Today is the Monday after finals week. I had to ask myself, " What does a researcher-in-training do or think about during break?" I even had to back-track and ask, " What is a break?" Does a budding researcher actually "turn off" during break and do absolutely nothing research (or even thinking) related?
Quick learning bits:
Work and courses is definitely not always the same schedule.
The researcher-in-training is still training outside of the training ground.
Reading and writing is more than a relaxing hobby. It is ritualistic and necessary during break.
Research is more than reading required textbooks. Research training includes required, recommended and rare gem texts that have just emerged in the field.
Of course there is there personable facet of this researcher-in training phase. Cultivating the "researcher eye" includes practice. For instance, I have to read a wide variety of texts of all different genres and put on my theoretical lens. If I believe that culture is socially constructed, then I should be tracking culture as it is constructed. Therefore, I would also need to keep track of all the new research, current events within different scopes, art and music locally and nationally and the role of technology. That means I need to keep up with my leisure and supplementary readings.
I am finally able to take a quick breather between terms to catch up on my reading and writing. This is pretty ironic since I have been reading and writing very intensely all season. Although every quarter in the doctorate program has been challenging, ever set of challenges allows the young researcher-in-training (me) to learn more about the field and myself. This quarter definitely presented a new set of growing pains. In the midst of the struggle, I have acquired some little pearls of wisdom that pave the way towards my career goal. Even though I had officially enrolled in the program about 15 months ago (Fall 2014), the epic struggle emerged the year before when I realized it was time for me to consider options beyond my hometown. Sounds trivial, but leaving home is tough, especially, when there are several generations of Chinese-American relatives who have strong cultural roots and would never want anybody to leave. I would hate to think the only ticket out of town would be admissions to advanced study, but so far that is my best excuse (for the parents at least) to step out and consider other avenues.
One of my favorite life lessons so far includes this mantra (or something like it): when something terrible happens, something beautiful always comes out of it. As many obstacles and setbacks I have faced before going back to school, I had learned a lot about people, places, and life.
The next lesson would be: don't feel guilty for seizing opportunities presented. I remember leaving my previous job and somebody at the office snapped about my anticipated departure when I was present and engaged in my work. Another co-worker made some other comment about how I was going off to better places. Even the supervisor, himself, casted a couple verbal stones. Apparently a 14 month notice for transitioning was either way too short or drawn out way too long. This leads to the next life lesson that is transferable to any employment situation: cut the cord cleanly and quickly.
As I have gained more work experience, I realized that quitting is not always bad. I remember growing up and my parents would always say, " Don't give up, Don't quit. QUITTING IS BAD!" I do have to give them a lot of credit since they were trying to give me some kind of motivation to persevere and hang tough. I have to admit, resigning from a position should not always be the first option to consider, but knowing when the conditions of the job are going one way (which is south) is extremely helpful for all parties involved. Of course there are strategies involved with this process. I would probably have to devote an entire blog post to the art of making a graceful exit.
On the other hand, being a quitter isn't the way to greatness. This may sound completely contradictory to the previous lesson, but sometimes when other opportunities (work, research, otherwise) have not presented themselves, the best strategy is to just stay put and hang on. And to keep believing that something will open up when the right timing occurs. Handling research projects is like climbing on a furious beast who is trying to throw me off. Chasing dreams and believing is extremely difficult. The glories of being a researcher is not the fame or the money. It is relishing the freedom to chase one's dreams.