Queens College was where I found myself falling precariously in love with literature. This feeling of precarity haunted me in very real, tangible ways. My parents had always pushed me towards the hard sciences, where I would be able to develop a highly marketable set of skills and knowledge towards some lucrative STEM career. Studying English meant courting an unknown, unpredictable future with a diminished promise for success (defined in the normative sense of attaing a high salary, prestige, and job security). But the English courses that I took at QC were also the ones that I found the most intellectually stimulating, teaching me how to write and think critically about different texts as well as the world I inhabit. Reading Edward Said’s Orientalism for the first time in Jesse Schwartz’s class completely blew my mind and provided me with a whole new theoretical framework for apprehending gendered, imperial power relations between the East and the West. For a short while, I managed to trick my parents (as well as myself) into believing that I was majoring in English with plans to apply for law school. By the end of junior year, I knew had to come clean and finally told them that I wanted to pursue a PhD in English. They were very apprehensive about my choice but ultimately, supportive of my passion for studying and writing about literature.
Today, I am a doctoral candidate in the English program at UCLA and am in the process of completing my dissertation. I can therefore say that studying English at QC has directly shaped and changed my life in major ways. It led me to move away from New York, where I was born and raised, all the way to the West coast, where I have found new communities of wonderful peers, mentors, and friends. I have had the pleasure to learn from the brilliant faculty at UCLA and work with Rachel Lee, an amazing advisor who continues to challenge and push me intellectually with regards to my research on Asian American literature and culture. At UCLA, I also had the opportunity to teach undergraduate students for the first time. In my classes, I continue to draw on a lot of the different teaching strategies and styles modeled by my excellent QC English professors such as Duncan Faherty, Caroline Hong, and Jason Tougaw, to only name a few. I have found teaching to be one of the most rewarding aspects of being an academic and I hope to continue helping students become more critically engaged readers and writers in the world they live.
The feeling of precarity regarding my chosen career path still persists in various ways. I feel it as I meticulously budget all of my living expenses and attempt to stretch my stipend as much as I can. I feel it as I scramble to apply for various research fellowships/grants and take on extra graduate student researcher work to make ends meet. This feeling of precarity will, no doubt, increase in the following months as I prepare to go on the highly competitive job market in the fall but I have also come to accept insecurity and risk as the price for doing something that I truly love. I can say that I have become more adept at living-with-precarity, at not allowing this sense of precarity to immobilize me but to instead serve as a more productive, driving force in my research as well as my life.