On Momentum

If there is one thing I’d like to learn from a Ph.D. degree, it would probably be efficient and impactful academic writing. I have always loved writing since I was a kid, which is why I have this blog until now. But blogging, or any other type of “leisurely” writing, is different from academic writing. The latter is still very challenging for me, especially building and sustaining the momentum for it. I think one thing that makes it really challenging is the fact that I always want to be handling multiple projects at any given time. If I’m only doing one, it is very likely that I would involve myself in two or more projects. Thus, my attention will be divided instead of focusing on writing just one paper at a time.

Take now, for example. I have a paper that I could’ve finished weeks before had my attention not been divided on other things. Project proposals, events organizing, class preparations, checking of papers, building collaborations, student mentoring, etc. I tell myself that I could’ve stayed up late just to finish this paper earlier. But starting last March, I promised myself that I would prioritize my health. Ever since I got back from the US, I found myself always sick. I was always coughing and even down with fever at the start of every month from Jan-March. So I said my staying up late, skipping breakfast to get to class on time, and other unhealthy practices just to get more work done, all of it has to stop. I eventually managed to start exercising regularly, to stop waking up at wee hours of the morning to prepare a lecture, to eat a decent breakfast and regularly take multivitamins. Fortunately, it all paid off! I felt good about my body again, I was no longer getting sick, and I had a more positive outlook towards work. Stress became more manageable.

Of course, these positive effects came with sacrifices, especially in work output. I have a tendency to demand too much from myself and my doing other things for health and wellness lowered that demand a bit, which makes me feel really uneasy. There’s always that voice in my head asking, “Hey, shouldn’t you be working harder?” But let’s see. I’m still figuring out if I will really end up being more productive with this new work practice of mine compared with the old one. I want to learn to work smarter, not harder.

I’ll end here for now. I really should be writing my paper instead of blogging. But since I’m building momentum, I reckoned that writing blog posts would get me in the mood to write the paper after. Gaaah. Let’s do this.

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On Waking Up

My friend and I were talking over lunch about his experiences and realizations from a recent faculty workshop he attended. He described, among other things (and with much delight!), how inspired and excited successful people in the workshop were, how they enjoyed the daily “grind” of work, how good PI’s cared for the growth of each member of their group, how successful people competed in a constructive way, and how they threw themselves “out there” and took risks because they never settled for anything less than what they wanted.

A knot was forming in my throat as I fought back tears (of joy) because all of the things he was saying, I have experienced in some way back home in the Philippines.

I remember so clearly how inspiring majority of my fellow teachers are both inside and outside of the classroom. When demotivation strikes me, I simply remember how passionate my colleagues are and I get back up quickly.

I remember how majority of the senior faculty members in our department care so much for both undergraduate and graduate students to the point that DMMME was regularly sending students abroad (Japan and Taiwan mostly) for short study visits and internships. My adviser would also think about job opportunities for her graduating students (she was the one who offered me a job in DMMME).

I remember how exciting the daily “grind” is in the department (it’s stressful, but exciting!), especially during the semester before I left for the US when I had three simultaneous collaborative projects with different departments and colleges, on top of other faculty duties. It was exhilarating! How I terribly miss that feeling!

I remember how the junior (and some senior) faculty members would have a healthy competition in that we would compare the average performances of our classes at the end of the semester or compare the performance of our students on a specific project. It was healthy because no one was pulling the other down when they succeeded. We would even ask one another what they did to have a great outcome. We help each other grow as faculty members.

I remember how exciting a feeling it was to take risks and throw myself “out there” for the sake of an advocacy I work hard for. It was by taking risks that I got to travel to Europe and the US.

But I left all that for a year and now I find myself struggling to save whatever light and inspiration I have left inside of me because my current circumstances keep sucking it out. I wish I could say that it was only research that is challenging here, but it’s not only that.

I have been in a three-week research hiatus already (going four) because of demotivation. And there were many times in the past month when I would wonder what I had turned into. This is not my best performance at work and it’s not like me to not give my best. That is what’s so bothersome. This is not me!!! But as my friend said today, “Kung ngayon pa lang mag iinarte ka na, wala kang mararating.” I think he was saying it for himself (or not? haha), but the words also hit me. Hard. I can’t be like this. I don’t want to be like this anymore. I need to remember what I came here for and if I am to reach my goal, I have to expect that I’ll be in a far worse situation in the future. As President Truman once said, “Being President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep riding or be swallowed. A President is either on top of events or, if he hesitates, events will soon be on top of him.” I’m not planning to become president, but I do need to persevere to prevent myself from being swallowed by the tiger I’m currently riding.

I came here in the US because I was frustrated by my lack of skills when I was in the Philippines. I felt so limited that I couldn’t share enough to my students and fellow teachers. I must not come home empty-handed. I have an INSANE plan right now; I guess desperation is an effective antidote to hesitation.

We in the Philippines don’t lack inspiration or great minds or perseverance. We lack opportunity. Faculty members are so burned out from juggling teaching, research, extension work, committee work, admin work, etc. making it very easy to lose the opportunity to work for the essential things that matter to us (e.g. thesis, skills development in various aspects, etc.).

Now I need to pull myself together quickly. I only have four months left. It so long a time to stay in my somewhat dreary situation, but so short a time to develop skills and find opportunities. Whatever. As the poem I posted yesterday goes:

Carry on! Carry on!
Fight the good fight and true;
Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;
There’s big work to do, and that’s why you are here.
Carry on! Carry on!
I can do this!

Encouragement

Do what makes you feel alive.

The world may distract you by showing beautiful things that society dictates as acceptable. But do not forget how simple life can be–a life without the intricacies of changing who you are just to fit in.

Remember that it is only ourselves who can stop us from reaching our goals; of doing what makes us feel alive. So continue dreaming big dreams. You might fail, but there is also that chance that you might succeed.

Do not let circumstances rob you of your life. Your heart may still be beating, but a life without vision is a life not worth living. If you lose sight of where you are going, stop for a while. Check where you are right now, at this moment. Ask around. Shut down the world shortly and listen carefully to that soft, tender voice inside of you. It always knows where you should go.

Take care not to stop for so long, though. Time might leave you behind. If you should move, move forward. Slowly, but forward. You may look back, but keep moving forward.

Then one day, I promise you, it will be okay. Nothing is permanent in the world. Whatever you are feeling right now, it will go away. In the mean time, while the clouds have not parted yet, find time to smile and be grateful. You are still alive. You are still breathing. There is still hope.

Time will come when you will feel alive again. Everything will be okay.

Now go and continue living.

Finding Motivation

A new target has been set for the nth time: thesis defense on the last week of January 2015.

All experiments are done, a lot of data processing coming up; discipline needed to write the manuscript. It’s challenging. Teaching will always be my priority. But I need to get this thesis off my back soon. The outline of my manuscript has been waiting in Evernote for months already. I decided to turn it into a mind map yesterday using post-its. Hopefully, seeing it on my desk everyday in a more aesthetic manner will give some motivation.

Please wish me good luck.

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Thesis mind map luring above bluebooks to be checked until the end of the semester. Fiiigghhht! :)