Saturday, May 22, 2004

loquacious, repudiate, quandary, peripatetic

I had a long, informative, enlightening talk last week with Masha, who tends to be quite loquacious. I started off by asking if she has heard from the grad schools she applied to. She got accepted and decided to go to Tufts. So, I started asking for tips on grad school applications, interviews, etc. The conversation soon turned to our chosen path in life, and whether we really are on the path that we are destined to be. It seems that the course of our lives were already set: go to grad school, do a post-doctoral fellowship, then move on to either an academic career or a position in industry. But is this course something we really wanted? or is it that we are already so committed to it that we have no choice but to continue on? She believes that each person has at least one talent that sets everyone apart from the rest; the one thing that you can do better than everyone else; the one thing that makes you happiest and most fulfilled. In her case it is art. She was always good at it. In the art classes that she has taken over the years, she and her teachers agree that the talent came to her naturally and effortlessly. The amazing thing is that she didn't even know she had it until her mom forced her to take art class when she was young. But, as life often goes, she decided to pursue a more practical career. Now she admits that she is in a crossroads. And that although she has already accepted the Tufts PhD program she is seriously contemplating repudiating it to pursue art. At times it seems like such an easy choice for her. Although she loves science, she feels that the environment is too cutthroat and at times inhumane. Case in point, she had been miserable for the better part of last year because she doesn't work well with her boss. However, in art, she feels liberated, in control and truly happy.

I told her that one thing I learned in life is that your never get what you really want. Everything is a compromise. You make do with what you are given. She was surprised at my pessimism, and frankly so was I. But I've always expected the worst of every situation, given my seemingly unlucky streaks.

Anyway, she says that she will write a letter to herself stating her aspirations, her goals, and where she wants to be in five years. She wants me keep the letter and that I'm to give it to her in five years. I told her that it was an extremely brave and frightening thing to do. At least to me it is because I cannot write such a letter. I do not know where I want to be five years from now -- I mean, sure, if everything works out I'll probably still be in grad school pursuing a career in science. But I don't think this is the detail that such a letter entails. I think that the letter should contain something that you really want -- the aforementioned, often elusive "thing" that makes you truly happy.

I do not know what that is.

At least, I cannot name it with certainty. If I wasn't in molecular biology, I'd probably be an electronics engineer. Would I be happy there? I love music and I even wrote a few songs while in college. I listen to it once in a while and I feel some pride in it. Could I have been a musician? I do know that I am good at what I'm currently doing. I enjoy the work. I enjoy the challenges. I can even say, with a touch of conceit, that I excel in it; that I am better than anyone I know at my level. Is this truly my calling? Or will I be happier in a relationship? Can I define my happiness via affections given and received from a loved one?

I took a philosophy class while I was doing night school at BU many years ago. It was one of the best classes I have ever taken -- not because of any specifc content or because the professor was exceptionally good. Rather because it allowed me to open my eyes and broaden my views -- it "freed my mind", so to speak. In the final term paper I compared the views of Hume and Kant, and although I can't remember the details of it I had concluded that man (and when I refer to "man" or "he" I mean the all-encompassing "man", as in humanity, not the gender) should never be satisfied with what he currently has, in that he should always aspire for something more or greater, for this is the only way that he continually improves himself; that he should never be complacent and stagnate. To extrapolate this further on to my current quandary, I think that we never really know what makes us truly happy. Perhaps what we really find are peripatetic instances of happiness - things that make us happy for the moment. And for most people this transient state is enough.

I do not know if it is so for me.

now playing: Soft Machine - Third

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