i haven’t been writing

but here’s everything i wish i were writing about

the last two months i’ve been in shanghai, china, for work. i have one more month left. i came here precisely because i was needed, and as such, have had very little time for things outside of work, and because of less-great connectivity at home, have had very little opportunity for writing.

it’s a shame, because i was hoping to make writing a central part of my post-graduation life. it started out that way, but going to china was such a transition and whirlwind of activity that it’s been difficult to gather myself together enough to write something polished, other than random thoughts and status updates that i frequently put on my tumblr blog.

so i’m making this post intentionally unpolished, forcing myself to write all lowercase as a symbol of this (which is actually kind of hard if capitalizing letters is an ingrained habit for you…i find myself accidentally capitalizing anyway and having to go back and re-type)

instead of really writing the detailed, researched articles that i want to write, i’m just going to tell you what i wish i had the time to sit down and write about.

  • what it’s like living abroad ok, obvious, so let me get this out of the way first. but i really did have some key insights while living in china. i know i’m only here a short time, but even so, it was different to just be put in a different context, made meaningful in part because i performed the reverse journey of my mother, going from boston to her birthplace in shanghai. many years ago, she flew from this same port-city and ended up in boston too, with $500 in her pocket, working at a chinese restaurant before starting graduate school in kentucky.
  • how different cultures view robots. i work for a robotics startup, and the potential implications of my work are not lost on me. in china, people seem to view the field of robotics and automation very differently. this is partly because the government has explicitly made it a goal to invest in automation, because the chinese population is aging, and it is projected that there will literally be not enough people in the workforce in coming years to support china’s economy, which is built on the foundation of rapid growth and expansion.
  • china in africa this is a topic a lot of different people have spoken to me about, and have many different views on. being in china, and also hanging out with a lot of african international students, gave me a closer look and a different perspective on what china’s involvement in the continent means.
  • africa(ns) in china influence always, always goes two-ways, regardless of who has the power or economic upper hand. chinese know this well — every time china was taken over by a minority ethnic/cultural group, the reigning dynasty assimilated into han chinese culture rather than enforcing their cultural norms on the general public. i had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people studying in china, who all had very unique and interesting perspectives. part of what i want to write about is also less political, less ‘serious’ — just about how many africans survive and thrive in a culture that is so different. i made many friends; i attended dinners and discussions. they excel in their classes; they laugh; they use mandarin phrases with each other. the energy and fervor i saw there reminds me of the energy and fervor i saw among africans at mit, but from a completely different viewpoint.
  • afrofuturism and that brings me to a topic i’ve wanted to write about for some time, and sort of have already. the african continent is already wakanda in a way — there is a lot of completely overlooked development, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurial energy that is now blossoming across the continent. the white media is still slow on the uptake and misconceptions about african countries are still widespread. but back at mit, the african students’ association continues to be a guiding light for how to think about modern africa, and I want to do a series on my friend and Africa Learning Circle (ALC) chair Victor’s excellent emails, which always begin with “hello afrofuturists”.
  • #startupLife i work at a startup. it’s demanding. it’s fast-paced. it’s stressful. and it’s really fun. i have to say, i thought i would get more of a break after undergrad by entering the workforce, but i knew deep down this was entirely the wrong place to pick if i wanted your typical 9–5. however, it’s been one of the best things for my personal growth, skill development, and work experience.
  • impostor syndrome despite having graduated from mit, i found that the feeling of impostor syndrome lingered long afterward, and i still struggle with it now. i found that confidence is actually one of the important things i was lacking upon entering industry. there has been more than one occasion where, if i had stuck to my decision rather than agree to another because i questioned myself, my whole team might have been better off. but at the same time, my academic record from mit (which was pretty average) still haunts me, and sometimes i am needlessly paranoid about my own competence or ability. but still, i have moments of clarity (especially after finishing something hard) that i’ve been trained well, and that i really did earn that degree.
  • identity i want to continue writing on the topic of being mixed. being in china has actually provided a lot of positive feelings for once, and this is no doubt because during college i made peace with many of the negative ones. there are still moments when i feel apprehensive, but for the first time in a long, long while, i’ve felt mostly proud of who i am and what i look like, unique and happy.

so that’s everything i wish i were writing about, but haven’t. i hope i have the chance to, but honestly, it’ll be crunch time at work until i get back to the states. but it will happen!! eventually!!

Written by

MIT grad, robotics engineer, mixed. A place I write.

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