Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh My Lanta

 xkcd says it all.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Plan Z

What is self-fulfillment?

For the last, oh I don't know, 10 years of my life, I've been annoyed by the kids around me with elaborate life goals that almost sound like prophesies that they are determined to fulfill.

...what the hell?

How did they possibly know what they wanted to do so early in their life? I was madly jealous of them. I still am. I go to MIT - some of these kids have been dreaming of chopping up bacterial plasmids for the last decade of their lives!

But I stumbled upon (not literally) this New York Times article by a man who is now a professor at Georgetown in computer science and he claims that things like passion comes from investing time into a particular project or activity. No one has to know what they want exactly, but choose something and go with it and don't look back. It's unrealistic to choose something and be disappointed with it because you don't feel like it's your life calling. If you stick with something and invest enough of your time into it, you'll grow to care about it and love what you do, even if it's know according to your original plan.

Check out these beautiful words over here.

I think that applied pretty well to my life so far. MIT was not the school I thought I would end up in, and yet by senior fall of high school, it was my top choice. Engineering was not something I considered as a major until I started thinking more about MIT. (I was going to be pre-law!) And I didn't know what I would be invested in during my time here so far. Now I'm involved in quantum dot solar cell research and just gave a poster presentation on it. People came up to me and thought I was a senior. (I laughed really loudly which probably made them uncomfortable. My bad.)
So I'm not sure if the whole solar energy thing is going to work with my degree in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. When everyone's trying to find the next hottest job (Google, QualComm, Intel, Microsoft...) and I'm looking at the less-publicized startups and consulting companies in alternative energy, I definitely feel like I'm taken the unbeaten path.
   Where will this lead? I sure as hell do not know.
   Will I regret not delving into a hotter field where there is more money? I've learned not to regret decisions I've made. It's so bitter and frankly, you feel like shit. Choose a direction you like and never look back. There's going to be rough patches in any path you take, and the grass is probably not much greener on the other side.

The other day, I saw a sticky that my friend had on her desk:
"Determination is knowing what you want."

For me, I don't know what I want yet, but I know I want to work hard and make the most of MIT. There's a certain law I follow in my head. [It's a law so I don't ever think about disproving it.]
1. If I want x, I expect to get it.
2. If I expect to get x, then I will work as hard as I can to get it.
3. I will get x.
4. Repeat.

There's also a law regarding MIT that I follow to suppress any doubts that what I'm doing is not severe masochism but simple self-discipline:
  I can handle anything post-graduation if it is not as bad as what I've endured during my 4 (or 5) years at MIT.
  A follow-up to that is: The harder the experience at MIT is for me, the more I can endure and survive in the real world.

Now, I don't know how naive or maybe simply stupid those laws are. But if you're an MIT beaver who has floated away from the MIT bubble, I request that you allow me to incubate in the MIT bubble for the entirety of my time here. My sanity and determination thank you.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Play the Game.

You know what? 

I've been thinking more about whether the activities and classes I'm taking at MIT are really helping me get to where I want to be post-graduation. Which leads to me having to remember what I imagined for myself after college.

Don't worry, I still remember why I decided on MIT, which is a good thing to have in the back of my head during late nights like these.

Energy. That's where it all started.

When I was applying to colleges, the post-graduation picture I had in mind went a little like this:

After graduating from x college with a smashing (think Austin Powers) B.S. in Engineering, I am going to work on a start-up in energy conversion or energy storage. During my undergraduate years, my interdisciplinary interests in Materials Science and Electrical Engineering gave me all the tools, intel, and contacts to start a game plan for designing my own approach to the energy problem.
My start-up might help with building architecture to reduce energy consumption, or work into photovoltaics and focus on energy conversion, or invent a new technology for more efficient and powerful energy storage.
It's going to be hip and cool. And it'll be a cozy start-up with a few employees but we'll all work hard and bond. And sooner or later, people will start to realize what we're doing works. And then we'll start helping people. And we'll be happy.

I've realized that the problem (well, one of multiple) with that image is that the gap between any research and industrial applications of those research topics is GINORMOUS. Like bigger than the ass of the world's largest elephant (sorry, dude).
And so to do what I want to do, I'd be going into some PhD program, working on some really obscure technology that my friends will politely nod and smile about, and try and fail and occasionally succeed on a ton of experiments and publish (hopefully) papers describing a finding that will contribute to publicly familiar technologies 5-10 (optimistically) years from now. Scratch that, 5-10 years for it to be viable for or seriously invested by R&D in industry. Let's be real, it'll take more than 30 years for consumers to actually start hearing about what you did.
Call me immature and naive (if you do - email me so I know!), but that's a hell of a long time. Isn't there a faster way?

I could be a CS major and just get a software job that will have gratifying results in months versus decades. A lot of my friends are going that route and it's so tempting sometimes...
But it's not the same. And I really want to be on board this energy thing.

Why must life be hard. But in all honesty, it's not too bad. I got a research project that I like. And people that are driven by similar thoughts around me. My friends are awesome and we laugh at the weird stuff each of us say. And we have the time and resources to be thinking about our own ambitious post-grad plans. We're sophomores with actual major-related courses. And getting considered for internships and all that fun stuff. The things I stress about are upcoming tests and presentations. Which is pretty normal and good stress.
And I have all my limbs. So life's not bad at all.
In fact, the game's going all right. I may not be cruising, but I'm moving.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Full of Grate.

Yeah yeah it's not Thanksgiving, but this list's long overdue:

1. Smiley people. I swear, smiles are the greatest things ever. Just a simple smile can relieve all my stresses for maybe even just an instant, but that's powerful. And I never forget smiles. Seeing/spending time with a smiley person can keep me bubbly all day :)

2. My family. I love them so much. And I've definitely taken them for granted so far this semester and turned down their calls to do homework. So shameful, and I've got to stop. My family will always be there for me, but I want to always be there for them too.

3. Joining a sorority. What kind of MIT girl joins a sorority? Well this one did, and I may rag on it from time to time, but I've learned so many life lessons, and have so many shoulders I can lean on and it means so much to me.

4. My big. She is literally always there for me. And she probably (definitely) has 10+ times the amount of chaos going on in her life, but she devotes 100% of her mind and time to me when I need it. She is so wise and gives me a fresh perspective on all my woes and turns them into positive, insightful lessons.

5. Who I am. College has in many ways made me more insecure about myself because I'm surrounded by some crazy cool and ambitious people. But I've realized that I'm not too shabby myself and I need to stand by that :) and embrace growth and change but also who I'm comfortable being.
Personality goes a long way and I shouldn't forget that!