I think I’ve almost settled into grad school. I really enjoy tossing ideas back and forth with my fellow students, though at times I feel out of place: about half are from India, half from China, and there a handful of white guys like me hanging in there. I still feel ahead of the curve, but only slightly. My friend Monica says I should have gone to Berkeley, where coincidentally much of the current ECE research is being done, and perhaps she’s right. But I’m not sure if I’d be able to keep up there. Maybe for a PhD, someday, when I can think up clever things to write papers about. I need to prove myself first, prove that I really do belong. But school certainly makes a lot more sense now than it ever did as an undergrad. I needed those years in Japan to get my motivation straight, to allow me to really extract the most from my university experience. It’s like an idea bakery here, all the smells of genius and burnt failure mingling together in an inseparable melange. But when it all comes to a head in a couple years, spending the rest of my life locked away in industry is still no more appealing than it was five years ago.
Most days I feel as if I’m in the right place, but every once in awhile, like today, I’ll look back at things and it seems as if my soul is in a thousand pieces, scattered to the four winds. I took a swig of liquid courage and made a phone call back to the board of education to take care of some paperwork, and chatting with native speakers brought me right back to that point in my life… minus a few forgotten words here and there. I didn’t stutter too much. But days like this make me wonder if there are two people fighting inside my skull for control of my life. One wants to follow the logical path of my strengths as an engineer, while the other says I should give that up and go do something, anything in Japan. I’m in my element here, I’m in my element there. The real world says I have to pick one or the other. Maybe I need a door number three.