The first day of 2019 passes and my 20s officially ends.
The past decade was full of things. Interestingly, around half of my 20s was in Korea while another half was in MIT.
My first half of 20s in Korea was time of endurance and internal growth. I have seen rough and dark bottom of human lives through other people's and my own tragedies.
My later half of 20s in MIT was time of intellectual and external growth. Enjoying the unique and gifted environment of MIT, I have found myself as scientist, engineer, researcher, and inventor.
Sometimes, I lamented that my 20s lack many good memories like travels, hanging-out with friends, love affairs, and so on, all of which I have somehow exchanged to other things. But, retrospectively, I realize that it is an illusion that there is a golden way to live a good and fruitful life. Passing my 20s, I probably learned how to be myself. My new start toward incoming 30s feels calm with simmering excitement and confidence.
It is the name of a famous book, and the thing that comes in my mind recently. We meet many people and handle numerous things. Particularly, as someone's experience, expertise, and influence grows in their own field, we encounter various decision calls as we need to lead people.
Unfortunate but obvious truth in human resource management is that we cannot be friend of everybody. I meet and work with a lot of people as I am playing in interdisciplinary field and I am getting more and more busy to do many things all myself. Unlike sol0-play in early years, this increasing managerial role occasionally require the art of human handling. I generally try to be best fiend in initial stages, but sometimes it doesn't work out. It's been quite a question for me that how I need to react when things become toxic. I find that reconciliation is generally cosmetic treatment and can never be true solution. It looks like the wisdom that the chance of adults being changed is very slim in most cases. Then I come to think myself - what we do when we find weed in a garden? We never try to reconcile with the weed as its nature as weed cannot be changed - rather we eradicate it. Maybe this is the solution? It may need the courage to be disliked.
In my teenage and early 20s, I cared a lot on other people to judge how I was doing well. It made me frustrated as well as excited, but retrospectively, it was a totally unproductive practice. But also retrospectively, I understand old myself as we did have a lot in common to share in that age in terms of life courses and choices indeed. We all lived in the same environment and walked the same road.
Nowadays, I am getting more and more indifferent (or apathetic badly speaking) on other people's business. Life has taught lessons (mostly in hard ways) that someone's life is short and intense to care even oneself. Also, our life choices have departed our courses fairly far away each other, unique to each one's own fate.
Maybe this is feeling of being an adult. It's very much mixed feeling. I am being my own, so feel more complete and solid. But, I feel more lonely in treading my ways ahead. No agony to watch others success in front of my failure. No exhilaration to experience my triumph over others collapse. I am recently living mundane life of just saying congratulations to others success of any kind, and saying oh... poor boy for others misfortunes. Satisfaction and frustration in my own outcomes are just short-lived self-consumptions, not anymore shared with others except family.
All old-days jealousy and schadenfreude were such a vivid feeling of being alive - which I now see as immature but unique luxury for younger ourselves. Aging and maturation make people less vivid but more stable - like boring but sturdy gray rocky mountains. I start to understand the commencement song in western countries which starts "Gaudeamus igitur, Iuvenes dum sumus" or in English "Let us rejoice, while we are young." It is sad fact to face that I will better understand this in the future.
As my graduate study culminates into its finale, I am spending quite a time to think on my next career steps.
My childhood dream is being professor in university, which now becomes fairly realistic career option with relatively low uncertainty. However, for this career, it turns out to be a much tricker question than my naive childhood dream. Being professor is one thing, but professor of what university is more important in practice. While changing post is more and more common in academia, the first choice is typically irreversible. So, I may need to be patient until I get what I can get best.
In parallel, as an engineer, it is highly tempting to translate my technologies into practical stuffs - or more tangibly speaking, money making company or business. I invented many things along with many academic papers, but not many of them have potential for translation. But, if I am lucky enough, I may get one or two technology that worthy of trying. Really not sure about this option yet, but it is worthy of thinking, particularly because academic career as young faculty is not financially rewarding choice.
In the field, it has been common sense that people have to choose one of career option but not both. However, many recent examples shows that careful career plan may enable to grab both options in highly successful manner. As like always, future will unfold as it becomes reality. Excitements and worries are both dancing inside my mind. But, maybe, this is joy of life.
This year's commencement is few days ahead. This year is not for me, but mine will come next year. Kind of making me of recalling my graduate student life so far, facing my commend a year ahead (actually less that that for defense itself).
I have lived busy life in MIT for last several years. Busy is fairly qualitative expression, but the record also tells that I have been quite busy. Around the end of this year, I may publish over 25 papers and over 15 of them are lead-authored ones for less than 5 years. Probably can be safely said as a busy life.
Many things make my life busy. Being one of the first members of the newly starting MIT lab is one thing. Personality of easily being bored is also critical too. Pressure from life-problems around family counts a lot either.
Probably I will be busier in coming years. Starting a new career as an independent researcher in university will be a big job (also finding job itself too). Still, this busy life gives more of excitement and fulfillment rather than tiredness and frustration. I still feel the growing self every day and weeks (intellectually and experience-wise indeed. My body gets older not growing anymore sadly).
My busy life, I should call you quite rewarding so far.