It has been a while since I last posted. I wasn’t abducted by aliens. I was just waaaaay too busy working and teaching and freelancing every day, night and weekend. I’m working like a dog because I needed to save up go to to Brown’s super expensive MA program in case my PhD applications got rejected again. Turns out I’m not gonna go to Brown, but I was right about saving up.
Because I finally got in to a top PhD program!
Remember my story about applying to university in Oceania? I was at work last Friday checking my email when an email caught my eyes. The subject was Letter of Acceptance. My heart almost jumped out from my chest! I had to bite on my lip to not scream although I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs. I clicked in and opened the PDF. I read the first page which confirmed my acceptance and I couldn’t finish the rest about tuition and stuff. I just immediately updated my facebook status that started with “OMG” and ended with lots of exclamation marks. I was so emotional with tears rolling in my eyes, but I couldn’t. No one at work knows about my PhD plan. I then emailed my three favorite professors and told them the good news.
I had to go to a company event that night. I couldn’t really let the emotion sink in until hours after I received the email. It has been five days and I still feel like this can’t be happening. I have been thinking about all the pain, all the rejections, all the tears I have go through or shed in the past year. How far I’ve come? How much I’ve grown?
There is one person I need to thank even though she tormented me and almost drove me to kill myself (for real). Steve Jobs was right (dah!) when he said we could only connect the dots looking backward. I hated that woman’s guts when I had to work for her, but she made quitting the life I had built so much easier. She made me realize what I truly want to do in life (definitely not making lots of money doing what I hate), and that I had nothing else to lose. No one had ever made me feel so worthless and rejected. She crushed my self-esteem and gave me a chance to reexamine my life.
After I quit the job that made my life so miserable, I asked myself what I wanted to do. I though, I wanna be happy.
What makes me happy?
Learning and teaching makes me happy. I miss school. I wanna go back to school in the States. In fact, I wanna be in school forever.
The idea of getting a PhD surfaced for the first time when I was still doing that job because I found the job so meaningless and PhD was like the exact opposit, but the idea sounded too ridiculous to entertain. After I left, there was no reason not to just try. I had all the time in the world to study for my GRE. My mom was my only concern. Leaving home again seemed very irresponsible. I’m the only child. I boldly gathered my courage to ask her one day, “Mom, if I got a scholarship to get a PhD. Will you be okay with it?”
My mom said, “Do what you want.”
Anyone can tell my mom doesn’t really want-want me to leave, but I choose to take her reply at face value because I need to live my life for myself. Distance doesn’t mean I don’t love her, but I couldn’t let myself regret not trying when I was at the perfect stage of my life to be applying. I was mature enough. I was at a good age to start a PhD. I had seen the world enough to make an informed decision. I was single. I had no mortgage. I had to do it.
I spent a month (proven to be not enough) preparing for me GRE and made the Dec 15 deadline (my birthday!!) of all three US programs I applied to. I didn’t have any motivation to look for jobs because all I had in my mind was my PhD and leaving in September. I started writing Florid Eyes: A Novel to keep my mind busy and stop obsessing with admission status checks.
My first rejection came in on Valentine’s Day (can you believe my luck?) from UT Austin. I was crushed. Truly crushed. I felt like shit all over again. I didn’t think universities, which I thought were my safe havens, could find me not good enough. How could they reject me? I was a star student everywhere I went for God’s sake! Who could they accept if they could reject me? My healed ego was again wounded. After all, I wasn’t just a career reject. I was also an academic reject. I self-pitied for a few days, and I channeled all my energy into writing my novel again. The more frustrated I was with reality. I stronger I made my heroine. I wanted her to beat all the odds and have all the things that I wanted.
A few weeks later, I woke up one afternoon (Yup. Afternoon.) and saw an email from Brown University. I thought, “Another rejection.” I opened it with no hope. The first line was to tell me I wasn’t admitted to the PhD program I applied for, but the second line said I was offered the MA! I read on and realized it was unfunded, which means it was gonna be impossible to afford, but I was still very happy. I cried in bed for joy. Finally a school, to be more precise an Ivy League, thought I was competent enough. I told myself from that moment on I would never let another rejection bring me down again…Unless it’s from Harvard.
I started getting more teaching side jobs at that time. I was making very little but enough to pay my bills. After I had come so close to being able to go to back to school again, I really wanted to make it happen. I emailed the last school on my list like a million times and started looking up external scholarships. Apparently U Maryland’s internet connection was from Stone Age and they didn’t reject me until like Mid-March.
Without any luck in securing a scholarship and without any PhD acceptance, I knew anyone in the right mind would give up and be real and start job hunting again, but every job ad I looked out reminded me of my terrible experience. The desire to get a PhD grew stronger despite all the rejections. I didn’t want stop just there. I didn’t want to give up yet. There had to be a way. If not this way, perhaps I could try something else.
(To be continued)