I have not written for quite some time, but as a means of self-improvement, I will begin to journal my activities on a regular basis in order to track my thoughts, expand on insights, accelerate my growth, and track my progress. The life of a post-graduate has the potential to be both rewarding and deleterious in regards to self-improvement. Even greater, I would argue, compared to the life of a college student. Everyone always marvels at the college experience and how it does wonders for your overall growth as an individual (it does), but rarely do we find people as excited about the potential of life post-graduation. Admittedly, there seems to be few redeeming aspects to being trapped in the dreaded repetitiveness of a 9-to-5 job or to being stuck in the limbo of waiting for responses from jobs or schools. However, during some self-reflection, I realized that it was in these seemingly stagnant times that I have grown the most. Here are some of the reasons why:

Learning for the sake of learning. Grades are meant as an incentive for us to learn, but grades also reward learning in a way that may not necessarily be useful to us. The system rewards those who know how to take an exam, not necessarily who knows the material the best. In fact, the system often punishes those that try to learn more than needed for the exam. It rewards efficiency, not necessarily intelligence.

Once grades and the pressure of time were no longer a factor in my everyday life, I found that my drive to learn was still very much intact. The fact that I was no longer restricted to a major and no longer bound to the looming thought of grades actually improved my ability and desire to absorb all different types of information. While the educational institution provided unlimited access to several schools of knowledge, it had also suppressed my love to learn. Graduating, fortunately, allowed my interests to flourish beyond the prerequisites and electives defined by my major handbook. Microbial Biology was great and all, but how useful will knowing that  Salmonella typhimurium injects the AvrA toxin into its hosts by means of a type III secretion system be in my everyday life? So far, none (unless you count its use as an example just now).

Reallocating my time and energy. College has an interesting way of perpetuating a mentality that if you’re not over-working yourself, you’re not doing it right. Go hard or go home. But is this really the right mentality to have? We tend to engage in competitions of excess and try to out-do one another in conversations, oftentimes without realizing it.

“Oh man, I only slept 3 hours last night!”

“I’m on campus from 8am until 8pm today.”

“I have three midterms this week.”

We hear these things and then look at the empty slots in our schedules with a little bit more disdain. So we pile on more work, often at the expense of ourselves. This becomes the norm. College is a time where our stamina is as its peak (how else can we pull off all-nighters like nothing) and yet we knowingly enter ourselves in the race to expend it. At the end of the day, how much time do we have left for ourselves?

Once I graduated, I lingered in the college environment because I feared stagnancy. I was afraid to move back home even to work because I felt that if I did, it would be an admission that I had failed to make something of myself. That I endured four years of education to end up back where I started. I thought that if I surrounded myself in the hustle and bustle of college life, it would guard me from complacency and encourage me to keep myself busy. But the environment only served to remind myself that I no longer truly belonged, awakening me to a moment of clarity: I was just keeping busy to avoid grappling with the questions I was most afraid of.

So I took the plunge and moved away from my apartment in Berkeley back home to my home in Fremont. It was by far the best decision I made. Instead of stagnating, I found myself in a state of exponential growth. Without the hustle and bustle, I found it easier to invest more time and energy internally rather than externally. Rather than seeking empowerment outside of my “self”, I found empowerment from within, allowing me to more effectively develop my own core philosophies in life.

Asking more useful questions. For the last 22 years, life has been transpired in a fairly linear progression. Elementary school, high school, college, and so forth. However, the fork presented after graduation is quite different from the rest. There is no well-defined blueprint of what happens next. There is no road map to the future handed to us. The number of choices that could define the rest of our lives seem staggering. The number of questions, even more so. What am I truly passionate about? What career path provides the best combination of financial stability and fulfillment? Am I doing something meaningful? Am I contributing to society in the way I want? If mid-life crisis is about stagnation, there exists a quarter-life crisis of just having too many damn choices.

However, I believe now that that presentation of overwhelming uncertainty is necessary and marks a significant milestone in our passage from adolescence to adulthood. Without uncertainty, we become mere vessels and allow life to flow through us passively. The unknown encourages us to ask questions and become active participants in our own lives. As such, this journal will be dedicated to answering recent or past questions - philosophical, comical, or hypothetical in nature - that I ask myself on a daily basis. Hopefully, I follow through!