The Journey IS the Destination

Masters in Urban and Regional Planning This is the program I will be applying for next year to take that first step (FINALLY!) towards pursuing a career. The last time I wrote about this subject, I mentioned that I was leaning towards Environmental Science and Public Policy. Well, I left it at that and didn't delve into the deep history behind that decision. It all started on a dark and stormy night...

I realized early last year that my aspirations to pursue public administration would not lead to a satisfying career for me. Two important follies became evident: 1) I based my decision of Public Admin on the fact that I didn't want to take the GRE and wanted to pursue a grad program that would accept me as-is with my meager background in the Humanities; and 2) even though I tried to avoid sitting at a computer all day by pursuing community outreach instead of computer graphics, I now had a job in community outreach but I spent the day sitting at a computer doing graphic design (among other things). It became clear that I had fallen into the rut of basing my decisions on what I didn't want instead of did want. I realized that the more I didn't want things, the more they seemed to gravitate to me. So, I quit that. My criteria for finding a career changed to what I think I want to do with the rest of my life instead of what I want to avoid. This was a big step for me; remaining in that state could have been disastrous.

So I turned to Civil Engineering. I could still work as a public servant (I like working for the government) but I would be able to build things (something I've liked since I was a child). After a few weeks in that direction, I concluded that I would have to re-graduate with a degree in math or science to even dare apply for grad school, so I turned again. This time it was towards Environmental Science (see previous post). A few weeks later, I turned again to Geography, which emphasized more of the spatial relationship between people and the surrounding landscape. This meant a strong emphasis on mapping technology and GIS, which had become a favorite of mine as I built custom mapping applications at my current job. I applied for this program (twice!) and even enrolled in some deficiency classes, but it all hit the fan when the May 19th election emerged because finals were on May 19th. Awesome. So I watched another semester pass by eyes. Now, I'm glad I did.

One morning a few weeks back, I woke up remembering a grad program I had happened upon two years ago at my alma mater called Urban and Regional Planning. I had looked into the program then, but turned away when I saw that they required a GRE score (I didn't want that, remember?) Now, I revisited the possibility of returning to my school to continue my education in the grad program there. It felt good. I wanted it. It's the first time in the last two years that I've felt a genuine desire and motivation to jump back into school. I took that as a sign and contacted the grad advisor there. I missed the deadline for 2009 (what?!) so the earliest I can start is Fall 2010. Ugh. A full year and a half away. As disappointed as I was, I still didn't feel deterred. So that's that. I've found my direction. MURP. What a great acronym to represent my new life.

Ok, that's the just history, here's the moral. A few days ago I all-of-a-sudden recalled a conversation I had with my mom right before I left for Southern California. I had just returned from my missionary service and was ready to take on the world. We were sitting on the lawn at night, I think it was the night before I left.

"So what do you want to do? What's your plan?"
"I don't know yet. I want to help people, not sit at a computer all day."
"So what are you going to do?"
"... I want to make a better environment for people, to make neighborhoods and communities for people who can't afford it now."
"You mean multi-use housing?"
"Sure, whatever that is."

I replayed the memory a few times for nostalgia's sake, then it hit me. What did I say to my mom? I want to make neighborhoods and communities? Like developing housing tracts? Like ... urban planning?? I remember not knowing exactly how to articulate my plans back then, but I knew what I wanted and as I tried to put it into words it felt good. It felt like that was the direction I needed to take. That night, it was as if God gave me a glimpse of my future, albeit that I didn't know how to interpret it. And the next morning (maybe because I woke up at 2:00am to commence my 700-mile trip in my 1991 Eclipse) I completely forgot the experience. Whatever foresight I had gained that night was now gone and it was as if I had never received it. Interesting.

Now, six years almost to the day since our conversation, I am pursuing Urban and Regional Planning and it feels good. Again. Six years that started as care-free, blissful schooling that taught me a lot about life (and my soon-to-be wife :) but nothing about practical work skills, and that ended with frustrating phone calls, discouraging stand-stills, and long nights full of unanswered questions. Six years later, and I'm back to the beginning. I've finally come around to what God intended for me to do. I don't regret the last six years and I don't mourn over the fact that I could be well on my way in my profession instead of a year away from even starting, but I do find it intriguing that I've journeyed for so long, and now that I'm here, I realize that I knew it all along. I thought I was looking for the destination, but I wasn't because I already knew where it was. I was made to journey (through the wilderness?) because I still had things to learn before "arriving." The real destination lies in the journey itself. It's the knowledge we gain along the way that concludes our journey. And my journey, at least this phase, has come to an end. I'm finally calm about this decision and I'm determined in this direction.

It's really a microcosm for life. I just got back from my aunt-in-law's funeral, and as I chanted along with the monk, I thought about how she was now with her husband who passed on three years ago. She had returned to the place from whence she had come, but now with knowledge and experience that only a lifetime on earth can provide. Before we are born, I'm sure we are debriefed on our earth life and what we need to do and where we need to end up. Then we're born as a baby and forget it all. We start anew. It's only was we inch our way through life that we start to see glimpses of our true potential and final destination. And as we pass through the veil between life and death, I'm sure we'll say to ourselves, much like I did upon remembering my conversation with my mom, "Duh, I knew this."  But we will finally be able to arrive at our destination, only because we had "arrived" gradually by accumulating truth and experience as we made the journey.


Lizzy said...

I enjoyed your thoughts. It is making me think about where I am going and will end up, and about my two little ones and what their journeys are--where life will take us.
Also--congrats on deciding on your career. One of mine and David's best friends is an Urban planner. If you want to chat with him about it let me know.

Amanda said...

I have no poignant thoughts to add but thank you for yours. I really am so happy for you. Good luck with all your "stuff".

BaoQuoc said...

Good luck getting in, Grad school is a great experience.


travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)