Tag Archives: family


I started seeing a new therapist two weeks ago. He’s quite talkative, and though his comments are not always exactly in tune with what I say or how I feel, he has shared some right on the money insights even within our first couple of sessions.

He asked me about my childhood in our first session. I gave him my standard spiel: emotionally abused by my mother who yelled and criticized me almost every day for 18 years, neglected by my work-oriented father, saw my brother struggle in different though similarly painful ways as I did, nurtured by my compassionate grandmother, thank goodness, and fought my way out of that hell on earth and into my now more stable and healthy adulthood. After I shared a few more details, he paused me and said something like, Continue reading



Filed under Personal, Society

A Life of the Mind

The other day I stumbled upon the google scholar profile of an ex-friend from undergrad. I met this ex-friend, P, my first year of undergrad, where we lived in the same honors dormitory. I felt drawn to him because of his smarts: he won one of the four full-ride, academic merit-based tuition scholarships for our year. Even more than his brains, I appreciated his affability – he had this happy-go-lucky, friendly attitude that made him likeable to people. We both enjoyed reading and identified as Asian American men, though we differed in that I always exuded a more intense, purposeful energy with strong opinions about right and wrong, whereas he came across as more laid-back and flexible.

We talked about academia and research a lot. Continue reading


Filed under Personal

That Sounds Rough

Listening to the Childfree Girls Podcast has helped me reflect on my parents’ relationship with parenthood. When I asked my father what made him choose to have kids, he said that it wasn’t a decision he thought about. He said that for him and people in his generation, it was just something that you did, with no elaborate consideration of the pros and cons. I also learned that my older brother’s conception hadn’t been planned. Four years later my parents chose to have me because they thought that it’s best for children to have siblings.

A younger and less experienced Thomas may have felt disappointed or hurt by this background information about my parents. Continue reading


Filed under Personal, Society

Set Me Free

The other day I caught up with an acquaintance of mine over coffee. At one point he shared about how he felt misunderstood and embarrassed by his Asian parents. He said that his parents do not know certain specific details about his life, like his specific graduate degree program. While I tried my best to display empathy to this person in the moment, on the inside I felt annoyance bubbling up in my chest. At the end of the chat he stated with such an earnest tone that he appreciated our conversation, though I walked back to my apartment more perturbed than before.

I think I felt annoyed because this person did not display much understanding or compassion toward his parents’ circumstances. I’m not saying he has to love his parents or feel any particular way about them. Continue reading


Filed under Personal, Society

We Are the Childfree Girls!

In the academic department I’ll join later this year, everyone except me has a child. Seeing this reminded me of stigmatizing comments I’ve received about staying childfree, like an ex-friend who once said that my nurturing and feminist spirit would be wasted if I didn’t have a kid. I also thought of one of my past therapy supervisors who told me about how because she doesn’t have a kid, her former coworkers expected her to do more work, as if she didn’t have other things to do with her time.

To cope with this childfree stigma, I searched “childfree” in the Podcast app of my new iPhone and found the amazing “The Childfree Girls Podcast,” where three women living in different countries talk amongst themselves and with guests about being childfree. I’ve felt so validated after listening to just a few of their episodes. Continue reading


Filed under Personal, Society


I wrote the first draft of this post back in early to mid-December, right before deciding which academic job to accept. When I started out on the job market, I had no idea what would happen, like if I would even get any initial interviews. I felt some sense of relief when I started to hear back from schools, and soon enough one college in particular rose to the top of my list.

This college felt perfect to me. I loved its location, its atmosphere and the collegiality of my specific department, and its purported values system. Even though the three-day-long in-person interview tired me the heck out, I still walked away thinking, okay, yes, this is my top choice.

When the department chair called me and extended me an offer to join the college, I felt so relieved. Though I saw positives in my other options, this place rose to the top. However, a few days later, as the high of getting the offer faded, I noticed some imperfections about the position. Continue reading


Filed under Personal


Throughout most of my PhD program, I provided therapy two days a week. I liked this setup: I enjoyed the empathy, compassion, and interpersonal acuity of therapy, then on the other days I found satisfaction conducting research, teaching, or engaging in some form of mentorship or advocacy. The flexibility of my schedule helped me avoid getting stressed; I could go on a jog at 2pm on a weekday and work on my research during the weekends instead of dating and settling for a mediocre man, reading multiple books by mediocre white male authors, knowing how to put together furniture, etc.

Now, on residency, I provide therapy for more than two days a week. I still love the therapy and want to keep at it after I get my PhD, and at the same time I want to go back to a more research and teaching-focused schedule after this year – which aligns with how I have applied for a ton of academic and research positions starting in summer or fall of 2023. While I feel comfortable with my path, over the past few weeks I have talked with my friends and supervisors about the question: does not wanting to do therapy full time make me a bad person?

It’s obvious that this question is a cognitive distortion for many reasons. Continue reading


Filed under Personal

In It To Win It

Several months ago I sat in a virtual meeting with several other researchers of color. We talked about our different potential career paths and where we envisioned ourselves in the future. At one point, a woman mentioned that she wanted a faculty position because she enjoys research. She paused for a moment, and then she said “… and because I like to win.”

I admit I first felt a bit judgmental when she said that. That’s so competitive and capitalist, I thought to myself at the time. If I had been in a Natalie Tran YouTube video, I might have asked, “so do you like to stomp on your enemies and laugh with glee as you out-publish and out-grant them, catapulting them into a doom spiral surrounded by their own incompetence?” (Obviously I’m joking because this person is generally really nice.)

Though the comment took me aback when she said it, upon reflection, I actually find it kind of refreshing. Continue reading


Filed under Personal

It’ll Pass

I had my last therapy session with my second ever long-term therapist last month, on June 22. I started seeing her in late May of 2018, almost a year after I moved to the Washington D.C. area. In contrast to my first long-term therapist L’s snarkier and more detached yet caring style, this therapist had exuded warmth and nurturance from the beginning. We spent this last session celebrating my growth and wishing each other well.

One theme that came up a little bit during our four years together included how I reacted to my mother’s consistent emotional abuse in my childhood. Continue reading


Filed under Personal

Back to Black

I decided to color my hair red during my first year of graduate school in 2017. I had attended a conference about Asian American psychology that October. Some graduate students and I had been standing in line for a dinner banquet, taking turns introducing ourselves by sharing our names and home institutions. When I shared mine, a fellow gaysian grad student looked at me and said “oh, you’re a *insert name of program stated in an elevated and slightly incredulous voice* student,” eyebrows raised.

I imagine that gaysian said that to me because my grad program has a bit of a prestigious (code for: elitist) reputation in my field. Continue reading


Filed under Personal, Society