October 29, 2015

Yay! I finally graduated my Master's degree. Thank you to the dozens of people who turned up at my convocation. Thank you for braving the heat, haze and traffic jam to be there. Thank you for boxes and bags of gifts. Thank you for the flower bouquets.

Yes I smiled ear to ear. I felt so touched and grateful for all the love bestowed on me. It wouldn't be a memorable day without presence and wishes from my family and friends.

Thank you for making the day special. Thank you for making me happy!

With my dear Zarith

I know that I'll get the degree a few months before. To tell you the truth,  neither did I feel happy nor anticipated. That feeling of accomplishment... just didn't happen to me. 

It was until the moment all of you turned up, congratulating me, looking at my parents' glow... that I finally felt good. Because... oh, if only you know how challenging it was. I shouldn't and couldn't pretend it's a glamorous, easy peasy journey at all. It was a bumpy ride. My supervisor, colleagues and good friends would agree. 

The general public tends to have misconceptions about postgraduate studies. Many people had been telling us how comfortable it is to remain in the university compound, under the umbrella of the ivory tower, the protection of the evil working world... Let me say this once and for all, on behalf of all my peers, this is wrong. The journey was tough. 

My niece, hope she's inspired. 

Ready for the honest confession?

I learn valuable lessons. Here's some of them:

It's the destiny of many researchers. Grad students are always hit by failure, so much so it leads to depression, anxiety and self-doubt. Some called it The Valley of Shit (you can read about it by clicking the link). I'd been there multiple times. The only way to cope is to eat ice-cream and laugh it off. And also listen repeatedly to people telling you the old story of Thomas Edison failed nearly 1,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb.
Good side of it? We can handle better when sh*t happens. Don't worry. Don't give up.

Just when you think your bad luck would end there, life proves you wrong. Failure comes again, again and again. Doing research is slightly different from a routine job - nobody is going to tell you exactly how to do and what to do everyday. Many give up before they could overcome this - I feel it's a pity. Thousands of PhDs and Masters proved that the valley can be overcome. Face it, accept it, solve it, let it go.
"You can do it, my dear, you can do it," my kind friends has been telling me. If misfortune keeps happening, refer to rule 1 "The only ways to cope: eat ice-cream and laugh it off. "

I was talking to some friends and we laughed how innocent we were to actually think post-grad studies are the same as our Bachelor's degree final year project. First things first, you can no longer copy a huge chunk of your senior's thesis, add into your Discussion and pretend to make your thesis thicker. What's even more different is the dedication, commitment, sacrifice, performance index and competition involved. 
Of course there're sneaky people around who use shortcuts, but we've seen their karma. I have the privilege to see some good and bad examples - it does take tremendous time and effort to be a good researcher. 

Look at my mum's hair and outfit. Chic. 

No man is an island. We've seen some people so focused on their achievements - that they forget to live. As independent it would seem, that would be a boring life. 
I would have given up if my family had not been showing support and love. My parents especially, had never stopped me from doing anything I love. As the eldest in the family, I have my financial responsibilities, commitments and pressure, but there's never a single moment that they wouldn't walk it through with me.
With all the gratitude I can summon, I would like to thank every single friend who had heard me rumbling about my life. Thank you for the ice-creams after lunch and cakes after dinner. Thank you for the kind words squeezed hardly from your mouths, thank you for the encouragements you downloaded from the internet about successful people. Thank you for being here when I needed you.

My favourite photo out of the hundreds we took.

Not photographed here but present: Key, Cxn, Jaime, Chung Weng, Yshin, Wei Leong, Dr Syarifah. Thank you for your love! 

I can go on to point #100 and thank a thousand more things but let's end this post here. 

One final expression of gratitude: I finally understand that any incidents in life, big or small, good or bad, would one day, be connected to one another. These incidents, magically, reveal a new path to self-discovery and peace.

After asking myself one thousand times "Is this what I want?", trapping myself in the endless cycles of self-doubt and realization, weighing my love for research among all other things, I think I still want to do this. This doesn't mean I will give up photography and writing, I know, it probably sounds crazy, but I'll continue. There're so much of these two areas that I wish to learn and explore. Let's see how far we can go.

Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Onward to PhD and creativity!

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