Why my Mom is my Hero

My mom left everything behind when she was 16 to escape communism during the Vietnam War. She was one of the so called,”boat people,” and lived in Malaysia for a year before immigrating to the United States in the 1970’s. I was born in the mid-1990’s and didn’t really understand life as an immigrant in the U.S. until I learned about how immigrants are actually treated today. In retrospect, I was kind of a little brat because I would question why my mom would always push me to do well in school when she didn’t go to college herself. (She was an immigrant woman in the 70’s, the odds were against her.) Not only was she raised in the countryside, she was also a woman in a very traditional culture. (i.e., It was expected of her to do things like cook and clean.) I’ve come to truly appreciate being able to call a place home and being an educated male in today’s society. Growing up, my mom would ask me if I’d take care of her when I got older and I said I would. I used to view it as this huge responsibility and was stressed out by it. I now view this as the greatest gift I can give her because not only is she a frickin’ war survivor, but she also was able to give me more than enough love to make up for the lack of a father-figure.

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How I Developed Family Values

My immediate family was always close with my extended family growing up. This makes sense because they immigrated together and they supported each other, so there was always an emphasis on family growing up. Personally, my family values developed when I was a kid. My father is self-employed and was always working when I was growing up. He was only there financially and was absent from many birthdays, school performances, and other things you’d expect a father to be at. We never played catch as a kid. One of my earliest memories as a child was this one time when I just in tears because my dad didn’t show up to something and he was also yelling at me to stop crying and to control my emotions, which just made me feel worse. I ended up making a promise to myself that if I ever had kids, I’d want to be the dad that I never had. (Disclaimer: I don’t plan on having kids anytime soon, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought about it without having a huge smile. I actually used to joke about being a stay-at-home dad, but I think it might actually be a lot of fun, especially if you’ve seen me with kids.)

On the brightside, my mom was the opposite and she provided me more than enough love to make up for my lack of a father-figure. To be honest, it has at many times felt like it was way too much and was smothering me, but I’ve learned to deal with it because she’s honestly not going to be around forever. (A bit dark? Yes. Necessary? Also yes, because I believe that it is something that everyone should realize and this is why you should start appreciating the time with your loved ones now. (Today is probably the best day to do it, by the way!) It was also remembering this feeling of being loved that also made me believe in God again when I was going rough time transferring schools. I can honestly say that facing the reality of death inspired me to truly start living a life that I wanted to live.

TL; DR: If you don’t have your core values, then you don’t really have anything. (My highest core value is family.)

The Roles of Science and God in my Life

DISCLAIMER: These are my beliefs and why I believe them. It gets a little dark, but it’s the truth. I’ll most likely say things that might challenge your beliefs, but hopefully you can bear with me till the end. It all comes together.

(I remember seeing this quote below and thinking it was kind of silly, but now it’s pretty crazy of how much it actually does make sense.)

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you” -Werner Heisenberg

The scientific method is objective. It does not have an inherent positive or negative association. Growing up, I was always curious about how things worked. I was able to take all of the AP science classes offered at my high school. It didn’t feel like it was a lot because it answered the questions that I always had and I liked how it was applicable to anything that I saw. As a result, I believed in the things that I could test. When I was a kid, I used to like the adrenaline of watching a scary movie but then I’d be deathly terrified of ghosts and monsters. After learning about the scientific method, I eventually concluded that I could not necessarily say that there was a God based off of real data from experiments. To be honest, I had believed that religion was a man-made construct that was a evolutionary advantage and brought people together. This was the conclusion that I made under the things that I had learned from science classes.

Fast forward to me transferring to from a small, Jesuit university to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a large, state school. Essentially, I missed my freshman year friends and I didn’t feel as close with my high schools friends that went there and already had their own friend groups. There were negative people in my life (one of which was my father) and I had stopped taking care of myself. This negativity led to more negativity and I came to a point where I would analyze anyone and anything that I looked at. I would be trapped in my own head thinking about what I saw and how it worked. People were no longer people, they were just atoms moving around as a result of forces, just like everything else I saw. I was tormented by my passion in the sciences and it killed my love for people. I also wouldn’t be surprised if this mentality is a reason why doctors have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. HOWEVER, I was wrong in this classical mindset and unfortunately for most people, you wouldn’t really ever talk about quantum physics. So then why do most people not learn quantum physics? It’s because the world as we see it can be approximated using classical physics. However, the really tiny stuff is when things get weird. The big takeaway from quantum physics is that whether or not one is able to observe an experiment will affect the outcome of this said experiment. (This is demonstrated by the Double-Slit Experiment. Essentially, whether or not you can detect a light will determine if it acts as a particle or a wave. Sounds like nonsense, but that’s what actually happens in experiments. This concept uses the same Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle that is probably mentioned in most general chemistry courses.)

Initially, I was baffled by this. Eventually, I came to develop a great appreciation for the unknown and for the mystery of how the universe works. To be honest, if I hadn’t experienced what I had, I’d probably think I was crazy, too. However, it becomes very real when you actually apply these things to your own life.

Another question that one might ask is, “Oh what if you’re just telling yourself something just to make yourself feel better?” I’d argue that even if I’m wrong, why would I give up on something that has given me meaning in life? I never thought I’d blog about a bible verse, but here I am.

“God is love, whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” -1 John 4:16

In other words, I believe that as long as someone is living a loving life, independent of their spiritual beliefs, they are actually living a life in God’s image. As a species, we still do not know a lot about the universe and therefore can not say, with 100% certainty, that there is or is not a God. All I know is what I believe and I have no regrets whatsoever.

How I Became a Premed-Engineer

I am going into my senior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and I am studying Engineering Physics. Both of my parents immigrated from Vietnam in the 1970’s. I went to a small grade school in a Uptown, Chicago. It didn’t have any clubs, sports teams, or a consistent art program. At the time, I hated it. However, I’ve realized that this made me develop a hunger for pursuing new experiences. In high school, I was a triple-sport athlete, took all the AP sciences my high school offered (they also made an award for it), and was two years ahead in math.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of college. I had just transferred from a small, private institution to a large, start school (Illinois) mainly due to financial reasons and being pre-med, it didn’t really matter where you went to school. Considering that I had a strong math/science background in high school and that Illinois also happened to be a great engineering school. I put in the work and had multiple overloaded semesters and transferred into the Engineering Physics program. It just happened to be the most flexible program where I would still be able to graduate within 4 years. I also happened to randomly live in a house full of physics majors. They had very different life experiences than I had and I’ve learned a lot of new things just by befriending them. I would mainly talk about sports, girls, and media with my friends from high school, but here people talked about topics like philosophy, physics, and politics at great length. I’m pretty glad to say that I’ve gained so much by just talking to a lot of different people and it has definitely shaped the way I view the world for the better.