Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 1: I choose life

Summer has officially begun for me! I have moved out of my dorm and am currently crashing at bro's place for the week until I fly home next Thursday (thanks bro! shout out, he's the best big bro anyone could get!). Heh, and aside from the chaos of packing one's room by oneself and moving out (wow, I totally did that on my own, *feels proud*), I'd say things are off to a great start. In the words of a friend who probably doesn't even read this blog, I am "an independent black woman who don't need no man"... well, okay, so he was saying it to my friend who is actually half black, but I like to think it applies to me too. :-)

When I realized mid-semester the hard truth about this summer, which came hurling toward me like a freight train with some less-than-happy breaks,  I was advised to blog. (Read: I don't have a cool, super-fly, ends with "Inc." or "Co." internship-- OH MY GOSH WHAT AM I DOING?? Again, thanks bro for the tip about writing.)

So here's me... blogging.

Um.

Don't get me wrong, I've got plenty to talk about, but the question becomes what is worth writing down and where to begin. For now, I'll discuss my qualms and excitement about this summer.

Like I mentioned above, I don't have an internship this summer. Cool starry bra, you might be thinking, but actually, this was a really big blow to my pride initially (I'm happy to say things have changed, see below). "Why?," you might ask? (How are you supposed to punctuate that?!) Because everyone else and their mom has an internship... okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration, but at least at MIT for Course II (MechE) it sure feels like the truth. Sometime around the start of the spring semester people start talking about summer plans. Whether it be to fantasize about summer being in sight, brag about snagging a sah-weet internship already from some fall job-hunting, or just curious who will be in your area of the globe for summer (if you're course 6, EECS, you're pretty much set on knowing everyone is in the SF area or MIT, lol...), it's a dangerous game to play if you've not secured a job for the summer.

But it's just a summer job, right? Like, what's the big deal? Chillax dude.

Wrong.

Well, right, but amidst the pressure of MIT, it's hard to keep that healthy, outside perspective. Especially the summer after your junior year. This internship, at least for my major, is particularly important because if your company likes you and you like them, you can end the summer with a job offer for post graduation and avoid the stress of looking for a job your senior year. However, sometime during the semester, I realized I plan to go on for grad school (right now the plan is to become a professor, heh, we'll see...definitely go on for my masters though) so the stress of this summer lessened. However, the pride factor didn't change really. All too often I had encounters like the following:

Classmate: "Hey Chacha! What are you doing for the summer?"
Me: "Hah, um... I'm going home! Gonna 'find myself' as I'm putting it. Need a break and figured this was the best summer to do it."
Classmate: *slight pause* "Yeah, I can see the importance of that. Neat."
Me: "How about you? What're you up to?"
Classmate: "Oh, I've got an internship at I'm-A-Badass Inc. in TX [or CA]"
Me: "Wow! Congrats! That's intense."
Classmate: "Yeah... But have fun with your summer!"

And while that doesn't seem like such a bad conversation, and you may be thinking I'm reading into this too much, I literally only know one other person who is just going home for the summer. It was sort of a blow to the pride to not respond with "oh yeah, I have a neat internship too!"

So why the break?

Oh boy, where to start... Mostly, I found myself having to force myself to apply to internships. I wasn't excited about "thinking" this summer. That is, I wasn't excited about experiencing industry/etc. I was/am just feeling a little burnt out. Furthermore, every single day at MIT has been a struggle for me, and quite frankly, I'm exhausted.

I am tired.

There, I said it. Part of me wanted to give up at some point this year. Like, at the end of Spring Break I was rrrrreally tempted to just not return. Even in my connecting flight in TX every time they announced a flight leaving for LAX I cringed and wished I could be on that flight. But I was like "NOOOOO, MIT is a blessing! It's hard to view it like that at times, but you can't give into the 'game' that many of us get caught up in! Si se puede!" So after some introspection, melt downs, heart to hearts with friends and family (thanks guys!), I realized what I was fantasizing about doing during the day was non-academic stuff: traveling the world, cooking, eating, learning to cook, walking down farmers markets in Italy, working with my hands...

Simply put: I fantasized about LIFE.

But Chacha, what have you been doing for the past 20 years then? Silly girl, you be crazy. 

No. I'm not. Seriously. The shame about MIT is that we often place this burden upon ourselves to "get the grades" when in reality, that isn't all life has to offer, at least for me, that's not all I want my life to reflect. THIS IS THE KEY POINT FOLKS: I want more than just "the grades". There are some brilliant enough to learn about themselves and get a 4.5+ GPA, and maybe if I were more diligent about my studies perhaps I could be one of them, but for the past three years I have not been said student. At some point this semester I snapped and realized that time was going by whether I liked it or not and if I didn't start living a life of purpose, I was going to wake up in 30 years, have a real mid-life crisis, and have regrets. Regrets not of making bad decisions, but of not making decisions-- that's what I fear most: living complacently. Sure, I'll make mistakes and probably wish I hadn't chosen to do this or that, but the point is just that-- I want my life to be a series of choices. I want to choose each day to live in the present and, in the words of my sensei, do the very best I can do each day, right now-- I don't want my life just to be me randomly following a path, head down, thinking that at some point in the future I'll really start living life. But alas, I diverge, I shall elaborate on a purposeful life in another post I suppose, for now, my summer.

So, you're not interning, you've (sort of) come to terms with that. What are you doing?

Like I mentioned before, I'm "finding myself." What does that mean? Well, if I had the money, I'd pull a Julia Roberts and travel all over, but alas, for now I am doing Eat, Pray, Love sans the expensive travel... and I suppose sans the random hookup with an old, exotic dude... *shivers* I realize that while I plan to go on to become a professor, and part of me is really excited about that, part of me is scared that I'll be wasting my time and that my true calling is to do something else (like travel and eat and build stuff, yeah, really specific goals, I know). So to satisfy that fear, I'm dedicating this summer to working with my hands (building houses for Habitat for Humanity), tutoring (to test the waters of teaching/practice how to explain concepts), and hopefully shadowing an Italian chef back home. (I plan to take a gap year before grad school, during which I plan to study at a culinary academy in Italy, so this is a little preview into what that might be like.) In my free time I plan to take road trips, study Spanish and Chinese, do some GRE prep, learn to sketch, and lots and lots of contemplative prayer. The biggest point of this summer is to discovery who I am, who I want to become, and hopefully in doing so, figure out what type of person would be best to share this journey of life with. (Another blog post, but yeah, dating, sort of disillusioned with the common view of that too.)

But how will you know when you've found yourself? (Sensei, I'm thinking of our conversation.)

Quite frankly, I don't know. I've been reared with the idea of SMART goals: Specific, uh, somethin somethin blah blah... but honestly, I'm okay with venturing into the unknown. I acknowledge that life, figuring out who we are, etc, is a, well, life-long adventure. I by no means am tricking myself into thinking that at the end of the summer I'll be like "Alright folks, I've got me all figured out. I'm going to do a, b, c, and marry someone with these characteristics, and everything will be peachy." No, that's nonsense. But, I do hope two things will result from this summer: 1) I'll be bored out of my mind and realize that I'm best suited for an academic life like I suspect. In doing this, I believe I'll be better able to focus in school next year and be less likely to space out wondering "what if I did..." (I really hate that game, "what if." So pointless. You are who you are. You can must from your past, live in the present, and make choices for the future.) 2) I hope to have a better idea what I want in a future spouse. Well, and I suppose 3) is to become in wicked good shape. I want to lose the 15 lbs I've put on this year. Joy... (and good luck with that, given I'll be cookin' up all sorts of yummies!)

That second point might seem a bit premature given I'm only 20 (nearly 21, woo, shows how young I am that I still play the "rounding up" game) and I'll elaborate more on my view of dating in another post, but a precursor to figuring out what type of person I'd be happy with I think is figuring out who I am/want to become. This is where lots and lots of prayer/meditation/moments with nature comes in. It occurred to me, if I believe in an all knowing God, who knows me better than I know myself, wouldn't it make sense to further get to know Him first (and His creation)? (Another post on this topic!) Part of my enthusiasm about leading a life of purpose I think stems from this disappointment in how unappreciative I've been of everything, but especially my daily life. I think there is much wisdom I can gain from a better spiritual life. Furthermore, I believe that I was blessed with a mind designed to think and most importantly, make choices. I recently watched this video and it really struck me. Our life is comprised of the grand sum of our "daily life." I sometimes have pity parties for myself given my own physical obstacles, but I must choose to remind myself that every day is a blessing. Every day, is my choice. Perhaps not always what happens to me, but definitely what I learn from it.

While I fear this post has many things I just barely touched, if you have stuck with me this far, I thank you. I hope to leave you with this:

Do not simply live, but rather, choose life.

Much love,
Chacha