I really had not realized how long it’s been since I’ve written anything for a blog. Life happened, and somehow I didn’t feel like writing about it. But now I am writing, not because I have time (it’s the start of a four-day long weekend today), but because I need to

Recently,  I’ve been reflecting about my life and what I’ve accomplished so far, and I think I have accomplished a lot of the small stuff. No, I have not invented anything to cure illnesses, or traveled the world, or graduate from PhD (although I’m flattered that my professor thinks the research I’ve done for my MSc thesis was similar to what were done for a PhD–that’s a comment I doubt I’ll ever forget), or solve the issue of poverty. No, the “small stuff” refers to my personal dreams and ideas, and even if they seem unimportant to others, they aren’t to me. If I were gone and someone’s going to describe how I lived my life, I would want them to say that despite my inner struggles, I was happy with how I’m maturing as a person.

  • Learning to Rely on God

I have always struggled with maintaining a relationship with God. I was inconsistent, sinful, impatient, and a whole lot of other things. But for so long, I’ve always wondered if I would ever get to a point of my spiritual life wherein I prayed everyday and for everything. A lot of role models were around me, but why couldn’t I be like them? I grew up in a family of Christian believers, so it was pretty much normal for me to go to church every Sunday. But I did not read the Bible as often as I should, nor go to small groups every week.

For a while back, I did go to small groups, where I met a group of wonderful people who simply enjoyed each other’s company and the Word of God. Friday Cell was the highlight of my week, until it wasn’t. I don’t know or remember why, but I simply stopped attending, and life took over. I went through college, internship, graduate school, and work without realizing that I shouldn’t have stopped attending small groups. I still don’t have one in my current church, but I plan to find one that I could be comfortable with.

What I am working on in my spiritual life is reading the Bible and prayer. What kickstarted my prayer life and Bible reading was when I was so down and depressed with my work. I found a full-time job in a relatively big Taiwanese architecture firm, which is quite difficult for foreigners who don’t speak any or much Chinese.

The first few weeks were terrible. My Chinese was apparently not good enough to understand what the project manager was asking me to do, so there were a lot of miscommunication between us. Then I was deemed “slow” in producing the required drawings because my OS was Chinese, as well as the computer software (they were using a CAD software I’ve never heard of, and its functionalities were not very similar to AutoCAD despite the project manager’s claims). But still, I rallied on to keep my job. When I was later assigned to a different project (with a different PM), I thought things were going to get better. It did not. I was given a project that had a lot of requirements and no one was teaching me how they do things in Taiwan. There was no senior designer to ease our transition between projects, and that was like a red flag to me. I had considered resigning before my three-month trial period was up, but I was afraid of the difficulty of finding another job. So I did the only thing I could–I prayed. And then I read a short daily devotional about losing jobs. I had not lost my job yet, but my emotions were a jumbled mess. I found comfort in the passages and the wisdom in those devotionals. Then I continued on to other short devotionals of similar themes, until I decided around the end of 2015 that I will try the one-year devotional.

My unhappiness and dissatisfaction at work led me to look at things differently–to adopt a Christian worldview of what I was doing. Even now, I don’t know if what I am doing makes sense or contributes to a greater good, but I am a little happier than I was last November. Since I’ve started praying to God for improvement in my situation, I’ve realized that God does give what you ask and need. I learned to ask for strength, courage, patience, wisdom, knowledge, safety, and good health enough for a single day, and God delivers. I really don’t know how I’ve survived all these years without really asking for those, but once I realized how important it is to make my requests known, I decided to pray for it daily. When I was especially tired and bothered, I would ask for rest and comfort, and I received it.

These may be very simple things to others, but for me, these were things I needed to get through every single day of my life. I am blessed to live as I please, but I hope I will never take my life for granted again. In light of recent events, I learned that I need God more than anything else, and just knowing that God is on my side makes all the difference.

I’d been reading about Joy Mendoza’s blog post about Courageous Caitie (who went to passed away two days ago–there goes another saint and another party in Heaven!), and what struck me down to the core was the quote from Philip Yancey’s book:

“Christ is God crying I am here. Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.” (pg. 54 – 56)

At this time wherein I’m experiencing an emotional rollercoaster, I am comforted that whatever I’m feeling right now, God knows it. I was at dinner when I first read that phrase, and I almost burst into tears in front of my friends (but I managed to hold it back as best as I can) because it made me realize that I’m not alone in my journey of uncertainty. As I am writing now, I’m letting all the tears flow out because I realized crying does not only involve the eyes, but also the abdomen. And since a major surgery on my abdomen is in my near future, I doubt I will be allowed to do anything to cause movement in that area. But I digress.

The initial fear and anxiety I’d felt last week is nothing to the grief and confusion I am experiencing now. Having researched about ovarian cysts and the possibility that it could be malignant drove me to think about life and what I would be leaving behind. I immediately compared myself to April Carver (played by actress Italia Ricci, who is also in the Supergirl series) in Chasing Life, who found out she had leukemia just when she was just starting out on life with her dream job. The doctor’s diagnosis is not as scary as that, but it could it well be if the cyst turned out to be malignant. Just when I was figuring out what to do next in my life, my life was turned upside down. It made me think about whether I was ready to leave my life and the physical world. I doubted my own faith for a few moments, but the only answer I had for that question was “If it is God’s Will, then so be it.” Of course, I worried about my family and friends that I would leave behind (plus the bulk of stuff I’ve acquired my entire life, hahaha), but I realized that if I were to leave this earth early, I’d rather “let go and let God” handle things. And not only on days that you think about mortality, but every single day of your life.

Just because we have free will doesn’t mean that we always have to do it our way. Human beings are ignorant on a lot of things (I’ve learned from grad school that the more you learn/discover things, the more you realize the amount of things you don’t know), while God knows everything. I may have struggled and doubted myself all my life, but faith in God is the only response to life trials that makes sense to me. There was nothing to lose in putting my faith and my life in His hands, but everything to gain. Recognizing that we don’t always have the power over every aspect of our life, I’d rather give control over the One who does have power over everything, the One who knows what is best for me.

I may not be the type of person who can spout whole Bible verses from memory, but I can remember songs well enough (this goes to show how often I listen to music). Babbie Mason’s “Trust His Heart” is a wonderful song that reassures me that God knows what He’s doing (I always cry when I hear the song, even right now). It is usually through songs that I remember God’s promises–promises He will fulfill because He loves us the most.

I do not blame God or anyone for what is happening in my life (well, maybe myself, but just a bit–for not going to a doctor until something was really wrong), but I am comforted by the promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). It may seem like the trials we face are too much,  but be thankful that you have them, because their purpose is to make us a better person, a better believer. The only way you lose in life is if you give up and turning your back on God.

It may feel like cowardice to let someone else fight your battles, but it’s not. Letting go of your pride and admitting your weakness is the bravest thing you can ever do. At this point in my life where I have to consider what to do and what I would be physically able (and not able) to do after surgery, the reality of being an invalid for the next few weeks or months is starting to sink in. And being used to doing a lot of things myself (laundry, prepping or buying food, dressing up), I will be left with no choice but to accept my friends’ and family’s assistance in everything until I am well enough to resume normal activities.

Compound that with the distinct possibility of losing certain portions of my body, I am nervous, hesitant, confused, scared, among other things—I don’t know how to react to everything. I don’t know how I could make the big decision that will impact my life after this (I believe this is part of what they call “adulting”) and not regret it. I can only pray that God will lead me to the right decision–His Will for me. I don’t know if His Perfect Will means full recovery without losing stuff or the end of my life (I am hoping it’s the former), but as long as it will glorify God, then I’m okay with it.

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On Job Hunting

Having little experience with job hunting, I am still quite clueless on how to create a decent resume and portfolio that I would be confident to send to prospective design firms. I have just started reading “Work for Money, Design for Love,” and it made me realize how job hunting is similar to finding freelancing clients. This might not be a new idea, but for me it was. When finding clients for freelance work, you not only have to acquire details about your client and the brief, but you also have to discover whether your skills and your service will be a good fit for the client.

I’ve done a little freelancing work myself years ago, and back then I seldom turned down the opportunity to work on a project. I didn’t know the client very well beyond that fact that he was dating an acquaintance of mine and that he was an architect himself. He was a freelancer, but because he wanted to concentrate more on his other businesses, he was willing to outsource visualization work. The freelancing job practically fell on my lap, and I was unprepared for the business side of it. I’d sold myself (my skills, specifically) short, with a crazy low rate for producing 3D renderings, just because I didn’t know the worth of my skill and I didn’t know how to manage the projects. I wasn’t exactly unhappy with the arrangement, but at that time the client needed my skills, and I was available to work on it.

I’ve been looking through a job hunting website recently, and now my mind has gone overdrive with worry about how to bag that job—any job related to architects. Some job listings I’ve seen included websites of the design firms (which I checked, of course), and I would often find myself looking through their project track record. Residential interiors, commercial projects, civic and institutional buildings—I was browsing whether their design output was something I really liked. Some were, others weren’t. And then suddenly it hit me—I was looking through their site as though I were a client looking for an architect. Having worked in a small design firm for two years, I very much enjoyed the casual atmosphere in a small company, and I’m hoping to find work in a small company here. Soon enough, I was looking through the company profile and the persons behind the firm, where they were located—like a background check, if you will. I was interested on what they are capable of designing, but their portfolio rarely included stories about how the building was developed or designed. Their portfolio was more like “the end justifies the mean” kind of thing, when they showed only computer renderings of their projects. Yes, the design output look good, but I’m more curious about how it was designed and why it was designed a certain way (the Service Design and Creative Thinking classes I’d taken definitely helped me rediscover my inquisitiveness). I wanted the backstory, and I wasn’t getting any.

So it made me wonder—how many design firms operate on a similar frame of mind when hiring employees? Are they simply looking for a person who possess certain skills and can get the job done, or are they also interested on how the prospective employee’s personality, design process, and how they’ll fit into the working community? I have a tendency to be idealistic, but I would prefer to work in a company that would value me for what I can bring to the table rather than just accomplishing what I’m asked to do. I want the chance to be able to incorporate stories in my design—it’s the storytelling that differentiates one design from another. And if I were to use the storytelling approach to résumé and portfolio creation, would that get me a job? Perhaps, perhaps not. But I’m willing to try it.

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Happy 2014!

Happy 2014!

I haven’t figured out what my (specific) new year’s resolutions are, but I do hope to be a better person than I was in 2013. Thanks to my good friend Reg (who gifted me with the book The Happiness Project–which I haven’t read yet), I’ve decided to commit myself to being happy. Since I’ve nothing much to say now (except I’m running late for an appointment), I’m posting photos from last night’s new year celebration.

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Yearender Post

Yikes, I really haven’t been blogging this year, even though I’d planned to write more things this year. My mind had been all about schoolwork that I’d forgotten I even had a blog. Anyway, it’s almost the end of 2013, and I figured I should write some updates since my last blog entry.

I’d previously written about being the only student in our program who hasn’t published a single academic paper, but I’m very happy to say that’s (almost) no longer the case. I’d written and submitted a 500-word abstract to CAADRIA early September, received the request to submit a full paper in October, and submitted my full paper manuscript in mid-December! Of course, I have yet to know if the full paper will be accepted or rejected (the moment of truth will be mid-January), but the paper-writing process was difficult, but fun. Looking at that timeline, preparing for a conference paper takes a lot of time and effort, but I’d committed binge writing for both abstract and full paper submission. Despite my worries, I think I was able to churn out a half-decent academic paper, and I was happily tapping away on my laptop keyboard on the day of full-paper submission (which was definitely not how I imagined the paper-writing process to be). It was fun for me, because I could see (based on the results and my initial analysis) that my effort in experiment planning and execution finally paid off, and the results were showing me something! I’m still baffled with the results myself, so I might do additional analysis on what data I have, but it was definitely interesting.

Another thing I have going is writing an extended abstract for another CAD conference, which is due in a week (yes, I can’t help but work at the last-minute). As usual, I have no materials yet to actually write the draft, but I’m trying to figure out everything I need to do (my planning process) so the execution will work out as smooth as possible. I’ve heard my professor saying “You really like color,” a few times, and he did so again today. Every time I hear him say that, I feel like the topic of color wasn’t really what I want to study, but it was interesting for me. But at this moment, while I’m writing this entry, I think my professor was right. It’s true, color wasn’t what I initially wanted to study (I wanted to do research on the application of daylighting in architectural design), but now I feel my research is going somewhere. While my professor was initially worried that my research was under the topic of “sustainability,” he said today that my research could be classified under “creative,” so he felt his worries melt away. That’s because my graduate program was Creative and Sustainable Architecture Studies, he considered my work to be quite “unique” (I’m quoting my professor’s term for it!) as compared to my classmates. And that was definitely helped boost my confidence in my research! I’m so blessed that have such an encouraging and considerate supervisor, as well as awesome “lab-mates” (since, technically there’s no research lab for us, only the professor’s office).

I’m still no expert in lighting, color, or psychology, but I can definitely say that I know more now than I did when I started the graduate program. Writing up that conference paper definitely helped me develop more ideas on what to do for further research and experiments! I hope to accomplish more in my studies this 2014 than I did in 2012 or 2013! XD

To my readers~ I wish you a blessed and happy new year! 

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Wake-up Call

I’d just learned that all of my classmates in graduate school are gonna have their research papers published in a conference proceedings. Of course I’m happy for them, I’ve heard that they’ve put in so much time and effort to coughing up the contents of those paper despite the short time they were given. And I really admire them for getting things done (my classmates wrote those papers for a course I didn’t enroll for, I’d signed up for a different class).

A few seconds later, it just hit me—I was the only student in our batch who hasn’t gotten anything published (yet). Yes, I did submit a paper with my groupmates early this year, but that paper was rejected. And during this spring semester, I wasn’t required to write any research paper from the courses I took, so I didn’t. But in order to graduate, I’ll need to get at least one paper accepted or published to prove my research skills. I still have a year left to get something published, so I’m not entirely without hope.

I admit to being a bit envious that my classmates are going to get published so early, but then I realized that I’d prefer to write something I care about, instead of focusing on the number of papers I get published. I came to Taiwan thinking graduate school could be the opportunity to explore my small ideas—doing research I couldn’t do back home because of work and responsibilities. And for months, I’d forgotten about that mission. I went off-course without realizing it. There are so many things I wish I can change about the design industry and education system, and I’ve learned new skills that I haven’t put to much use outside the classroom. But I hope starting today I can accomplish something to contribute to change, and I hope everyday I’ll be reminded of the reasons I’m here, away from home.

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