Several months ago, I asked my best friend Bri if wanting to do research made me a bad person. Sometimes I minimize the trauma I have experienced in academia, and Bri reminded me of our conversation from several months ago as an example of how academia has affected me. The fact that I even asked that question aloud highlights the breadth of heinous events I have witnessed in my academic career so far.
To provide a non-exhaustive list of some of the shit I have been through in academia: Continue reading
Today I had a meeting with someone where they made me cry. We met about a project and they provided feedback in a cutting, abrasive way. Over the Zoom call, I forced myself to stop the tears from falling. This person told me that they believed in my project and that they intended their feedback to only increase its quality.
This interaction reminded me of growing up with my mother. Continue reading
The other day I had a thought spiral about whether I will ever date a man. I felt frustrated, wondering what I had done in my past life (e.g., vote for Ronald Reagan) to deserve my attraction to men, while simmering in the injustice of not having met a man who interests me. When I slowed down and named these thoughts and feelings, I realized: wait a second, I literally don’t care about dating a man. I would be 100% happy if someone told me right now that I will never meet a man I want to date, or if I’d meet this person in ten years, or five. I recognized then that my angst came less from a lack of romance and more so from a lack of control about when and how this person may emerge or not.
A few days ago, I got a text from my bio mom that reminded me of where some of my control issues come from. Continue reading
Multiple people have mistreated me within my several years within academia. This mistreatment has taken the form of gaslighting, lashing out at me over innocuous statements, and borderline emotional abuse. One of the reasons I try to keep this blog somewhat low key (e.g., I changed my Twitter handle so it no longer contains my full name) is so that I have a safe space to share about my experiences without too much fear of repercussion.
While I like research, the culture of academia often annoys and disheartens me. I know so many folks who have mistreated me and other students who have tenure or will get tenure just because they publish a lot of peer-reviewed articles. I have met people who conduct research about social justice topics and then directly perpetuate harm and white supremacy culture. I have seen people who have made multiple students cry and then take no accountability for their actions. While I know many others experience similar forms of harm in other environments (e.g., nonprofits, the arts) due to the intersection of patriarchy and capitalism and white supremacy, I still sometimes feel sickened by my own participation in a system that allows people, including people of color, to treat vulnerable students with such malice and lack of care.
I felt down in the dumps about academia and my participation in it after experiencing another painful incident earlier this week. In my worst moments of distress, I remembered a research mentor I had in undergrad who I still keep in touch with. Continue reading
The other day I encountered someone whose behavior reminded me of my mother. They engaged in love bombing and projection, using compassionate words in a way that came across as coercive. When I recognized the similarity to my mother, I felt my body tense up and a slight fear uncoil in my stomach. I remembered how much my mother terrorized me day after day as a child and how little power I had to stop her.
I feel proud of myself because I chose to disengage. Continue reading
After experiencing my mom’s abuse as a child, I knew around the age of 12 that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people and making a difference. Over a decade ago, as a kid, life felt arbitrary and meaningless – like, what force decided that I would be born into a family with this cruel and dysregulated monster? Somehow I decided to create my own purpose: if I could not control the circumstances of my birth, I would take charge of my destiny and devote myself to empathy and compassion.
Now, at 25, life feels replete with opportunities to help others. Continue reading
Sometimes I forget that in addition to having beautiful pink hair and listening to BlackPink, I also do research. A few weeks ago, a somewhat prestigious academic journal invited me to review a manuscript about sexual assault against men. Last Monday I got invited to revise and resubmit my Master’s thesis to one of the top journals in addiction science. About a week ago one of my former students got her independent project on LGBTQ+ Asian Americans and Kpop published in a reputable queer journal. While I wish I could feel only positive about these accomplishments, a part of me also feels dread: dread about owning my identity as a social scientist.
After engaging in a lot of introspection
because I introspect instead of learning how to cook or put together furniture, I realized that I feel reluctant to own my identity as a social scientist because of the trauma and adversity I have witnessed and experienced within academia. Continue reading
A few days ago, I had a dream about a former crush of mine. In the dream, I reached out to him through Goodreads messenger and asked if he could talk. He said
wow Thomas, even in your sleep you’re obsessed with books and Goodreads, no wonder I’m not good enough for you yes and we agreed to talk on Friday afternoon. When Friday morning came around, he messaged me and said he could no longer talk on Friday afternoon because he had double booked himself. He asked me if I could talk sometime the following week instead.
When I woke from this dream, I remember feeling so hurt that my former crush canceled on me. Yet, I wondered why my psyche included him in my sleep, because I feel literally nothing about him at all at this point in my life.
“I’m pretty sure my ex-crush was a stand in for my father,” I said to my therapist a few hours after my dream. Continue reading
The other day I felt sad and a little ashamed about how little I know about Vietnamese culture and history. After joining a Slack channel consisting of a bunch of radical leftist Asian Americans, I read messages from a lot of these folx about how understanding their ancestry and familial roots helped in their healing processes. These messages and some of my own introspection over the past year made me wonder: how did I get so disconnected from my own heritage?
My lack of cultural understanding related to my Vietnamese heritage feels rooted in my abusive childhood. My mom yelled at me and gaslighted me for several hours a week, every week, for the first 18 years of my life. This experience motivated me to focus on healing, including healing from my disordered eating in my adolescent years and my PTSD in my college years. Throughout high school and college, I read a ton about Psychology, active listening, self-compassion, etc. in addition to going to therapy. My desire to practice healing as a therapist stemmed from more than my own experience with abuse though; I wanted to provide to others the compassion my grandmother gave to me. I also always loved understanding people and analyzing interpersonal relationships.
So I ignored a lot of my Vietnamese heritage and focused on more mainstream mental health practices. Continue reading