically make good use of the university’s impressive global network. Specifically, I got into a summer program in Europe that I almost had to drop because it was conflicting with a major that I needed to take so I won’t wouldn’t be delayed. I was SO EXTREMELY LUCKY I was that it was that one year that the university was shifting calendars and that specific course was offered TWICE. Knowing this, I eventually asked permission and dropped it. Because of this thought, *this momentous very important decision*, I cross-enrolled into an intensive elective to make up for units that I’d be dropping that semester.
This happy little accident solely driven by my adamant pursuit of fun was what introduced me to my future PI. Innocently, this very course gave direction to my master’s thesis, which I then thought would be a one-off in my bucket list of life.
So, here I am now being at a high height I never thought possible, at a career so far off from my original. I am very privileged to be able to freely seek what gives my life meaning.I hope this lighthearted tale reminds anyone who reads it (including perhaps future me) to trust yourself, even at moments when it seemingly doesn’t make sense. It will.
Thank you to this week's story teller, Lian Castillo, for sharing this uplifting and affirming message! You can find Lian on Twitter at @liansabella for more.