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.

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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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Bogged Down With Formatting…

It is a necessary step, but formatting is possibly the most irksome part of publishing a book. That’s pretty much where I’ve been in the last two weeks, wading through a murky swamp of page breaks, indentations, paragraph spacings, margins etc. Having completed the illustrations, along with the cover art for my book, I spent an entire week polishing said images to fit the prerequisite conditions for publication.

As of now I’m alighting upon the final few steps before clicking on that beautiful button “Publish” on my screen. I’m hoping to have the book out by next week, and prior to release, I will provide full details on the work (along with promotions), including where it will be available, and how you, my wonderful readers can get your hands on it. Following the publication, I intend to continue promoting the book on the blog, while getting back to the posts I had planned earlier.

I thank everyone for being patient, and I look forward to sharing my work with you very soon!! Have a great weekend!!

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Book Review: A Brief History of Thought

Luc Ferry’s A Brief History of Thought recently caught my eye as I wandered through the library. The book promised a brief summary of human thought and its evolution across significant historical epochs within a meager volume of pages. Who wouldn’t wish to entertain such a prospect?

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The book’s strength is in Ferry’s ability to summarize various complicated worldviews with such simplicity, and conciseness. While I can’t call upon an extensive knowledge of philosophy to critique Ferry’s work, I certainly identified my share of agreements and disagreements with the opinions and perspectives proposed in the book. In this review, I will summarize Ferry’s claims and arguments, which while insightful and highly educational, personally, fell short of convincing by the final pages.

Ferry begins by addressing the question at the heart of human existence, a quest for salvation (an answer to the mystery that is death), which he identifies to be the vital aspect of every philosophical system. Characterizing philosophy as more than an act of reasoning and logic, Ferry asserts that philosophy is also a measure of human thought that “claims to save us – if not from death itself, then from the anxiety it causes, and to do so by the exercise of our own resources and our innate faculty of reason.”

From there on, Ferry uses this argument as a guide to expound his views and perspectives on the various philosophical movements that have spanned the history of human thought: Stoicism, Christianity, Humanism, Postmodernism (Nietzsche), and Contemporary philosophy (post-Nietzsche). The book flows smoothly from one time period to another while providing an effective summary of the relevant aspects of each philosophical movement. By the end of each chapter, the reader is able to identify the questions and answers that serve as the foundation for the consecutive movement.

We are first acquainted with the Greeks and their establishment of Stoicism, the representation of the world as a perfect cosmos, an ordered logos where transcendence and immanence are united; a cause that the human strives to be a reflection of.

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Cosmos refers to the explicit complexity, and perfection of the external universe. Logos defines the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, providing it order and meaning.

The impersonal  approach towards death and salvation in Stoicism is rectified by Christianity where the human is the focal point of the argument. Unlike in Stoic reflections, salvation is personalized through the evocative belief  in a Son of God, a motion towards “love in God,” promising fulfillment and an immortality where we maintain our personal identities.

The foundations upon which both Stoicism and Christianity rested soon come crashing down with the advent of science. Modern physics reveals “an infinite chaos devoid of sense; a field of forces and objects jostling for place without harmony.”

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Thus, mankind is once again alone in a cosmos void of a logos or god of any kind. Reality is marked by chaos. The Stoic measure for study or contemplation and the Christian revelation fall flat against the ensuing chaos.

The human is once again the focal point of the argument, but this time, “it was going to require man himself…to introduce some order into a universe which seemed no longer to offer any of its own.” Man’s ability to devise a personal history distinguishes him from his animal brethren resulting in a Humanism that takes the reigns in a movement where humans forge the history of the world through the ideals and laws we invent to judge our actions and their consequences. Nevertheless, humanism stumbles in offering a solution to our quest for salvation, leading to a well-defined struggle that lasts to this day between the various pantheons of human thought.

The cycle doesn’t end here as we alight upon the arrival of Nietzsche and Postmodernism. Nietzsche dismissed both science and religion. His critical deconstruction of the conventional philosophies of the time focused on their inseparable similarity that adhered to a disregarding of the essence of life, and instead building metaphysical constructs/ideals to allow the human to find “salvation” or a purpose.

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“People don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

All of which Nietzsche believed was nothing more than a lie, a negation of life from what it essentially is by supplanting it with transcendental ideas of god, and the ideal human being. Nietzsche’s nihilism would fuel his famous ideas for the “will to power,” an attempt for control in a deconstructed universe by the self physically, emotionally, and also morally.

Ferry concludes his work by providing an assessment of modern day Contemporary philosophy in the wake of the revolutionary movements summarized above. This concerns a world where there is no longer a universal meaning towards human existence, but rather an incessant and a seemingly directionless promotion of progress for the sake of progress, a morose form of materialism.

In conclusion, Ferry provides a wonderful and enlightening primer on the various philosophical attitudes that span the history of human thought. I would certainly recommend this book for any philosophy enthusiast. The reader gets a taste of the major aspects of Western philosophy over the vast vista of time. Nevertheless, the  fact that the book is a philosophical overview for a mass audience makes it a tough prospect in accurately capturing the more subtle facets of the various philosophies discussed. While this can be seen as a weakness, it is also a strength, as it will drive the interested reader to learn more about the topics involved (it did for me). Though Ferry himself stumbles in deriving a clear answer to the human quest for “salvation,” his work succeeds in emphasizing the significance of said journey in that it is defining of our very humanity, and individual spirit. In that vein, A Brief History of Thought is a wonderful journey in itself.