Discover more from doc day afternoon
no love, however brief, is wasted
reflection on birthdays, identities, and james cameron
enjoy my attempt in turning this substack into a biweekly thing! my goal is to publish one personal and one educational/informational essay per month. thanks for giving this one a try!
last week i turned 25 and i remember feeling a little bit bewildered at how mediocre the whole day had been. in my defense, i was expecting some kind of revelation to strike. big, grand epiphanies. that when i woke up in the morning, freshly 25, everything would finally click together and make sense of my life. instead: i slept in, went out to grab coffee, and had a free birthday steak for lunch. i guess that, too, was its own revelation—that as you get older birthdays will feel less like a celebration and more like a normal wednesday, except for when you get free meals and discounted deals (and people bombarding you with tom cruise GIFs).
it’s hard not to make a big deal out of birthdays when you notice that you’re spending it differently than you used to. maybe it’s because this is my first time not having a corporate job in years. i quit my previous role because i wanted to have more time for writing and yet writing is not how i make a living at the moment. maybe it’s because instead of pursuing a safe, normal corporate career like all my friends are at 25, what i did was open a substack blog with a name that is practically a pun to my favorite al pacino movie, because that’s what i find fulfilling at the moment. alas.
i find myself coming back to this tweet:
i wonder if that’s the reason why people fear course-correction: it creates the illusion of time wasted. worse, it signals failure. because what else does it say about you if you had to get out of the thing that you’ve deliberately chosen to do in the first place, if not poor judgment? one of my peers said you don’t need anybody’s permission to change course and pursue more than one interest, which i seconded wholeheartedly. but you can’t deny the mortifying ordeal of having to present yourself with a brand new identity after having attached to one for a long time. for some people, it’s the dread of having to introduce yourself in one community as X and the other community as Y just so you don’t feel out of place.
maybe that’s why people invented concepts like ikigai: to make sense of their identity. to feel good about not having to fit into a box, to be able to fit into multiple boxes at once and have a word to shout it out from the rooftop. to navigate multitudes, to find their people, and ultimately? to feel less lonely. last year i tweeted that i’m the “antithesis of ikigai” just to declare my stance towards the notion of ikigai. to my own surprise, my fellow notion ambassador and colleague ben borowski offered that my ikigai is curiosity. i have to admit that it never really left my mind ever since.
the man, the legend, the human proxy
my family and i were sitting in the living room together one morning when i looked up and saw a very familiar face speaking on TV. this was back when every news channel had been reporting back and forth on the latest development of the oceangate submarine accident, and even though i kinda could have seen it coming, i still had to do a double take when i read the name on the screen:
i remember going on the internet afterwards and finding out people were outraged that the world’s first go-to person to discuss about submersibles behavior was the same person who made the movie titanic in 1997. actual person on tumblr going off about this:
Why do I keep seeing James Cameron all over my news (I know these are both Insider, but I have been seeing James Cameron in the news for days from several different outlets, I’m just lazy) Listen, I know he did the time and made the movie but how is he any different? Rich white guy? Profited off of the exploitation of the tragedy of the Titanic? Self entitled expert? Bleh I’m over seeing his crusty wannabe Saruman face all over my phone. Go back to the Avatar movies and think about what you’ve done.
it’s so interesting how quick people turn to skepticism every time somebody turns to be doing something they weren’t set out to do initially. why would a filmmaker know anything about submersibles? i really enjoy the occurence in which people forget james cameron legitimately numbers among the small handful of people most qualified to talk about the disaster, because then i get to explain to them why the highest grossing filmmaker in the history of cinema is also a certified Nat Geo explorer and NASA advisor. if i had a dollar every time i did this with my friends, i’d be so disgustingly rich and wouldn’t be telling you all of this.
i have to admit it’s also possible that i’ve been using james cameron as a proxy to make sense of my own identity—so when people ask me, hypothetically, how would an earth science graduate know anything about building a business and creative process? not that i know anyone who would actually throw around that kind of question. but it really takes the burden off my shoulders just to be able to figuratively point them at james cameron and say, THAT’S how. next question.
in retrospect, maybe that’s why i find memoirs to be soothing (even more so than novels). every time i think about how ridiculous it is that i’m pursuing a lot of things with agonizingly minimal overlap in between, i have to remind myself there are literally people out there who have already lived exactly the life i fear of being ridiculed for. it’s weirdly comforting, in a way. i’m crazy if i think i’m gonna be the next james cameron, but the fact that i’m not the only one in this world with an engineering degree who also wants to be intellectually acknowledged for their creative ambitions and artistic lenses really puts things into perspective. it makes me feel less lonely, and fuels me to go even further.
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here’s one thing i ultimately learned: we are an amalgamation of everywhere we’ve ever been and everything we’ve ever loved. in the tweet above, miller refers to this as failed hobbies and forgotten instruments, but i’m also talking about sidelined passion projects. jobs we’ve outgrown. college degrees and GPAs that have gone completely irrelevant with time. it’s so easy to hold grudges and take these things for granted when they didn’t work out as planned because i feel like i’m owed something from them. but if i learn to treat them like old friends and just truly embrace them with gratitude, maybe i’ll find that they’ll embrace me in return, time after time.
in my substack about page i write that my essays will always be a living evidence of what it’s like to be a young woman who is deeply rooted in STEM but also writes fiction, studies film, preaches about the creative process, and growing a business at the same time. last week i turned 25, and i realized these things are not gonna change for a long time.
special thanks to , , , and from write of passage cohort 11 for going out of their way to help me out with this piece!