Hello :)

It’s been a minute, wordpress. I don’t think the title of my blog applies anymore. I’m thinking of starting blogging again, because as you know, life happens. I changed courses quite drastically, I must say. I’m no longer a graduate student. I graduated last October with my master’s degree and left the city I fell in love with this past April. I moved back to my home state, but to the southern part instead. I had a job for a few months but then suddenly lost it and now I’m a bit lost and confused.

I’ve been searching for employment for two weeks now, looking in the biotech sector to do research and development but also in the education sector. I thoroughly enjoyed my time mentoring high school students while in graduate school, and when I tutored and taught briefly at community college. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t go get my teaching certificate so I could teach high school students but then again, I had a passion for research and lab work, so I followed my heart for a bit. Now, I feel like I’m back at square one, unsure of where to go from here.

You see, through all this, I’ve been discovering myself. I get down on myself quite often and I must say, I see the world with a glass half empty point of view. Or I did, I should say. I have been trying my best to see this as an opportunity, a blessing in disguise. It is a chance for me to figure out what I want to do with my life and career and I’ve been chasing my hobbies lately.

I went skydiving. If you know me, you know I absolutely hate heights and free falling. I don’t actively seek out adventure and I’m more of a homebody, sit on the couch and watch a baseball game and cuddle or read a good book at a coffee shop with my dogs type of girl. The most adventurous I’ve been is going to the ball park for a baseball game on a Monday night.

I dyed my hair and got it cut short.

I started to boulder and rock climb more, everyday in fact for over a week straight.

I run more now than I have in months. I’ve also got the Chicago Marathon coming up in a few short weeks.

I’m slowly beginning to physically and mentally prepare myself for a triathalon.

I’ve fallen in love. And let myself fall in love wholeheartedly, to the point where I’ve gotten heartbroken and now am hurting and confused.

Most importantly, I’m beginning to turn my life over to God. I believe in a higher power but I never grew up religious. However, nothing in my life made sense. I didn’t understand why I was being “punished” with mental illnesses and pain and emotional distress. I didn’t understand why I never managed to kill myself despite trying at a minimum of three times. I didn’t understand why I self-harmed for 10 years and am now left with the scars as reminders. I did, however, understand it the only way I could: because I was a failure, a mistake for my parents, a problem and I needed to be punished.

Now, however, I’m starting to see a purpose to my struggles. I’ve been able to speak out about my suffering, my experiences, my pain, as a way to help my friends understand that even the best of us who seem to have it all together can suffer. I’m more outspoken about my mental health because I believe in my heart that there is a meaning behind why this happened to me and in my lifetime. I share my story because if I can save one person from taking their own life, then I have won this battle with my mental illnesses.

I’m not going to preach to the choir about finding God and believing in His greater power, because truthfully, I don’t even know Him fully. I’m just scratching the surface. However, I can say that when I went skydiving, I put my life in His hands and let him guide me to safety. And I am doing that with my life too. I’m turning over my heart to God because He is the only one that knows who is the right one my heart belongs to. He is the only one that can bring two hearts together as one and while I feel I know who I want to be with, only God can provide me with the right individual in due time. I don’t know where I’ll end up in a day, in a week, in a month. I don’t know if I’ll have a job or a roof over my head or money to keep myself alive or if I’ll have the privilege of being somebody’s girlfriend and partner, but I do know that God’s timing is right and that it will work out in the end the way it is meant to work out.

He wouldn’t give me anything I am not strong enough to handle. I may not see my strength now, but when I look back, I’ll know exactly how strong I had to be to overcome the things I have and will have to in life.

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A Calm Amidst the Storm

Strange, right? It is something that I have been thinking about lately. What is the one thing that keeps you grounded and focused when the rest of your world is falling apart and spinning to pieces?

For me, that is lab. It is this experience. I went into my undergraduate time thinking that I will never set foot in a wet lab because that is something that I cannot see myself doing ever. Being cooped up inside a research laboratory, sitting in front of an illuminated computer screen late into the night analyzing data, was something that I told myself — promised myself and others around me — that I would never in my life. Thus, I started seeking out clinical experience and dry labs to participate in. I found a clinical lab to volunteer in my first year or so at UCLA but then, when things got rough in my personal life as well as with the transfer process, academics, and my job, I decided I needed a break from the volunteering and to reevaluate all that I want out of my life.

It really came when I received my rejection letter from applying to be a Resident Assistant for my junior year. All my goals and aspirations from before this moment seemed so solidified; I was motivated and ready to tackle it all head-on. But then that one email changed everything for me. Drastic? Not really. From the time I received that email, I have been reevaluating things since. I have decided to venture down a road I promised myself I would never go down: to pursue medicine and go into molecular biology research.

That all said, I am so glad I decided to go down this path. In spite of everything that is happening in my personal life right now, the time I spend in lab is what keeps me calm. It is the place I want to go and am willing to go to after a long night, a long day in class, or just the typical day. Regardless of what it is I am doing for other aspects of my life, I am willing to drop everything and head into lab to make some acrylamide gels or grow bacteria or re-suspend pellets.

Opportunities like this come once in a lifetime, I like to think. Things fell into place in order for me to receive this offer and opportunity to work in the lab more full-time for the remainder of my undergraduate career. Sometimes I feel like the toys which toddlers play with, where there are various shapes and they need to be placed through the corresponding holes. It is as if there are thousands of shapes waiting to fall into place, and the one that has fallen into place is lab.

Even though there may be 999 more shapes that slowly need to fall into place, I am not worried. Why? Because though things may be a bit stormy right now in my life, I have lab, this calm amidst the storm. I am able to focus and clear my mind for just a few hours a day when I put on my hat as a research assistant for the Northwestern University Department of Molecular Biosciences.

Quick Update 10.30.12

It has been a while since I have posted. Since I last posted a week ago, nothing much has changed. To be honest, this week felt like it went by extremely slowly. I had an exam last week along with a paper due and four or five quizzes (too many to keep track of). Aside from that all, research has just been getting more and more interesting; each day I learn something new and each day I see the results of what I am working on. This is truly a rewarding experience.

For example, just yesterday, I inserted a TEV plasmid into E. coli competent cells and after growing overnight in an incubator, there were colonies on my agar plate. As weird as it sounds, the colonies are really pretty. I don’t know what it is about the small things of this research — growing colonies, seeing bands on the gel, extracting plasmids — but I am absolutely in love with what I am doing. Sometimes, I wish I could just skip classes and run tests all the time. Sure, there were a few hiccups here and there during the first couple of weeks where the bacteria didn’t grow properly or the plasmids weren’t extract or inserted into the cells, but these are minor compared to the end goal. To know that I have been matched with this lab and to be able to truly see the words transform into the laboratory is more than I could ask for.

But for now, this is all I have to say. I am just going with the flow and taking everything one step at a time. Nothing in life can’t be overcome; I just have to keep a positive mentality and just keep pushing forth.

Words Come Alive.

Experiences shape the life that you live. I slowly come to think, each day, that this chance — this once in a life time opportunity — really has been a blessing, in a sense. I don’t strictly believe it is a blessing but I do believe that it is fate that I ended up here, that I have made the decisions I have made thus far.

Three weeks ago, when I first came to Northwestern, if you were to ask me what I think I would be doing at the end of the second week of the quarter, I would have told you I would be scrambling to find a lab to join, be swamped with coursework and horribly behind, and lost without friends. But at the end of two weeks, I can say I love this place more than anything, that I want to stay here for as long as I can, and make the most of this opportunity.

Academics aside, I am so lucky to have this chance at research. It just happened that last week, when I attended an informational meeting for a research workshop program I am a part of, as I waited to talk to a facilitator who’s interest lie in genetics (like myself), another facilitator came up to me and struck up a conversation. Research interests came up at one point and it just so happened that the Principle Investigator (PI) she worked for during the summer was looking for an undergraduate student. And it happened that the research this PI is doing is something that is very intriguing and is a field that has a lot of room to grow.

So here I am, two weeks into my last two years of my undergraduate career, spending my time in the research laboratory, playing with Escherichia coli (E. coli) during my free time. It is a post-doctoral student that I get to shadow this quarter, with the opportunity to grow and learn, to get caught up to speed since later on this quarter and for sure starting next quarter, I get to take off on my own project. The topic? I have no idea. I received a couple of papers to read up on what may potentially be the topics of my project but nothing is set in stone. This unknowing breeds my curiosity; it drives me to want to keep working and learning as much as I can, because I can only grow from here.

This post is titled “Words Come Alive”. Why, you may ask? The driving force (and my motivation) for me finding a laboratory to join is that I love to learn but the things I learn, I look to apply. I seek to be pushed to ask questions, to continually learn, and to see how the concepts I learn every 10 weeks translates into actual research. And these first two days, that has happened. Yesterday I got the chance to prepare E. coli with various plasmids which, after treatment with enzymes and other chemicals (which I cannot recall right now), was incubated overnight. When colonies were gather, these were grown in liquid culture for greater quantities.

Today, when I went in to lab after classes ended, the colonies had grown. The plasmids were taken up by the bacteria. All we had to do now was to extract these plasmids. Easy, right?

It is, the concept that is. All you really had to do is open up the bacterial cells and then isolate the plasmid from the rest of the cell contents and the bacterial genome, purify it, and there you go: plasmids. I learned this in class, in my molecular biology class. Yet it doesn’t really make sense on paper (at least for me it didn’t).

But I got to do it today. In about two hours, I created two small vials of plasmids which can be stored for later use. Later use, that is, in experiments, such as when a researcher wants to linearize the plasmids to run them on a gel or insert them into a new genome for further study.

Yes. This is tiring. Yes. This path I choose is exhausting. But yes, this is the most rewarding thing I can think of at this point in my life. I regret no decisions I have made thus far. Things will slowly fall into place, and this dream is worth chasing.

Learning Curve

I wish I could say that things are smooth sailing, but that would be a lie. Classes have started and within the first week of the quarter, I have had three quizzes, one writing assignment due, 50 plus pages of biology reading, plus 15 poems to catch up on. It doesn’t help that I don’t have all my books and that my schedule is still not set in stone.

On top of academics, I am not part of a journal publication on campus as well as a member of three campus organizations. And to add to it all, I think I will be joining yet another journal publication and I am employed.

Does this post serve as anything significant? Not really. Just an update, from here in Evanston. It has been a rough week but also it has been a great one as well. I am getting to know more of myself each day, test my abilities, and meeting some really great people. Other than that, not much left to say. Hope you all are doing well!

Trip to Chicago and more!

There are only a couple days before classes are set to begin. We attended President’s Convocation yesterday. The weather has been absolutely perfect these past couple of days. Taking some time away from campus, the transfers and their Peer Advisors spent the afternoon in Downtown Chicago.

Everything about this city has captivated my heart. How can you not fall in love with a city where there is a river that runs right through, where there is the shores of Lake Michigan right to the east of the city?

It isn’t your typical big city. Sure, there are a lot of people and a lot of traffic and tall buildings, but it is clean. It is welcoming. It is inviting. And it is absolutely gorgeous (at least the parts of town I have been to). There is nature embedded into the city, starting with the trees lining the streets to the river right through town to Millenium Park.

I won’t say more; pictures are worth a thousand words. Take a look for yourself. What do you think?

 

NU Arch

 

President’s Convocation

 

 

 

Lake Michigan

 

 

Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza @ Gino’s East

 

 

Downtown viewed from Michigan Street

 

 

The Bean @ Millenium Park

Goodbye. Hello.

Two simple greetings. Marking the boundaries of a journey.

In 48 hours, I will be crawling into a dorm room bed yet again, XL long twin mattress covered with my purple blanket. In 48 hours, there will be no bed to fall asleep under, no little sister to kiss goodnight. Instead, it will be me in my own room, with the few belongings I am taking away from this place I call home.

Friday I parted with my elementary school teacher. 2001 was when I first met her. 11 years later, she still remembers me, vividly recounting memories of when I was a little girl. Tomorrow I say goodbye to my little sister, the kid that I used to hate but I have grown to love, the kid that brings out the kid in me, the kid that has the utmost faith and belief in me and my dreams.

Today I started my goodbyes at my old high school, my alma mater. I saw my old band teachers, Mr. Fey and Mr. Galli, wishing them well and just updating them on where I am headed in my life now. After 4 years of teaching me and 2 years post-graduation, nothing much has changed about F114. Then I saw my physio teacher, Mrs. McElwee by chance today, a lucky one too. I miss seeing her teach in B103, the candles enveloping the room as we students walked in for class. And then there is Mrs. Schussel. All I can say is I am grateful that our lives have crossed paths, that now I have her in my life as a mentor and friend, and that I know she will be somebody I can relate to, fall back on, and share stories with.

Goodbye. I told her. She wished me well. And she told me that I will have a great time. I can only hope so.

Tomorrow I will say my goodbyes with Ms Smith and Mr. H, two teachers whom I have never personally had but have grown to know over these past couple of years. And I will say goodbye with Mrs. Chow, my AP bio teacher that has seen me through my worst and my best. These will no doubt be the hardest yet. Tomorrow I wish will never come.

But it is the significance of this move to college more than any goodbye I may wish. I took a walk around my neighborhood tonight, thinking about leaving this time. Before, when I attended UCLA, my goodbyes didn’t seem to carry as much emotion as they do this time. Maybe it is because I have grown older. Maybe it is because I am growing into my future self. Whatever it may be, this move across 2/3 of the country is a big one.

My belongings fit into 2 boxes, 100 pounds total. They were shipped off Monday. The rest, whatever is left, fits into 2 suitcases, coming with me Thursday.

Goodbye. Hello. Two greetings. Yet they are so weighted in meaning and emotion. It is the end of this summer for me. I am starting anew.

I won’t have any tearful goodbyes tomorrow. One of my best friends is teaching in San Francisco. Another one of my best friends is down at UCLA working and moving into her apartment. And my other best friend, who has known me since middle school, is in a foreign country, chasing her dreams.

The others that know me well are spread across the country; Boston, Washington D.C., Houston, Berkeley, Los Angeles. I guess this is it. It is goodbye. Yet it is hello.

Something good will happen 🙂

You’re starting new and fresh.

🙂 you’ll be fine! New beginnings for you!

Countdown to Junior Year

My Fall classes are set. The countdown has started. After speaking with the Dean yesterday to register for classes, I am convinced that the people at NU genuinely care about your success. Okay, I had to get that out.

The people at UCLA are great as well. But being at a large public school in a very large city just isn’t for me. I grew up in a town of 50,000 residents. I am able to walk outside at night and breath fresh air, not air polluted by smog and impurities. Don’t get me wrong, my two years there were great. But now, as the countdown to WildCat Welcome has started (19 more days!), the excitement (and anxiety) is starting to build.

I have spent the past couple of hours looking up various labs on campus and in Chicago and I must say, the opportunities are endless. But now, it is up to me to catch each opportunity and grab hold to the ones that appeal to my interests the most.

For now, I will leave it at here. It is almost time for orientation. It is almost time for the quarter to start. Let the countdown begin.

Midnight Ramblings: Future Ponderings

It is 4 AM. I have been staring wide-eyed and awake at the computer screen for the past 2 hours. My mind is racing. Thoughts are everywhere. As the New England Journal of Medicine articles stare back at me, the one thought that crosses my mind is the future.

What about it? Why is it so daunting? What makes it to attractive to us, that in the present, all we wish is to reach for it?

As I continue to grow older and develop a sense of the world, I can’t help but notice how the future hoovers over the present and how every decision I make now affects the future me, the future life that I will have.

With only twenty-one days until I board the flight bound for Chicago-Midway, I am starting to wonder if I made the right decision in transferring to my dream school, the school I wished to attend out of high school yet didn’t get the chance to. Now that I have the chance, now that I am a couple years older and a couple years more experienced, am I ready for this sudden change?

A jolt, really, in my daily musings. A new way of thinking. But does all this — moving, a new environment, being thrown out into the world alone — lead to a better future paved down the road for me? Do the challenges make me stronger? Will they help me finally come to realize where my heart lies, what my passions are?

I have all these goals, these aspirations. I like to think that these are just hurdles along the way to my dreams, that moving to the middle of the country, attending a new school halfway through my college career, changing my future goals halfway through college are all just hurdles on the way to my ultimate goal: becoming a physician, pediatrician.

But those goals are too far distant. First, I need to conquer the immediate ones. Like packing all my belongings and getting to Chicago safely. Like signing up for the most challenging, grueling quarter yet. Like putting myself out there for people to judge, because that is the first step in loving and accepting oneself.

Life isn’t without challenges, I guess. Or I know. I saw somewhere on the internet a picture with the words

Don’t give up, the beginning is always the hardest.

This is my beginning, I like to think. This is the beginning to a life that I cannot yet know, that I cannot yet envision. It is the biggest hurdle that I must overcome in the journey of my life. So as cheesy as it sounds, and as many times as we all have heard, it is true. Life is without challenges. We will always have hurdles to overcome. It is just a matter of trusting and believing that you will get over the hurdle, that you will be triumphant in the end.

Faith. Hope. Trust. Believe. And maybe, just maybe, a sprinkling of luck.

Quick Summer Updates

I haven’t posted for a while now. First, I am no longer back home in Beijing, China. I returned to the States early last week and have been back in sunny NorCal for almost two weeks now. Besides enjoying the time off from the hectic life of the city and visiting high school teachers and seeing friends, I have been frantically trying to prepare for school this fall. Yes. College. It feels like I just graduated from high school in June, and that this summer is my first 3-month summer.

None of that is true, though. I graduated two years ago. This isn’t my first extended summer. And in the fall, I will be a junior, an upperclassmen. But what is different than the undergraduate experience of most of my friends is that I will be starting at a new place, at a new school, in a new environment, and in a new city.

10,958 miles away from home.

Summer is almost over. In three weeks I will be heading out to Evanston. But while summer is still here, I can’t help but wish I was back in Beijing, sitting in the room with my lab mates, talking about the latest olympic news and how this next experiment will run. I miss waiting for the 913 bus every morning, and I reminisce about the quiet, calm afternoons riding back on the bus through part of the city.

For now, it is summer. It is time to enjoy the present, to reflect about the past, and to look forward to the future.

It is still summer. But not for long.