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It is official.  I will be attending the Neuroscience PhD program at the University of California, San Francisco this fall.

Now that I know my days are numbered in Boston, everything here—even the frigid cold—has taken on a rosy, sentimental feel.  Suddenly, three months doesn’t seem like enough time to do everything that I want to do.

Originally, I had considered working through the whole of summer before the start of school.  But I realized that if I were to slave away for the next six years, then I’m going to need at least two months to “veg out” and seize every opportunity for idleness.  I’d love to travel somewhere, but will most likely be spending one glorious month enjoying Boston and the surrounding areas.  How can I possibly leave without enjoying summer strolls at the Arboretum, kayaking on the Charles, tasting the soft-shelled crab in Maine, sampling wine at a Newport vineyard, picking berries at a local New England farm?

As excited as I am about San Francisco and warmer winters, I know I am going to miss Boston.  This was the first place I ever lived where I truly had to rely on myself.  I remember arriving at Logan airport with two suitcases, walking into a very dirty apartment, and sleeping on a bare mattress that first night because I forgot to bring bed covers.  I felt more homesick than I ever thought I could, knowing that everybody that I ever knew was on the other coast.  But two years later, Boston has become my second home.

This bread was the first thing that I’ve baked for a long while.  I needed something easy to help me get back into the groove of baking regularly.  I loved how the cornmeal in the recipe gives it a nice yellow-brown hue, which is beautifully offset by cheerful purple spots of juicy grapes.  I had this bread for breakfast, but I think it’s actually too cake-like to have during the first meal of the day.  Definitely, if you make this, eat it fresh from the oven so that the grapes don’t have a chance to shrivel.  It seems like most embedded fruits tend to lose their form in pastries, leaving moist holes where they used to be.

Red Grape and Olive Oil Bread from Christina Marsigliese

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I have one more graduate school interview.  So far this month, I’ve visited three schools and heard back from none.  I know this process takes awhile, but the waiting is killing me.  As I type this, scenes of my past interviews are running through my head and I can’t seem to decide whether I want to jump out of my seat and walk around impatiently or sit here in quiet anguish as I accept the fact that there is nothing else I can do to enhance my eligibility.  I started this month with too much confidence only to progressively lose my cool as I confront the very real possibility that I may not be accepted anywhere.  Maybe I should’ve applied to more schools.

Maybe I’m not good enough to do science.

The thought that I might have to stay at my lab for another year as I reapply for the next cycle mortifies me.  More so because of wounded pride.  I cannot imagine how I would write to my professors again to request another set of recommendation letters.  I cannot even bear to imagine that I would be the only one of my friends still trying to get into graduate school while everyone else is on their way to a medical degree.  What bothers me most is the fact that all the reasons I just listed are so superficial.  Who cares about what other people think when this is MY career? This is when I know I have lost sight of what matters most.

It’s funny how some people say that I’m overly modest, because pride is something that I struggle with a lot, especially when it comes to science.  I think that’s probably true for a lot of people who have ever poured heart and soul into something they really love.  You become so attached to that one thing that it’s hard to face people and circumstances who challenge your sense of entitlement.  As much as it pains me, I’m grateful that God continuously breaks me down in this area so that I can clearly see what has been His all along.

It’s not that I don’t think I’ve worked hard for the things I’ve achieved; but I just don’t think I would’ve gotten this far without His grace.  I think I’m qualified for the work that I do because He has equipped me with the necessary skills and opened the doors to opportunities that led me here.  Even though a lot of other lab techs could probably replace me, I am at a place that best fits my skills and where I have the most to gain from.  As uncertain as the future can be, I think right now I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  Exactly where He wants me to be.

Why I want to do science shouldn’t be about prestige or the pursuit of validation.  And maybe it’s not even because science leads to innovations in medicine and health.  But above everything else, Science—either as a way to marvel the natural world or as a humbling career that demands perseverance—points me to the grace that is in Christ, my Savior.

“Now the poor, stand and confess that my portion is Him, and I’m more than blessed.”

As a kid, I used to dream about moving to someplace where nobody knew me.  Now that I’m 23, I still fantasize about hopping onto a plane at a moment’s notice, except the prospect of being cramped up in a small space for more than six hours makes my knees ache.  Nonetheless, the idea of starting with a clean state is an attractive thought; that if you could change your environment, then you can fashion yourself to be whatever sort of person you always wanted to be.  Now that I’ve actually done it, I can’t really say that I’ve changed much, personality-wise.  What was it about myself that I wanted to change so much?  I’m not quite sure what I expected when I moved to Boston; maybe not a complete 180, but at least a 90 degree or something, right?  What I have learned is that I am who I always was, and who I’ll become is what I’ve always had the capacity to be.  I don’t need to force myself to change anything; I’m just going to let the “growing up” take care of that.

With the new year and pending interviews for graduate school, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to end up for the next five or six years.  If I were myself two years ago, I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to try somewhere completely different; not California and not Boston.  But I don’t really feel like pulling another major move anytime soon.  As much of an introvert as I am, building a social network from scratch is a lonely feat that I’m not quite up for doing again, yet.  And now that I’ve found a comfortable rhythm and routine here, I’ve been able to appreciate Boston much more for its beauty and vast number of places/things that I have yet to discover.  Even in this frigid weather, I am still excited to step outside and feel the drops of cold as the snow falls on my face.  The question is whether I can see myself spending the rest of my 20’s here, or anywhere else.  Wow, that’s such a loaded decision.

Recently, an old friend came to visit me.  It’s always somewhat of a surprise to see old friends now, since I rarely see them, so any lifestyle change is especially striking.  And for X—‘s visit, the first thing I noticed was the change in wardrobe.  He has graduated from slightly over-sized flannel shirts to form-fitting, and dare I say it, attractive “Urban Outfitter-esque” clothes.  I’m so glad to see that one of us has made the fortunate leap of buying our own clothes instead of relying on our parents’ best guess at youthful fashion; albeit, my mom still buys most of my clothing, but only because she is blessed with better sartorial sense.

We spent a bit talking about our immediate futures and reminiscing about sunny California while we braced against the northeastern winds.  Like me, he will also decide where he’s going to study for the next few years.  While both of us have fond recollections of the golden state, we are reluctant to return home for the next decade of our lives.  More surprising for him since I distinctly remember how adamant he was about living near home for medical school (and how he hated the idea of recreational drinking—well, guess who drank with me last weekend?).  It’s nice to see that people do change over time.  Who knows, maybe in a few years, I might change my mind about that PhD.  Maybe I’ll fall into teaching or turn around and pursue political science, or something.  As scary as it can be when plans fall apart, maybe it’s a good thing that we don’t always follow linear lives.

Right now thought, I’m going to graduate school.  Regardless of where I’ll end up, I think I’m going to have one “helluva” time.  I’m so excited; I can’t wait.

Pumpkin Garlic Knots from Handle the Heat

I finally finished my personal statement for graduate school!  And it’s a whopping three pager…single spaced.  It’s not due until December, but now that I have this out of the way, I feel like I can breathe so much easier.  Wow, five years ago I was filling out college applications the night before they were due.  What a long way I’ve come.  That’s the thing with age.  The older I get, the less I like to procrastinate.  Actually, I’ve also noticed that I’m starting to like cleaning the house, buying kitchenware, going to bed by midnight.  Basically, I’m turning into my mom.

Now that my statement’s done, I can hit the baking pans again.  I made these apple cinnamon buns on Sunday night and brought them to work the next morning.  I’m actually kind of disappointed in these buns even though I got good feedback on them.  I imagined them to soft and fluffy, but they turned out to be dense and biscuit-like.  Is it because they have to be eaten immediately or am I doing something wrong?

I accidentally added the butter to the sugar/apple/pecan filling instead of applying them separately.  That’s why they look kind of messy.  The filling turned clumpy and sort of spilled over the buns while they were in the oven.

I would blog more but right now, I’m way too tired to do anymore writing.