Tag Archives: family

Perfection

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

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Vers??

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

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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

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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

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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

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Did You Know?

Did you know that your parents are people? Me neither (I’m joking, kind of) until I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s masterpiece of a novel The Lowland a week and a half ago. In addition to her stunning prose, I love how Lahiri captures the choices, traumas, and resiliencies that comprise first generation Indian immigrants to the United States. After reading her book I reflected in a more three-dimensional way about my parents and what they gave me.

Even though I write a fair amount about my dad’s absence, he also provided me with a lot. Continue reading

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Emotions and Beats

Growing up, I always felt scared of what my mother. One moment I would walk by her as she leaned against the kitchen counter, eating tiramisu with a smile on her face, and the next I would hear her screaming my name in anger because she didn’t like the way I set my shoulders. Throughout my childhood I prepared myself all the time for her to berate or yell at me for hours.

“Your accomplishments are pretty amazing,” my former therapist L told me, a few years after I had left my childhood home for my undergraduate studies. “It’s kind of like pillars. For a lot of people, when one pillar gets knocked down, a lot of their other pillars fall too. But not for you.”

L said this to me when I told him I maintained a 4.0 GPA, at the end of the semester that my PTSD obliterated my mental health. I think he wanted me to take some pride in my academic performance even though a bunch of my friendships had fallen apart a few months ago and I had just finally managed to get ahold of my panic attacks. I probably shrugged, saying something like yeah, well, school’s kinda always been whatever for me, so.

My most recent year or two of therapy has helped me see this past conversation from a different, or at least deeper perspective. Continue reading

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My Asian Father

A week and a half ago, I got an email from my father that contained 17 full sentences. I counted; my father has never said that many words to me in the span of one conversation throughout my entire life. The email evoked a lot of emotions: gratitude for the care he expressed, sadness at the struggles he experienced and how they affected our relationship, and annoyance that I had to email him first for him to send me this information.

I developed a sense of my father’s personality early on in my life: hard-working, intelligent, and a free thinker. Continue reading

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Thank Her

Growing up, I often told my grandmother that I wished she were my mom. She would laugh in her soft way and tell me that I was silly for saying that, though looking back I wonder if she had been pleased to hear that from me. My wish made sense to me as a child: my mother was emotionally abusive and yelled at me all the time, whereas my grandmother practiced nurturance and compassion in every moment, so of course I would want my grandmother to have more years to live and to raise me over my biological mother. I question now whether my younger self felt life’s unfairness while making that statement. Why did the universe give me such a horrible mother when it could have given me my grandmother as my mother instead?

I felt a somewhat similar sense of unfairness this past Mother’s Day weekend, about a week and a half ago. Continue reading

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Reaction

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

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