March 15, 2023 · 7:59 am
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
Tagged as acculturation, asian, asian american, critical thinking, family, healing, immigrant, ptsd, refugee, stephanie foo, trauma
March 7, 2023 · 6:56 pm
Growing up, my mother expected perfection from me. As a child, I found her constant evaluation hurtful and invalidating, especially when combined with her general emotional abuse. Even though I considered academics more as a ticket to escape my mother than as a metric of my self-worth, I think I internalized my mother’s voice a bit, like when I cried after getting a 4 instead of a perfect 5 on the AP Biology exam, even though I didn’t really care about biology at all.
A little while ago I read about the success frame, a concept created by sociologists Dr. Jennifer Lee and Dr. Min Zhou. A simplified version of their argument: Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants in the United States expect their children to graduate from an elite university with an advanced degree and a job that can net a sizable income; achieving this isn’t special, it’s expected. Reading about this framework helped me understand my mother’s view of me and how I consider my own accomplishments. Continue reading →
March 1, 2023 · 11:05 am
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 →
February 19, 2023 · 8:16 am
I waited over a month to email the news to my two past long-term therapists. When I said bye to C in June 2022, I had already planned when I’d reach out to both her and L again. It’s perfectly reasonable to email your two therapists who saw you for multiple years when you get your tenure-track job, I thought to myself. It’s just a casual update so they know how you’re doing and so they can hear the good news.
I reached out to C and L with the update in February, a month after I secured my academic and clinical positions. Continue reading →
January 11, 2023 · 7:00 pm
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 →
October 9, 2022 · 10:27 am
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
Tagged as appetites, caroline knapp, emotional intelligence, family, intelligence, introspection, mental health, ptsd, self-reflection, therapy, trauma
August 4, 2022 · 8:54 am
Over the past two weeks I finished rewatching Fleabag, a show I first saw in 2019. This time around – thanks to years of therapy, I think – I see a lot more of myself in the character Claire, the protagonist’s sister. Claire is caring, though also uptight and perfectionistic and rather rigid. In a scene in episode three of season one, Claire tells her sister “it’s a 7pm arrival for a 7:30 surprise,” referring to her own surprise birthday party.
When I heard that line this time around, I thought ooooooh yep that’s me. Continue reading →
July 29, 2022 · 7:46 pm
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 →
July 17, 2022 · 7:34 pm
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
Tagged as child abuse, emotion regulation, emotions, family, fleabag, gay, growth, healing, mental health, recovery, trauma
June 18, 2022 · 4:57 pm
I went on three dates with three different guys in the past two weeks. The most recent date took place in a bar in Cambridge with the first white guy I had gone out with in a few years. He graduated from Harvard, worked as a political consultant, and bored the heck out of me. The date itself had been pleasant enough and I got him to pay for my drink, though I still felt disappointed as I left the bar and walked back to my apartment.
A few years ago, I think I would have experienced a more extreme reaction to this mediocre date. Continue reading →