As a second-semester junior, I am expected to have the next part of my life charted out. Some of my peers have the rest of their lives planned: where they want to go to graduate school, and to study what, and in which area they envision themselves settling down.
I can’t say the same. Up until three months ago, I didn’t even know if I wanted to go to medical school. I have no immediate plans to take the MCAT, still have two remaining pre-med classes to take, and have no dream medical school.
I knew I wanted to take a gap year after graduating, but I didn’t know to do what or to go where.
Trying to map my future feels like trying to complete a 9×9 Sudoku puzzle with only 3 clues. The possibilities are endless, and anything can be an answer.
Most of the time, I am pretty good at taking life one step at a time. But some days, I am overwhelmed by the thoughts of the future – immediate and distant. These last three weeks have been especially difficult.
As the semester begins to wrap up, I am confronted with a mountain of schoolwork and exams, as well as extracurricular commitments that have built up. This is the immediate hurdle I must overcome.
At the same time, this is no regular semester – it is my third to last semester as an undergraduate. At the conclusion of next semester, some of my peers will know where they will be spending their next four years as a graduate student. In the semester after that, we will be graduating college, and heading off to another bigger, and hopefully better, chapter of our lives.
Much of the planning, then, takes place this semester. Much of this planning, though, feels like grasping for air – much time wasted, but very little gained, if at all.
Fortunately, I am now at a much better place than I was three months ago.
In the upcoming year, I will be working to attain a Master’s degree in Bioethics. In my near future, I see a career as an ethicist, which lines up neatly with the bulk of the research I have been doing in the last three years.
And hopefully, one day not too far away, I will attend medical school and ultimately become a neurosurgeon or neurologist.
As the dust settles, I am starting to see a path.
I am reminded of a Chinese idiom, “车到山前必有路，船到桥头自然直。” The literal translation is, “When the train gets to the mountain, there will be a way; when the boat gets to the pier-head, it will go straight with the current.”
Things are finally starting to fall into place. I am beginning to have a direction in life, and can rest easy that I have an ultimate goal I’d like to achieve.
But very little of this was planned. I ended up in Cleveland for college because all of my other plans fell through. I joined a sorority on a hunch. I applied for the Bioethics program on a whim.
Still, the old Chinese idiom was right – when you get to the mountain, there will be a path.
For some people, this path is planned. But for me, it is forged, one step at a time.
Writer’s Note: Some translators equate the Chinese idiom with the English saying, “We’ll cross the bridge when we get to it.” I personally think that these two sayings convey slightly different messages.
Since being back home, I’ve met up with some old friends and revisited some old places.
One such place is SoHo, or South of Houston St, a booming shopping and art district in lower Manhattan. Honestly, I’ve become pretty disenchanted with the store offerings at SoHo (and consumerism as a whole), so I’m more interested in finding places to take fancy photographs. So far, the hunt is still on.
Day time activities aside, my favorite thing to do in the city is walking around at night. I absolutely love the night lights of New York, and although it means I grew up never seeing a star in the night sky, I still would not have traded it for the world. Luckily for me, I got friends who are more than glad to indulge me in some nighttime city exploring.
Our original plan was to go watch one of our friends get a tattoo – but he got the tattoo without me! So we rearranged our itinerary, and settled for walking around our old high school neighborhood instead.
I finally got the chance to visit The Oculus, the main building of the World Trade Center transportation hub. A friend I was with said it best when he described it as a Venus fly trap from far away. A beautiful Venus fly trap, but a Venus fly trap nonetheless.
The structure was designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish neofuturistic architect (think the late great Zaha Hadid). If I am being honest, I think the architecture on the outside is eye-catching, but doesn’t necessarily belong. The interior, however, is absolutely breathtaking with its clean white lines and futuristic feel.
Lastly, I rounded the last few days off with a belated holiday party with another old group of friends. This group of friends is very special to me—they are people I’ve grown up with. We’ve known each other for ages, and it is honestly always such a joy to round the year off with them.
The end of the year is always a time for reminiscing. I love catching up with old friends to share stories about our college lives, which for the time being seem like a distant fairytale.
That’s the thing about college, especially when you go to a college so far away. Any break or return home feels more like a vacation or an escape from reality. It is a weird feeling, especially when you think about how this very same place used to be such a big part of our lives, and now we’re completely focused on a different place.
But that’s life, right? You complete one chapter and you move on, but you really don’t think about how far you’ve come until you take a step back and revisit all the chapters you’ve already written.
Until next time! Happy New Year’s (soon)! I’d have a toast to that. 😉
Writer’s Note: Benjamin Kabak over at CityLabs @TheAtlantic wrote an interesting critique of the shortcomings of Calatrava’s design, specifically the sacrificing of function for form. It can be read here.
I cannot believe there are only 5 days left of 2016 – and I definitely cannot believe that it’s been 23 days since I last posted. (Not such a great track record for a new endeavor, now is it?) I’ve accumulated some photos in the three-week period I’ve spent with Marcus, my trusty Pentax KS2. While I’ve been uploading select photos onto Project 365, here are some of the outtakes form this month-long period that didn’t quite make it to any blog posts.
Before I left Cleveland for winter break, I took some time off after finals to visit the museums around campus. I stopped by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) and Cleveland Museum of Art.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is currently putting on a food exhibit called Our Global Kitchen (here); it centers around food and its cultural influences and impacts. It’s incredibly fascinating, and the museum did a great job building interactive and fun displays. There is also a food kitchen, hosted weekly in conjunction with Whole Foods Market.
I also visited the Cleveland Museum of Art, a place which I’ve photographed extensively already. Though, I must say, with 55,000 sqm of floor space, you’re always discovering new things. The Asian art galleries are my favorite, but I decided to venture to cover the whole gallery and see what new items were up on rotation.
I was not disappointed. I came across the Wade Family Tiffany Jewels (here) in Gallery 221. I also discovered Gallery 301, also known as the Collector’s Cabinet. It sits perched on the third floor, overlooking the Baroque gallery. The gallery space is incredibly tiny, but what it lacks in floor space it makes up for in peace and view.
Wade Park, the greenspace that surrounds the CMA and CMNH is always beautiful during the winter time. The lighting installations look great among the fresh snow we got in Cleveland during the time.
In addition to museum hopping, I spent a lot of time eating! I love photographing food, because the colors offer great contrast. My favorite is when there is movement; I think food is meant to be eaten so I love photographing food that’s half eaten or being eaten. What better way to show that food tastes good than by photographing people eating it, right?
I’ve got to give credit where credit is due, and I must say that Cleveland’s food scene is a solid A+. Most restaurants generally aren’t very expensive, and you get great food for what you pay for. I don’t think I’ve had a bad meal at a restaurant in the 3 years I’ve been in Cleveland.
Upon returning to NYC, I checked out the Ai Weiwei exhibit at Lisson Gallery (read more here). My favorite part is definitely the wallpaper off to the side of the gallery. After speaking with the gallery employee, I learned that Ai Weiwei left little description of the wallpaper, though from the motifs it is clear that he was inspired by recent events in Syria and his time spent with refugees in Greece.
Ai has a wonderful way of combining art with political activism. He famously said, “The purpose of art is the fight for freedom.” This installation is no different. The use of tree trunks collected from Southern China alludes to the Chinese diaspora in the 50’s and 60’s, as well as shows Ai’s tendency to mix the traditional with the modern and contemporary.
The exhibit itself is also a comment on modern society. From the Gallery Press Release, “The iron roots and tree trunks shown in New York are presented in a natural, untreated state, appearing at first glance as organic forms, yet upon closer inspection, reveal their artificiality. Not born of nature but made by human hands, the works, themselves contorted by the surrounding landscape, represent a society uprooted by industrialisation and modernisation, illustrating how progress can often come at the expense of cultural and societal well-being.” (here)
There is so much that can be explored in Ai’s exhibit, too much for this blog post, but perhaps I will write a review on it at a later date. For now, enjoy some more shots taken at the gallery.
All in all, it is great being home. I’m on day 5 of being home, most of which consists of lazing around in my sweet PJs.
In the event that I don’t post in the next week or so, have a happy new year and happy holidays!
Writer’s notes: (1) Ai Weiwei is a well-known Chinese artist and activist. You can learn more about him here. (2) I recently started watching Westworld, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you have access to HBO/HBO Go or have a way of getting access to it, check it out. Read more about Westworld here.