This was what I have realized right before I went to the states for the first time: You are the choices you have made. Now I realize it deeply again.
Recently it was in contact with several of my old classmates in college. They have been professors in the states. I cannot help but feel the great contrast btw the different paths that we have chosen. If I didn’t quit my Ph.D program to pursue my passion on software programming and elearning (realizing real life learning), I could have been professors as well. This is the most stable path for us foreigners in the states. But I disliked doing research at school very much since when I was doing research on elearning I saw so many wasteful and meaningless research papers. None of those papers aimed at solving the problem. Instead they are just creating problems. Yes, probably you have sensed, all my life has been about something bigger. Ever since my childhood, I realized that human life is very precious and I have to strive very hard to experience fully of it. So I always tried to expand myself to the fullest and not to limit myself.
But life has its age. When I became 30s, I had to realize that my body is not as young as before. Now at my age, I also realize that I cannot keep expanding without any concern of the so called mundane life. If I think having a family is what I cannot give up on in my life and it is a very important experience to have babies, then I have to give my attention to them now. At certain age, something can wait, something cannot wait. In the past, I didn’t want to give any thoughts to that since I really need to cherish the time to expand fully when I am still young. I thought I had to come to America to see people and culture different from us. So I came. I thought I really like programming and elearning is really what my life points to. So I changed my major to computer science and did research on elearning. I still remember how happy I was when I changed to Computer Science successfully. How I felt when I told people that I was in CS major and how I felt when I truly become a professional in this field. The kind of energy I had worked so passionately in this field up to this day.
In my life, in the past I don’t quite understand people who are always concerned with the so called mundane life. Now I think I come to understand their values and views since I need to think of that as well. I can understand it is very normal for people to think like that if they haven’t experiences that clearly as I experienced in my childhood. These so called mundane concerns are not mundane either. People need to be well-grounded. And these give you a good foundation to be at ease and enjoy your life so you can keep healthy and pursue other things bigger. Not to mention that my parents are getting older too. In China, parents give all of themselves out when taking care of the kids and in a way they have to rely on their children to give back when they grow old. This is the cultural norm here, and you should give back the love you received. So I think what is life about. If I want to understand normal folks and this is what they live, I should have this experience as well. For those passions and dreams, since I have laid a good foundation for them and there is no major area that I have to expand myself into now, I think they can wait a little and I need to see when the opportunity comes up. In a sense, I feel it is like how in the past I didn’t spend much time on the girlfriend seeking thing and just wait for the right opportunity come up and meet the right person — there is really not much you can do about it.
In my past, I put all my energy in understanding the field I am working in, for example, what is really learning. I tried hard to conquer several big areas, for example, being able to explore freely with programming. I aim only at solving the problem. But those understanding and skills I gained are hard to be translated to job market terms. As I have always been trying to create the future learning, what I need now is to prove myself in the existing industry. After all, you have to grow stronger and you need to work with others to build things. So I think this is what I am learning now.
As I am reading through the current landscape of what people are innovating in the learning/education field in America, what I have outlined several years ago as what we can work on to realize future learning have mostly been worked on: http://www.3exps.org/social/leon/framebook/notes/note/17659/?&pick_lang=E
So it is really going to change soon. For more than 10 years, I have been working on something that is not going to have any employment opportunities in the industry. Now, there are a lot of job opportunities. If you really want to make real life learning the mainstream learning, there are plenty of work for you to do. So you had better start caring about the real learning instead of learning that is centered around the traditional school classroom teaching. There will be less and less those jobs available.