Oh hello there, dearest blog! I didn’t know you still existed.

I’m the world’s worst blogger. Last post: June 6, 2014. Date today: November 16, 2015. I guess it’s safe to say that this blog hasn’t been my priority. And that sucks because I shouldn’t look at blogging as a task.

Anyway, a LOT has happened since June of last year, and I don’t even know where to begin. It’s mostly been school and research this past year, really. And some traveling too.

I am hoping to finish my PhD in Atmospheric Sciences next Spring or Summer. And you know what follows graduation? Job-hunting. I have resolved to look for a job in the industry. I’m taking a break from anything academic-related after I graduate, and I would love to venture into another world. I have a few jobs in mind, and I need to start working on those cover letters, resumes and CVs soon. Word on the street is that the job market isn’t looking too good. But I just gotta keep applying until I get that first job. It may not be my dream job, but it should be a good start to hone my skills and get that on-the-job experience.

I also did some traveling. I went home to the Philippines for the Holidays. That’s always nice. I also attended my friend’s wedding in Laramie, Wyoming. Then I went to Boulder, Colorado for some instrumentation work. And then I visited New York City this Summer for vacation and San Francisco to register as overseas voter. Philippines, Laramie, Boulder, NYC, and SF. That should be five separate posts, right? But how many did I write? Nada. Goodness me!

To make up for the laziness, here are 3 among hundreds of pictures from those trips (these are my Instagram screenshots):

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 7.29.36 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-16 at 7.28.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-16 at 7.29.53 PM

For now I shall study. Blog on one of my recent trips coming up soon!

Quarter-life crisis

Okay, let’s talk.

These past few months I’ve been bothered by my grad school experience and how it in its entirety brings me closer to (or farther from) the career that I will pursue in the future. I have come to the conclusion that half the problem was that I didn’t know which type of job I wanted to do. What exactly do I want to do 5 years from now? Where do I see myself 10 years from now? These are questions that I have been trying to evade for the longest time and for good reason. It’s cause I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what my options were. I didn’t know where I excelled at. I didn’t know where I was weak at.

During my senior year in college, I was offered a job to work in one of the biggest banks in the Philippines. But I didn’t feel like working yet. I was having trouble imagining myself doing an 8am-5pm job. I wanted to go to school again. And so I did. In Italy. And now, in the U.S.

Grad school isn’t easy by any means. I guess the difference between being an undergrad and being a grad student is the motivation for studying. As an undergrad, your goal is to get high marks and maybe even ace your exams so that you can get a transcript that will impress your future bosses. As a grad student, your goal for studying is to advance your knowledge on your research. You want to be up-to-date. You want to know everything there is to know about your work. You read tons of papers. You work on your research. You publish papers. You write your dissertation. Sometimes you have to write two: one for your Masters and one for your PhD. You attend conferences (you’re lucky if they are overseas). You do lots of oral presentations.

So going back to my struggles these past few months, the root was this disengagement between what I am currently doing and what I want to do, even if the latter has always been a blur for me. I have thought about quitting grad school and doing something different. I felt like I have lost my passion for school, and I wanted to do something else. Work for UNICEF. Go to film and photography school. Work as flight attendant and travel the world for “free”.

But here I am about to finish my Masters and about to start my PhD. After submitting my paper for publication and finishing a very polished version of my dissertation, I am happy to say that I have regained my passion for grad school.

After getting my PhD (in two years), I will find a good job. I have a few jobs in mind already. There’s one company that I really want to work for. I shall call it my dream job! And if there’s anything good that this thing about grad school struggles has done to me, it’s that it has made me lay out my short-term goals. It has allowed to be true to myself and face questions that I have been trying to evade for the longest time.

Or I’ve just hit the quarter-life crisis and I’m getting old?

#100happydays

Wow, it’s been a month since my last post! I guess I’ve been too busy doing #100happydays that I haven’t felt the need to blog about my thoughts. The goal of #100happydays is to post about something that made you happy within the day. Call it a highlight of your day. A chocolate cupcake from a close friend. A sincere thank you from a colleague. Equations that you derive by yourself. And you make a post for 100 consecutive days. I must say doing #100happydays has made a big impact on me. It has allowed me to be more grateful.

Sooo, what have I been up to? Same old, same old: school and research. I’m only taking one course this quarter. It’s about Aerosols, a 500-level class. For research, I’ve been working on this paper for a few months now. I hope to get it published in the next month! It’ll be my first first-author paper!

Weather has been incredible here in Seattle. High today was 82, the warmest April day since 1987. I hear tomorrow’s high will be 87! Omg, so excited!

I’ve also decided to keep a daily journal just recently. I used to do it in college but I kind of lost the motivation at some point. One thing is for sure: writing my thoughts down helps me put things in perspective. So I’m definitely looking forward to keeping a daily journal more religiously.

I’ve also been watching The Amazing Race Season 24! Love that show! I may be embarrassed to admit this but I’ve also been watching Pinoy Big Brother since it started last Sunday. I feel like it’s scripted to a certain extent but I keep watching it anyway. Not really for the drama in the house but more for the tasks. I like putting myself in the shoes of the housemates, trying to imagine how I would strategize to win the tasks.

Alrighty, that’s it for now! Gotta work on an abstract that I’m submitting for a conference in Colorado. Deadline is May 5! Wish me luck!

Loved.

For the first time in a long time, I feel loved. I feel that somebody cares for me.

I am overwhelmed.

There’s Jan. She’s been too kind to offer me a ride home every time I do Bible studies way up north in Lynnwood/Everett. She is such a presence and I enjoy chatting with her. This morning, she picked me up and we went to Northshore together. I told her about my faith struggles. I did my best not to tear up. She told me she’s happy that I’m overcoming, step by step, what I have learned in my Catholic upbringing and that “it takes courage to move away from the familiar and do something totally different, so [she admires me] for [my] courage and [my] desire to have a relationship with the Lord.” I told her I wanted to start listening to worship songs but I didn’t know where to begin. Guess what? She emailed me a long list of her personal favorites. She wanted me to tell her which songs I enjoyed the most and she’d be happy to recommend some more songs.

There’s Tita Krisselda. She lives in Canada. I’ve met her only twice but she’s been very motherly to me. I guess I’ve missed exactly that: a mother figure. Today, she saw the white bandage wrapped around my right index finger. I told her I injured it from volleyball. She looked at me straight in the eye and told me that I should be more careful next time. I wanted to cry after hearing her because I knew that she genuinely cared for me. But of course, I didn’t. They are now on their way back to Canada.

Then there’s Tita Joyce. I met her two days ago and I feel like I have known her for years. She has an innate gift of holding conversations and keeping her audience engaged. She is in the works of founding her own non-profit organization that caters to the Filipino military and police who respond to calamities back home. She has a heart for people. And she inspires me to have one as well. She’s leaving for Virginia tomorrow and the last thing she told me was, “I am proud of you.”

We meet different people everyday. Sure, some are real jerks and don’t deserve our attention at all. But those people who inspire us? We should never take them for granted. I don’t know if and when I will meet Jan, Tita Krisselda and Tita Joyce again. But I am glad that I was myself — no pretensions — when I last talked to them.

I continue to pray for them and for their dreams.

My Dream Team for the 2015 SEA Games Women’s Volleyball

Well, the title says it all! My personal list is composed of collegiate standouts — both young and veterans. I’ve been following Shakey’s V-League and UAAP for at least five years now, and I believe that if the following girls will represent the country in the next South East Asian (SEA) Games, then we will have a good chance at getting that gold medal. Let me know what you think in the Comments section!

The pictures below are NOT MINE. I took them all from NSAPP’s (Nikon Sports and Action Photographers of the Philippines) Facebook page, and I have no intention of taking credits at all. Photographers include Cesar O. Bailen, Jr., Ramil Basical, Jamil Buergo among others. Photo credits definitely go to them.

Let’s start with the playmakers — our Setters. I’d have two in my team: Ateneo’s Julia Morado and La Salle’s Kim Fajardo. And I picked them not just because they are the top two setters, statistically speaking, in UAAP Season 76. Both are young. But both are years ahead their age. Both are tall too, which is always an advantage when you’re in the front line. I feel like Coach Anusorn Bundit has had a huge impact on Jia. He has mentored her well. Jia has a natural ability to make excellent sets even if her teammates give her crappy receptions. Same is true for Kim under the coaching of Ramil de Jesus. And, I’ll say this again, both Jia and Kim are still young! Given proper training, they will be as good as Thailand’s Tomkom Nootsara … even better!

Ateneo's rookie ace setter Julia Morado has the makings of a national team setter.

Ateneo’s rookie ace setter Julia Morado has the makings of a national team setter.

La Salle's Kim Fajardo has the smarts and the height.

La Salle’s Kim Fajardo has the smarts and the height.

I’ve listed down three Open Hitters — Ateneo’s Alyssa Valdez, UST’s Angge Tabaquero, and La Salle’s Ara Galang. They are strong hitters. They are smart players. And more importantly, they are good passers and diggers — which is a must for an Open Hitter because they stay on court all the time! Again, passing and digging are two very important skills that an Open Hitter should have (unless the libero substitutes for her when she’s in the backrow — but this is not usually the case). Alyssa has proven herself as Ateneo’s go-to player. Boy does she drill that volleyball when she makes full contact with it! Same is true for Angge and Ara. What I really like about Angge, aside from the fact that she makes digging look easy, is she never lacks spunk. She’s such a presence on court. Ara, on the other hand, is a darling. She has this angelic face but when it’s crunch time, she’s always game face. Having any of these three Open Hitters in the backrow is like having one more libero.

Ateneo's Alyssa Valdez may be the best all-around open hitter in the Philippines today.

Ateneo’s Alyssa Valdez may be the best all-around open hitter in the Philippines today.

This is what I'm talking about! Angge Tabaquero of UST makes digging look easy! Plus she's got a really high vertical and a thunderous hit, you wonder where she gets all that power from her skinny built.

This is what I’m talking about! Angge Tabaquero of UST makes digging look easy! Plus she’s got a really high vertical and a thunderous hit, you wonder where she gets all that power from her skinny built.

La Salle's Ara Galang may be gifted with an angelic face but she morphs into a beast on court!

La Salle’s Ara Galang may be gifted with an angelic face but she morphs into a beast on court!

I have three Middle Hitters on my list — NU’s Dindin and Jaja Santiago and UST’s Maika Ortiz. I was actually debating with myself if I should put Dindin as Opener, but I personally think she’s better off as Middle. Dindin plays with a lot of heart. Her middle attacks and running hits are probably the best in the country (that’s why I think she should keep playing Middle). Plus, she’s got good serves, too. Jaja, Dindin’s younger sister, is oozing with potential. At 6’5″, she’s taken full advantage of her height by closing the blocks set up by the left and right-side hitters, and then pressing those blocks down. She’s got wicked front and back quick hits as well. I would love to see her do effective running hits! But she can learn them from the ever-reliable Maika. She’s not the tallest of middle hitters but I think it’s her timing that makes her deserving of a spot in the national team. I honestly think Maika’s got one of the best running hits in the country. I saw her play for the Shakey’s Team in the competition in Vietnam, and the opponents were having a hard time defending her hits.

Oh boy, this picture says it all. That's NU's Dindin Santiago hitting a frontline attack for sure!

Oh boy, this picture says it all. That’s NU’s Dindin Santiago hitting a frontline attack for sure!

NU's rookie middle hitter Jaja Santiago was born to play volleyball. She's got all the makings to become the country's most effective and most intimidating middle hitter.

NU’s rookie middle hitter Jaja Santiago was born to play volleyball. She’s got all the makings to become the country’s most effective and most intimidating middle hitter.

UST's Maika Ortiz may not be the tallest middle hitter out there but her consistent and well-timed blocks and running hits are among the country's best.

UST’s Maika Ortiz may not be the tallest middle hitter out there but her consistent and well-timed blocks and running hits are among the country’s best.

For Opposite Hitters, I listed down Central Philippine University’s Jovelyn Gonzaga and UST’s Aiza Maizo-Pontillas. Jovelyn has made a name for herself by being Shakey’s V-League Season 10 Open Conference MVP, what with her powerful attacks from the right side, superb digging skills and wicked serves. Aiza has also been awarded MVP a few times both in the UAAP and Shakey’s V-League. Aiza is an all-around player and deserves a spot in the team — in fact, she would probably be the most veteran already. Did you see her tricky play against China? That was hilarious!

Lefty Jovelyn Gonzaga of CPU is among the best all-arounders, plays with a lot of heart, and definitely deserves a spot in the national team.

Lefty Jovelyn Gonzaga of CPU is among the best all-arounders. She plays with a lot of heart and definitely deserves a spot in the national team.

Veteran Aiza Maizo of UST has gotten back to her college playing shape and is one of the most powerful right-wing hitters in the nation.

Veteran Aiza Maizo of UST has gotten back to her college playing shape and is one of the most powerful right-wing hitters in the nation.

Doing libero duties are Ateneo’s Denden Lazaro and NU’s Jen Reyes. I believe that they are the two best liberos of today’s generation. Have you seen Denden’s pancakes in UAAP Season 76’s AdMU-NU Do-or-Die Game? How about Jen sacrificing her small body to get the dig for her team? These two have an uncanny ability to read their opponents and they position themselves well to make excellent passes and digs. And I can’t wait to see them dig the balls coming from powerhouse Thailand’s Onuma Sittirak, Pleumjit Thinkaow and Wilavan Apinyapong.

Ateneo's Denden Lazaro has been one of the most consistent liberos in collegiate volleyball. She took things a notch higher this season as she was named Best Digger and Best Receiver for UAAP Season 76.

Ateneo’s Denden Lazaro has been one of the most consistent liberos in collegiate volleyball. She took things a notch higher this season as she was named Best Digger and Best Receiver for UAAP Season 76.

I can stare at this picture every day and I won't stop saying that Jen Reyes of National University is among the best liberos in the Philippines today.

I can stare at this picture every day and I won’t stop saying that Jen Reyes of National University is among the best liberos in the Philippines today.

There you have it! My 12-woman roster for the SEA Games! Actually, you can replace SEA Games with whatever international competition, but the reason I chose it is because I believe the team should have enough time practicing and playing together. Two years is more than enough for them to jell together, and play with club teams abroad before they try to go for the gold come 2015.

What do you think of my Dream Team? Who’s on yours? And for which reasons?

What do I really want to do with my life?!

Okay, time for some serious talk. I don’t think I’m happy with grad school anymore.

Two days ago, I woke up to the thought of a career where I can be of direct service to other people. And the path that I’m currently treading won’t exactly lead me to this destination.

I want to work for the UN: UNESCO or UNICEF.

Maybe I’m just feeling burned up with research? Give me a week to do more progress in my research and I’ll take back what I said about UN? Yeah, that’s a possibility. I have the tendency to act on spur-of-the-moment realizations after all.

What exactly is a career? For me it’s something that should meet ALL of the following three criteria:

1. It’s something you’re good at.

2. It’s something that puts food on the table.

3. It’s something that you always look forward to.

I’m currently struggling with my third point. Sometimes I wake up not being in the zone to do research. Grad school does have its phases and I might currently be on the low end of the process, hence these thoughts about career options?

But maybe I’m actually making sense? Cause one thing I miss is doing outreach programs. I did outreach work in college back in the Philippines. And that was fun. I’ve never had the opportunity to do it again since my one-year stay in Italy and 3-year stint here in the US. Heck, I’m not even sure if I want to go back to the Philippines after finishing my degree here. I’ve given it some thought, though, and I always conclude that there’s a lot of factors to consider before making an informed decision.

I feel like there’s somebody bigger in me waiting to emerge. That I’m bound for something greater. And that grad school is not helping me bring out this best in me.

On #day2 of my #100happydays, I was grateful for friends who surprise you with small things such as a Voodoo doughnut fresh from Oregon!

On #day2 of my #100happydays, I was grateful for friends who surprise me with small things such as a Voodoo doughnut fresh from Oregon!

Anyway, I started doing #100happydays. I just finished #day3. You can never go wrong with finding reasons to be happy. Let’s see if this Instagram thingamabob will help me discern about my career options.

Ectomorph problems

I’ve always had a problem gaining weight (fine, muscle mass). And now I know why.

The three body types. Image from muscleandstrength.com.

The three body types. Image from muscleandstrength.com.

Growing up, I was always interrogated by my friends and relatives for my skinny physique. However, I never allowed them to get into me. I always brushed their comments away by telling them that I was a good student who studied a lot (I meant A LOT), and all the food I ate went into my brain. They would tell me I wasn’t eating enough. I told them I was.

Coming to the US made me more attentive about my health. I learned to work out at some point. I got in contact with my sporty side. And more importantly, I have become more careful about the food I eat.

The truth is I am not eating enough. As an ectomorph, I would need something between 2500 and 3000 calories a day, but in reality I only consume half of this required amount! That’s why I don’t gain weight (hmkay, muscle mass)!

More recently, I’ve been keeping a record of my food intake. These last four days I’ve had 2370, 2250, 2480 and 2540 calories. Not too bad. My target is to eat more than 3000 calories a day, have as much protein as I can, and work out 2-3 days a week.

Easier said than done, of course! But I’m up for the challenge!