Sometimes it only takes a hint of an idea, and a gentle nudge from your mentor to walk the route of a PhD candidate, but it’s important to remember that whatever choices you make, there’s no better way out of it than through it. This post has been a very long time in coming, and it all began with my dearest sister Jen giving me my first copy of Design Like You Give a Damn, a book that served as an idea and inspiration for the next 8 years of my life. I began this blog nearly four years ago almost to the day, to try and keep track of my research progress, thoughts, and ideas, but I am embarrassed to admit that I have given very little of what I had intended to share by way of academic musings on what lies beyond architecture for humanity.
Blogging as a concept is still an almost impossible hurdle for me to fathom, because in this ever changing and volatile age of social media and internet, where every stroke of key, every press of a radio button, and any series of choices you make, however random, to find the short-lived micro-wavelength information you are looking for as they spontaneously enter your mind and spontaneously disappear the moment you consume the new knowledge that fits your goal, whatever it was, you are also leaving behind a trail of your history, actions, behaviors, and opinions that define who you are as an individual. That is a very longwinded way for me to acknowledge my retrospective laziness in keeping this blog running!
Beginning next week, though, I am going to try a new routine, where I actually use this space as a way to brainstorm, challenge, reflect, and report on the ideas that inspire me going forward. Although I am incredibly organized in my personal and professional life ‘offline’, I do think there is value in using blogs as a way to condition and motivate you as a writer. By holding yourself publicly accountable, you have a little more chance of actually following through on your promises (though buddhists would disagree and argue that “strengths come from within”. Oh, but there are of course others who will go even beyond that – they would say, your thoughts are but a fleeting speck of dust that brushes past a pointed tentacle of a snail meandering through the rainforest, or something along those lines).
With my dissertation now in hand, I am able to entertain the thought of hatching an idea or two that goes even more beyond architecture for humanity, like how a soft and nimble caterpillar hatches from amongst hundreds of eggs that didn’t even get to that stage. While I am not yet a butterfly, figuratively speaking still, the last four years of working on my dissertation feels as though I have been living inside a pupa hanging off the magnificent tree of wisdom, contorting my mind to grasp new ideas, sometimes struggling and feeling trapped within a confined space of what feels to be everlasting PhD candidacy, inching along the research process. But you know what, when you finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, see that unmistakable glimmer of sunshine through the little tear in my crusty old shell, I suddenly find the energy and momentum to spread my feathery wings and hang it out to dry. This was actually last August. Then I had to wait for the reviewers to return from their summer holidays to set up a date for viva voce, and the longwinded process of collating all the documents, minor corrections, and various waiver forms to let me know that I have indeed finished my PhD.
Since then, I have been continuing to dry my wings out in the sun waiting to build more muscle and let blood pump through its veins, and test out the wind every now and then to see when would be the perfect time to fly. These wind testings were conducted over more books, getting up to speed with the latest research, catching up with old friends that I’ve neglected in my hermit-like and all-too-often molting caterpillar years, meeting new people and potential collaborators, and giving time and energy to new projects that might birth opportunities that can make social impact. As some of these projects are quietly percolating, I will discuss them in their various stages, but firstly I wanted to state my new challenge – one weekly blog, one post at a time.