Go with a smile!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Why I’m taking this post-graduate degree

In the days shortly after I got accepted into Mexico, I was already enrolled in Labyrinth, and I had to decide whether or not to switch. Anyway, now that those days are sufficiently long gone, I do have time to think. Some of this stuff I've already known for quite some time. Here are the reasons why I'm taking a grad program now:

1. Because I’ve always wanted a post-graduate degree. Because I’ve felt that my formal education was missing one or two things.
2. Because I miss acquiring knowledge for its sake. But then again, I have to face up to the fact that this phase of my life is well and truly over. Because it would be almost the last chance for me to go to school – if I didn’t make use of my contacts in postgrad to get into school now, I would never have that chance again.
3. Because a proper engineering degree opens a lot of doors, in terms of my being able to learn new things on my own. Because it would give me options for my career in the future. (But maybe not.) Perhaps it would allow me to pursue work that would be more like research. Or maybe not.
4. Because I was tired of working in the same job for a long time and I needed a break. (although, given the amount of energy I need to rev up for a degree, this really isn’t that much of a break at all.)
5. Because I wanted to challenge myself.
6. Because I wanted to catch up with my sister.
7. Because I wanted to experience life in the US again. But this isn’t really that important. This is also a frivolous reason, but it's pretty amazing the amount of cheap and good music you can get here. Of course the price is that you have to give up eating cheap and good food.
8. Maybe having a fresh new focus in life would recharge me and focus my mind more on work, rather than lapsing into the pattern that it has always had, which is to keep on being getting distracted because I couldn't stand my current situation.

I still remember how hectic my time in Labyrinth university was, going to classes 2 times a week right after work, and then going right to bed at midnight, with barely enough time to digest what you just studied. No time to do projects. But I'm also reaching a state of funk right now at Mexico. The dream is that I would suddenly morph into some kind of a genius whiz kid here and everything would be easy. That's not the way that it works out.

I knew what I had left behind. I had left behind friends and family. Yes, I'm not the sort of person who puts personal relations as #1 priority but you do feel these things nevertheless. I left a Singapore which had suddenly and drastically undergone a great degree of social change and I wouldn't know how things would turn out if I had stayed. I left a workplace where the possibilities were not exhausted and which I could not rule out joining back again in the future.

The manner in which I left was not dissimilar to a former colleague of mine, the ghost. He had talked about leaving for one whole year prior to leaving. And it got to be that some of us started wondering if he was really going to leave. And when he did leave, in a way it was surprising because he actually did what he said he was going to do. And in a way it was not surprising because he did what he said he was going to do. I suppose my manner of leaving was a little sneaky, but not totally surprising. A significant number of people who were there when I left, especially the people who were not in managerial positions, had left right after me. I'm wondering if my leaving had "inspired" them to leave, until I thought about my own situation: it wasn't so much the fact that any of them had left - it was the fact that so many of them did.

There was also the fact that I had been looking after my grandmother for the last one or two years that I was in Singapore. She died two months after I left. There is no doubt in my mind that she would have lived longer if I hadn't left. But I also know that I can't make her leave forever. You don't kill a person. Nobody ever kills a person. Even a murderer at the most can change a person's death of death by bringing it forward. Whatever you do or do not do, that person will eventually die.

It's pretty wonderful for the first few months. It felt like I had been released from pushing a stone. But after that when I really got into the business of doing some research and reading papers, I realised how much hard work it was going to be. Getting up to speed on things, and understanding the material in grad courses was quite a bitch. And this was not like in undergraduate days, where there were easy courses. Every single course you took had to be a grad level course. There was less material, but whatever material was there would take you forever to digest and understand. The grading was very lenient but you always felt that you earned that grade fair and square.

I went back home after just one quarter to pay my last respects to my grandmother. That was the last time I was back in Singapore. I met up with friends and former colleagues. And that was the last of my carefree days. After that I had to find an internship. I failed. And that made me even more panicked. I tried to find a project to do. I also failed. I did find work to do so I wasn't totally panicked but it wasn't easy. I had papers that I really scratched my head over - I have to say that I could understand any paper that I had to read and make a presentation about, but it was really slow for me to get through them. And there were courses where we had to read 4 papers every week - I had to pretend I really understood what was going on in the class and bullshit my way through exams. I had to take two classes on certain subjects that I didn't particularly care for so I bullshitted my way through them. I'm not sure if my brain was slowing down, but it just felt like the mathematics was more painful than back during my undergraduate days.

I - there's that word again - bullshitted my way into a job offer, and I thought that my troubles were gone, that I would be totally vindicated at last. But no, there's one big thing in the way of me graduating. All master's candidates have to finish a project. And it's this project that's giving me problems right now.

It was supposed to be simple. There was this grad student doing a project that required some algorithms that I had studied in Labyrinth Uni but not in University of Mexico. So naturally I thought, "well that's for me, then." Then after he's finished explaining everything to me, he tells me that he's graduating and he's going back home somewhere back in Asia. I flip out, but then I think, "well he explained the ideas behind a new project for me, so I think it's possible for me to carry on his work." Then I do my research, and then it's "oh my God his ideas are wrong, they're not going to work!". And it looks as though my project is going to be a failure, until his professor emails me out of the blue and tells me, "we've tried to submit a paper together, and it got rejected. I'd like you to join us and we can have a second shot at this." Well that was the high point. As I've later discovered, this professor really spreads himself thinly, and he never seems to have time for me. I think back to the times when I've been the ones supervising master's projects, and every time I think back on how the students look like pests to me, it makes me shudder that my professor is thinking exactly the same thing.

Problem is, after all this, I'm a little tired. In fact, I feel as sian as I did when I was about to leave my job. I'm just wondering if it's a matter of - if I stay at one thing for too long, I'd get sian of it eventually. I've found that it's a distressingly short period of time between when I first encounter a project and find a lot of enthusiasm for it, and when I get sick of it. It could be as short as 1 week. Then I'm stuck doing something I feel really sian about. I suppose that's what it's like to write a thesis, even though I'm doing a project - something that's theoretically less rigorous than a thesis.

Truth be told, I probably didn't study as much as I would have liked. If I were honest I would say I spent too much time surfing and reading the news instead of meeting people and learning about engineering. But I'd still say I learnt a lot. Maybe I was forced to read a lot of news because my brain would get so tired of the work. Maybe I didn't have a tight focus on which aspect of engineering I wanted to study, and my energies got dissipated in too many different directions. That was only supposed to happen in Snowy Hill when I was doing liberal arts, but somehow it also happened here.

Well time is running out on me. I have to produce a project in a couple of months' time otherwise I'm fucked. And I might have to look for a new job. So in a way this is the most stressful time of all. Maybe there's more work to do in coursework because people will force you to run on a treadmill. But in a way this is like topography, where you are given a map and a compass and you walk and walk until you reach a checkpoint. And if you don't reach that checkpoint, you can forget about going back to camp.

So I'm on my last lap now, and in many ways the most crucial lap. And the problem is - with any race you run, whether it's a 2.4 or a marathon, the last, most crucial period is at the end, and also when you're at your most tired. You just have to grit your teeth and keep on going.


Blogger SingaporeMemoryProject said...

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the National Library Board (NLB), we would like to invite you to pledge your blog to the Singapore Memory Project as part of efforts to collect memories that are already manifested in existing online channels.

The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a national initiative to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore’s knowledge materials. Spearheaded by NLB, the SMP aims to build a national collection of content in diverse formats (including print, audio and video), to preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research.

By pledging your blog to SMP, you are affirming that every memory matters. Whether your posts are an account of your daily life, or an expression of your thoughts, the SMP hopes to find a home for your memories so that it can help build towards an understanding of Singapore. You will also receive a badge that you can display on your blog in recognition of your contributions.

Contributors to this blog pledging initiative will be listed on Singapore Memory portal’s blog pledging webpage. All blogs pledged to SMP will archived using NLB’s web harvesting software, in addition to images of each blog’s landing page.

If you are keen to pledge your blog to SMP, simply fill up our response form at this following URL: http://singaporememory.simulation.com.sg/Public/Pledge.

You may find out more about this initiative at http://www.iremember.sg/?page_id=2822.

We are looking forward to your contribution.

Simulation Software & Technology (S2T) Pte Ltd
583 Orchard Road #14-02 Forum The Shopping Mall S(238884), Singapore
|w: www.simulation.com.sg

11:24 AM

Blogger 7-8 said...

No, not interested.

If you read my blog, I'm not in Singapore right now. Sometimes I write about my life in the states. Sometimes I write about commentary on Singapore. What I won't write about is my direct experience with Singapore.

Ask me again when I've moved back to Singapore in 4-5 years.

12:38 PM


Post a Comment