Red Hot Chili Peppers, and all about being a PhD student

It has been a vivacious start to 2018, and I have been immersed in my studies over the last few weeks, teeing up for another set of courses this winter semester while putting the last touches on a research paper I intend to publish very soon.

Given my absence for so long, I was quite torn about what to post on my return but it didn’t take me long to realize that the answer sat in plain view. So today, I intend to provide all of you a brief glimpse of my daily life, and exactly what keeps me so busy. Let’s dig in.

We begin with the usual wake up call at 7 a.m in the morning, a goal which in the immediate outset of things provides for varying rates of success depending on the season. With winter, it is an issue of hustle, when the purpose of an alarm is lost over several snooze snippets, resulting in a hustle to get to classes on time. With summer, it is an issue of hassle, when the purpose of an alarm is moot, thanks to my bed bathing in sunlight in the early hours of 5 a.m. in the morning. Welcome to Edmonton!

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Much like the amusing contrast of my forgetful friend Bucky Barnes’ season oriented fashion and epithet, the ritual of morning alarms in my life is largely hyperbolic in nature. 

Now, assuming things do go as planned, I begin my day at the university around 9 a.m. in the morning, jogging along to my courses or engaging in research otherwise, with a finely conditioned but old package of a portable workspace aka my Lenovo G505s laptop. Ideally, I finish at 5 p.m. returning home to proceed with dinner, going to the gym, and engaging in my hobbies (writing, art, music) before heading to bed by around midnight.

Now, with that being said, we all know the obvious outcome: when it comes to life, things never go as planned…

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I often relate my academic life to the act of cooking; I enjoy both equally. While I do love my Indian spices, I have no problem flirting with various cuisines from around the world. In the end, cooking is often about finding a delicate balance, and most importantly, maintaining it.

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Unless I’m asking to be caught at the end of a Gordon Ramsay rant. 

It is the same with my studies. Not one to be attached to a single subject of interest, I’m a fan of interdisciplinary science; a notion that parallels my current research on “hot electrons,” but more about that another time. Ultimately though, it is all about discipline, organization, and a strong ability to multi-task.

Thankfully, I do not lack in any of these categories but that doesn’t take away the usual stumbling blocks that appear every now and then. In that vein, with my PhD, it is all about juggling my degree requirements while simultaneously building towards my goals. This largely revolves around  amassing a wealth of scientific publications, advancing my resume, cooking up original research, and last but not least, having fun while avoiding stress as much as possible. All in all, it is a business modeled around a philosophy of accretion. If you have the right balance, you’ve pretty much hit jackpot. Of course, this is not what happens in most cases, and so while I’m strung up like Anakin Skywalker dealing with an annoying Jedi Council,

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two good friends of mine provide some much needed reminders and send me on my way,

Thus, I survive by running a strict diet of activities removed from my academic pursuits, and by this I mean indulging avidly in my long-term pursuit of becoming a writer/mangaka, not to mention catching up on all the reading and fun one tends to miss while at university.

Where does this cycle end? Truth is, in my case, it probably never will, and with time I’ve grown to enjoy it more than anything else. While the journey has its fair share of ups and down, at the end of the day, when I take a step back and think about it, my mind finds rest within the reality that it is no different from cooking a new recipe and making sure to have a healthy balance of spices (especially in the case of adding chilies, where one should only rub their eyes after having washed their hands…)

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It took over an hour of suppressed pain before my eyes cleared up. 

Keeping with that attitude, I hope to add to my list of goals, a steady accretion of weekly blog posts. Winter break oversaw a rapid increase in viewer traffic on my blog,

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leaving me invigorated with new strategies and topics to engage all of you, my wonderful readers in what I hope will be a wonderful 2018! So, until next week, toodles!

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TIMELESS

I awoke this morning, my dry eyes struggling to gain clarity amidst my groggy state.  Walking over to the kitchen, I would return and fall back onto my bed, draping a wet compress over my face, sighing in relief as my eyes welcomed the residual moisture.

Taking a moment to clear my mind, I spent the next few minutes recalling the memories of the past year before closing the door upon the roller coaster journey that was 2017. Sitting back against the wall, I looked out the window, only to meet a white landscape. It penetrated the stillness of my surroundings, inciting memories of my crash-landing at the planet Abafar, a few years back, in the company of my good friend R2D2 while ardently binge-watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

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Our motley crew at Abafar discussing the specs of the planet. Awesome show, for all Star Wars fans out there. 

My month long absence has seen me confront the end of a semester of work, and an intense study schedule for final exams. The stress that ensued from said experiences retreated following the two weeks of Christmas break during which I relaxed as I saw fit, by doing absolutely nothing.

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A large part of this nothing involved catching up on the sleep I had missed out on over the school year. Christmas Eve was inspired by the excitement that I crafted for my loved ones. The desolate cold of winter, and I mean the -40 degrees Celsius that we Edmontonians love, was supplanted by the nostalgic memories and rituals of time past with my family and friends that I seem to periodically recollect upon this festive occasion.

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Winter is a complicated affair for those who live in Edmonton…
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but we can always find a way to cozy up. 

Time waits for no one but in it’s passing we find life’s wonderful gifts, memories that forever resonate eternal in our hearts. To embrace and cherish the memories of my past, to live the present, and to happily anticipate the future. This is my mantra. Alighting  upon a new year, these words echoed resoundingly in my mind.

Often, we can’t see the forest for the trees. New Years is precisely such an occasion. Growing up, New Years was an opportunity to look back upon my mistakes, and resolve my lingering doubts in empty resolutions and promises that never saw the light of day.

Not anymore!

A new year, a new beginning, but not because I’m tying up loose ends of my past while forging ahead toward the future. Rather, it is about embracing and paying due respects to the past, those multitude of experiences, those lost instances that have led me all the way to where I am now.

In that vein, I’m thankful for everything that has happened over the past year. All the ups and downs, as well as the lingering staleness of an uneasy equilibrium between the two, all of it…it was just perfect. Why so? In my opinion, because life has to be so, in order to provide some sort of personal incentive and impetus. I found both on a number of unforgettable occasions that will forever tickle the strings of my heart.

Above all, I learned the importance to stay true to myself, to believe in myself, to fall and learn to get back up on to my feet, to fail so that I may succeed, to never give up, to love and to express said love to those who I considered important. More so, I learned to enjoy life and be thankful for all that I have. Making the best of the present, I found fulfillment in the individual that I am and the one I hope to be a few years down the road.

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The past is a reflection of the present, and the present is a gateway to the future in the never-ending journey that is life.

What we consider the present may be nothing more than a temporary and transient construct of time. In a split second, the now may become a window to the past, an instant that is seemingly lost to us, but we always have the choice to make that instant, a timeless memory…

With that said, Happy New Year everyone!

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It Is What It Is…

Hello everybody! It’s been a busy week for me at the U. It’s great to be back in what is a break from a seemingly endless cycle of analyzing research papers mixed in with the occasional stupor of staring into empty space and contemplating the meaning of it all, in what is an effective cocktail of scientific education that is my PhD so far. In fact, the busy-ness of it all has molded into a slightly routine affair over the last eight years of my life in academia, and that’s exactly what I’m here to talk about today. Isn’t that great?

At the ripe age of 26, I already feel like an old man running through the wheeling seasons of the years. With each year’s passing, I bear witness and welcome the arrival of a fresh batch (and ready for the picking) of students jumping out of the proverbial frying pan that is high school and unknowingly (but optimistic nonetheless) into the fire that is university. At the same time, I bid farewell and sink into a boat of nostalgia on those good friends who continue onward in their singular adventures beyond university, and wherever they deem life should take them.

University, in many ways, can be likened to a pit-stop. It is not a necessary one, and for the ones who are offered the chance for it and take that opportunity, it may be a short or long-term visit. Some could even consider it to be a rite of passage while for others it may be a trial through fire or as my good friend Zuko would put it, an Agni Kai!

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But beyond everything else, university is an experience. With every end that comes to pass, there is the beginning of something new right around the corner, and amidst a plethora of mixed emotions: laughter, sadness, anger, relief, melancholy, love…there endure the countless memories rendered complete in an unforgettable experience.

I’ve had my fair share of adventures over the last eight years, going back to 2009 and all the way to where I’m now in 2017, comprising my time at university. I can relate various stories in what would be a compendium of tales to share since then. But that would be too long of a story to tell so in my own liking as your “griot”, I will share what I can of what was (and to a certain degree still is) my life as a student at university.

YEAR 1: In search of “One Piece,” the grand adventure begins.

Embarking on an adventure was really what it was. I left my family, and set foot in Canada in 2009, beginning the first year of my studies at the University of Alberta. It all started with me getting lost on my first day of classes, and running about the streets trying to find my way to the right building, before eventually settling into a class only to realize it may not be the right one. An adventure that began with a misleading compass, but eventually finding the right pinch of curiosity to spur me onward to an endless horizon that sprang forth ahead of me in the dreams that I wished to seek. That was pretty much my first year: coming to terms with the fact that the journey was real.

YEAR 2: Facing my first COLOSSAL obstacle.

An adventure without any obstacle is quite boring, and as the second year of courses came around, I would finally face the first of my many challenges, mostly revolving around balancing my studies while working part-time. I would learn that the world is bigger than what I had previously thought. I would meet others of great intellect in my field, and at many times feel dwarfed by my own inabilities. But most of all, I would learn to never give up. No matter how colossal the problems felt in the heat of the moment, I would strive to be strong for the sake of achieving my dreams.

YEAR 3: Sinking In Self-Doubt

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With the progression of every year, university grew into an endless stream of assignments, and I struggled to stay afloat. Bearing the brunt of my own personal struggles in an identity crisis that followed in the wake of a lost friend, I began to view the world differently. Where there were dreams and a never give up attitude, I began feeling the fatigue of it all, sinking into the tediousness, unable to connect with the original purpose that had brought me to university.

YEAR 4: Getting Back On My Feet By Letting Go

You can always count on family to be there for you when in trouble. I had my father on that day when I just needed to let go of it all, and while there wasn’t much to be said, I realized that the doubt that seemed to plague me was nothing more than an elusive catalyst that motivated me to keep pushing, and understand that there is nothing wrong with redefining myself and my dreams. I would soon find myself sitting in a packed auditorium of students waiting to receive my undergraduate degree. I can’t say I was happy. Things hadn’t gone the way I had hoped in the years prior, but the spirit still remained in me to keep seeking an answer beyond the persistent questions. University, in that manner, was as much about asking questions in class, as well as about myself, my dreams, and what really made me happy. I found my answers by letting go and taking a break.

YEAR 5: Trying Something New

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Learning to let go was difficult, but I eventually got my way about doing it. Doing so, I redefined my road, trying something new in my life for a change. I found a partner to join in my adventure, meeting as we did in the crossroads. Moving forward to the future, I reassessed my dreams, thinking back to what I had lost and what I had gained through my experiences over the last four years, and finding new purpose in making my own path I decided to pursue graduate studies in a field and topic of my own interest.

YEAR 6 & 7: Reinvigorated Purpose

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The following two years would pass in bliss as I engaged my Masters degree (which was VERY different from doing an undergraduate degree). There was a measure of intellectual freedom and space that followed with my graduate studies which was quite unlike the hectic lifestyle of my undergraduate years. I made the most of it. Of course there were ups and downs but for some reason things just didn’t seem as difficult as before. In retrospect, I could attribute this to the fact that I believed that nothing could seem to phase me worse than my own self-doubt, something that I had learned to overcome and master. With that being said, the road only stretched ever forward, inviting me to reach for the stars.

YEAR 8: From Our Last Summer To A Little Bit Of Everything

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And so, I arrive at where I am now.  Finding a particular love in writing, I push forward to a bigger goal to be a science communicator, and toward a long-term goal in retiring as a writer and mangaka. I chose my PhD to be a platform for that dream, and in the grand scheme of things that is what motivates me. In this vein, university, FOR ME, has essentially been a proving ground of sorts to find my place.

My journey here is yet to end, with three more years ahead during which I hope to finish my PhD degree. I look forward to it. I say that not because the story will end soon but rather with the realization that as long as I keep pursuing my dreams, wherever they may take me, the journey is itself the destination. With that thought, I find my own resolve to put my all into what I love, reminiscing every once in a while happily on the memories of our last summer, and enjoying a little bit of everything that life has to offer.

Oops…

So, here’s a quick update to all my readers. After publishing my last post, I was parsing through my blog, when I noticed that while I had decided to write about meteor showers on my next post, I had done exactly that a few months back on August 21, 2017.

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Baaakaaa….

I can attribute my forgetfulness to the recent bout of work and lack of sleep that has been following me over the last few days along with the happiness of dealing with the persistent paparazzi of my studies.

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My new look over the last week or so…thanks to a lack of sleep and an intense regiment of writing a paper on my research. 

Having said this, I’ve decided to scrap my prior idea and instead will publish a post later this week on the wonderful adventure that has been my life in university so far. Eight years and still running (hopefully the cycle will end in three more years when I intend to complete my degree), I’ve realized there is a lot I can share ranging a large spectrum of experiences!

My goal is to provide a window into the life of an academic, strictly from the humble viewpoint of a student. I hope to also share my own opinions and expound on the lessons I have learned along the way. For those among my readers who may also be contemplating on their chances in academia, I hope the post will provide much needed insight!

That’s all for now! See you all very soon!

Braving The Storm

It has been a while since my last post. I have been busy all the while braving the storm that has been my PhD studies. While I’m only three months into my new degree (and a good 3.75 years remain until its completion), not surprisingly enough, I’m swamped with work. Thankfully, it is the enjoyable kind that comes with a research topic of my liking.

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Nevertheless, it has been slightly frustrating that I haven’t had the chance to post as frequently as I would have wished on the blog. 

But, the prodigal has now returned, and he does hope that he would be able to keep up with his blog posts as he deems it to be in the coming weeks. The brief respite that Halloween offered came with a sweet dose of playfulness as I carried out my annual responsibility in scaring the shit out of my girlfriend…

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And deservedly getting my ass handed to me afterward. 

Winter is most certainly here as well, the first snowfall caressing Edmonton in what began as a slush soup of snow rain that alerted me of its presence most distinctly through the water that slipped through the newly discovered gaping hole in my shoe. With only a few more weeks to go before classes end for the semester, and the age of final exams to come, I hope to put up a good number of posts that I have kept waiting for too long.

I will begin with keeping my word on the anecdote I wished to write on meteor showers. The Orionid showers occurred just a few weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to the Geminid showers which will hit in December. Apart from this, I will soon be pulling my book, A Little Bit Of Everything, out of Amazon KDP Select so that I may distribute it through other e-book publisher chains online. The book remains available on Amazon, and hopefully the redistribution will allow for further promotions in the future.

Having closed a chapter of my life with the completion of the book, I’m also working hard on setting the stage for a trifecta of stories that I’m hoping to work on over the next few years. Two of these stories will take the form of comics, for which I have been diligently taking art classes on human anatomy, while the last will be a novel, which remains in the back-burner of ideas, and a whole load of brainstorming.

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It is pretty much a blank slate for now, but the emptiness of it evokes the certainty of greater ideas and explosive creativity.

So, for now, I leave you all with this short update as I busy myself with another late night of catching up on my art practice and contemplation on my stories. I hope to have another post up by the end of this week! Until then, toodles!

Being an Indie Writer!

Though it feels like a decade ago, it was only last year, around this point in time, when I had the opportunity to participate in Indie Author Day hosted by the Edmonton Public Library. Never did it occur to me then, that a year down the road, I would have published my second book.

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Indie writers who choose the path of self-publishing often have their work cut out for them with a slew of responsibilities ranging from editing and proofreading as well as marketing their finished product. There are of course a variety of reputed services (ranging from cheap to quite expensive) to assist authors with this, but it largely rests upon the individual’s efforts and motivation to get the book out to their readers.

Attending events such as Indie Author Day, not to mention, scouring through vast resources online I have also had the chance to engage with my fellow indie authors. My own experiences with self-publishing began with Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir. Purchasing a book publishing plan, I was provided with professional proofreading and marketing services that helped in getting my first book out to the world. While the venture was quite expensive (one that I wish I could have averted), the experience was akin to a trial through fire, allowing me to learn from my mistakes and get a clearer picture of the enormously complex industry of book publication, and marketing. Moving on, I decided to publish my second book through Amazon, being a little more observant of my budget and goals this time around.

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It is a never-ending but largely satisfactory struggle to be an Indie writer.

Though my books haven’t necessarily been successful in their own right, I can’t deny that I’m still happy with the end result. As a writer, one has to believe in their work, and take pleasure in the art of eliciting one’s thoughts, emotions, and imagination to their intended audience. My goals with the two books I have published so far have largely been to satisfy and pay tribute to particular events in my life. Altogether, Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir and A Little Bit Of Everything represent my journey over the last 15 years of my life, reaching back to my adventures in high school, all the way to where I am now.

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For so long, I have looked back upon the memories of our last summer, cherishing them, and holding them close, afraid to let go…Now, riding along the winds of a greater adventure, filled with a little bit of everything I’ve always longed for in my life, I wish to move forward toward that endless horizon spanning a brighter future.

In the end, the peace and happiness I found in writing about my life, my friends, my love, and my family are representative of what I take away from my experiences in self-publishing. Of course, I don’t deny the obvious difficulties and complications that followed in publishing and marketing my books. It is A LOT of work, and while self-publishing may grant a certain level of flexibility within every phase of publication (from budgeting to choosing selective services in marketing and proofreading etc.) it IS largely an independent and never-ending effort (one must be persistent in promoting their work even after publication).

Moving forward, I hope to explore other outlets of publishing. For a change, I have decided to go the traditional path. It is never too late to begin researching, and as I spend the next few months brainstorming my novella, I also intend to obtain the necessary resources required to eventually get me across the finish line (once I set foot on the final lap). Does this mean I’m no longer an Indie writer? Nope. To me, being an indie author is a matter of self-definition, an approach that defers to every individual writer in their approach towards writing and publishing their work. I have always identified myself as the creative director of my books, from concept to completion and beyond. The decision to vie for traditional publishing is nothing more than another opportunity to exercise my knowledge in the writing industry, and establish partnerships that may facilitate my spirit and creativity as an indie-writer while collaborating with other publishing professionals in producing a good book for my readers.

My takeaway message to my fellow Indie authors and aspiring writers would be that one should never not lose sight of their true objectives. For me, the writing always comes first. My goals with Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir and A Little Bit Of Everything was largely to share my personal experiences with my family and friends as well as mature in my own right as an individual and identify with my true passion in life, writing. In that measure, I have certainly been very successful. As of now, I’m setting my sights on a trifecta of writing projects. Two of said projects will  assist in establishing my humble beginnings as a mangaka, while the third will  hopefully become my breakout novel in the world of writing. Though my goals may be far-fetched on the outset, it is necessary to have a certain degree of aspiration (and a big dreamy heart) to succeed as a writer, and that is just what I’m going to do!

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A part of me always knew that I wanted to be a writer, even though it took me long enough to actually admit it. While I have no clue as to how my dreams will fully manifest, I delight in the mystery of not knowing, as it has only made my experiences so far all the more adventures and awesome. Now, having said all of this, it is time for me to set off on my journey, across this sea of dreams!

Free book sale ends tonight!

Hi everyone,

Just a quick reminder that the free book sale of my newly released work “A Little Bit Of Everything” ends midnight Pacific time today. Get your free copy now on Amazon!

Here’s the link: Grab a copy!

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