So what matters when your looking for the magical nirvana? Skip nirvana, I just and simply want to be happy. I have not matured to the point as to give up all my dreams for some coins and a promised of steady future, but I don’t want to be hungry like I have been couple days of my life. Even more importantly I will do all I can to prevent my family from reaching that state, “All” I can do.
It has appeared to me that until you get recognized by your peers as a master in your discipline, you are going have to beg or steal to survive. What is… or how do you achieve mastery? I have tried to think about people that in my surrounding I would consider masters. As far as I can tell they all do something that they love (or closely related), they all have been doing it forever and they have sacrificed one for the other (careers or family).
I have poured into this blog my confusion about family, love and now this. I am sure, that I will prioritize my family over work, me or money. I know now, that I would like to have one, but I have to feed them (or at least do my part in it). I’m too restless to be a trophy husband (stay-home dad is a whole different story, I’m quite fine with that notion).
I have dreams that come with perfect jobs, which unfortunately can/will take many years to master. I can do any number of things, I feel that flexibility and problem solving are my to biggest strengths. Thus, there is probably some job (that I will love) that pays amazingly-well and one (I would die for) that pays poorly. So, how does one squeeze his entire existence into two pages in such a way that would protect his future family? Especially, from the not so conferrable moments of seeing food you can’t afford when your hungry that day.
Today I have done, what I have been uneasy about for a while. I have compared indexes (transcripts) with a Polish educated, university graduate. Needless to say, not only I am convinced of the worthlessness of US education system (as far as academics that is, there are some seldom perks to it), I have gained a devoted fan of that idea. I had shown sample SAT, GRE tests is hopes of… (not sure why). Although the reaction wasn’t unnatural, it was quite unexpected. She cried.
I spoke with one of my best friends some time ago. It appears that although I consider her much smarter then ninety percent of chemist I have met, she is being drowned in grade dependent system. From what I understand it does not matter as much as it should how good of a researcher she is, but how well she did on exams.
Which brings me to a comparison I manage to avoid for a while. In US doctoral program, first thing any student does is take six core classes (not seminars, classes with home works and exams, think: high school), some seminars and lectures to help ease into the process. Reason for those classes (I took them and they are no different from the normal undergraduate once) is in my opinion a weak attempt to, at least academically, catch up with the rest of the world.
US has this nice system of petting students to and through half of college. You get guided through high school, “well”-rounded in college (hmm bullshit…) and educated in graduate school and then you do research. By the PhD you get close to be equal to for example EU counterparts. In EU (I will use Poland for example), you get well rounded by middle of high school, educated by middle of undergraduate, by the time you graduate your going for a master degree and defense. Getting into a PhD program just means continuing with the process.
BS is a proper shortcut for my degree. If I wanted to get a PhD in Poland I would have to spend two-plus years for master and five-plus for doctorate. Why? BS is equivalent to a three year program here, I took me five years to get it… I did the math some time ago, and I cried.
Today’s activities were simple and not worth mentioning. I bought stamps, and so another wave of postcards will be send out rather sooner then later. Do not get to exited it is called “snail mail” for a reason. Day twenty of my trip and I would like to look back at what I have wrote. Over the past several entries I talked about existence and the issues I have with it.
Many moons ago, life was so high paced that even I, being a three-quarters full kind of guy (rather then half empty), felt stressed. Grades was what defined you as a person and who you are was lost in translation when GPA (Grade Point Average) was so big as to eclipse the sun by itself. It all mattered so much. I cracked. I have lost the ability to worry. I still care and that won’t change ever.
Now I smile, I am happy and I feel alive. I do not get bend out of shape over small things. I try my best and do not worry about results (the best I did is the best I can do). Although I give reasons, I do not make excuses. My self discovery over the past years led me to decide that maybe a break from school and a long vacation is what I needed more then a Ph.D. So far it has been working out for me, although I probably won’t do as well as the best one percent, I bet I will be healthier and happier then the other ninety-nine.
I have not looked at my resume ever since I booked the plane tickets. So what has scared me about my CV so much as to write a whole entry just about it? CV in its essence is asking you to quantify your life experiences, categorize your skills and provide a shortcut for the employers. So, in five seconds you can be judge on your ability to do a job you have been training for in one way or other for the past decade or so. Here is where I fail.
How does one summarize years of self exploration, multi-direction college studies, and a large set of skills which although useful, are not very quantifiable? Among standard course work I tried to be busy with extra curricula activities and picked up few hobbies. How do you explain in two pages that you can learn anything and that your good with your hands? How do you show that your great with people and that if possible you can “button up” even the most stiff administrative problem to completion?
Thought was not triggered by the second beer, but an idea too common to me to be ignored was described. I had the pleasure to have one of our (wouldn’t you like to know) “business lunches” today. As I recall this is where the spark was born, blowing up to a full scale inferno that same evening.
How do you respond to the question: “Oh, you were in Europe? How was Poland?” ? It is a rather simple question, with an obvious answer: “Great!”. I would feel stupid answering that, but I have a hard time imagining, the legions of people, asking this question, being capable of handling any other answer. Any other “thing” requires a close consideration of the interests of the asking party. Although for the most part the question is asked as a part of a polite “chit-chat”, should one sink to that low of a level? Respond with the same lack of interest about my own experience?
If you care, you would ask a question that show your interest. Otherwise your dissatisfaction with “Great!” is as hypocritical as is: “bombing for peace” or “fucking for virginity”. I probably would like to tell you that based on the few weeks I spent on the old continent, that in general people are “better”, that Europe is so much better than US (not saying that US is bad, but there has to be a last place), etc. Have I not been saying this for years now? Most of my friends are probably sick and tired of me saying the same thing I would say if the question was asked of me.
Yet, I will be asked it thousands of times and I will patiently repeat that I had fun and that it was awesome. Anything but superlatives will give my uninterested acquaintances a chance to pretend that they care. There is a small chance that once in a while, someone, who for example does not live in am imaginary town on the Ocean side, will ask a specific question. Something that will give me a chance to happily elaborate and give, debate, present issue(s) I have faced. Unfortunately, rest will hear “Great!” and be happy that they have cared once again.