Friday, May 30, 2008

potential is a terrible thing to waste

Our new president knows to say the right thing. When she visited our college, I was really impressed with her charisma. As the Dean said, she really has created a buzz upon arrival. Personally I like her idea of the "first 100 days campaign" - the way to create buzz and create energy. Maybe when I move to Hawaii, I need to have my first-100-day diary as well. I particuarlly like what she said in this email, sent today - "potential is a terrible thing to waste"

That is so true. Life is too short to not know where we are going

Here is the email from the president received today.

As you may know, I recently completed my first 100 days at the University of Houston and am currently sorting through over 11,000 suggestions received from the 100 Days Web site. I wish to thank you for your support and would also like to share with you my early impressions about the city of Houston and this great university.

Before arriving at UH, I was well aware of Houston’s ranking as America’s fourth largest city, as well as its acclaim as the energy capital of the world and home to the world’s largest medical center. After several months here, I’ve discovered that Houston is also a fabulous destination for discriminating gastronomists and offers a full array of arts and cultural experiences.

Many who claim to know all about Houston initially warned me of the heat and humidity, traffic and road repairs, and the Galleria crowds and parking issues. But what I’ve come to realize for myself are the various green spaces, ethnic shops and places of real urban life experiences that this unique city offers. The thousands of people who continue to welcome me to Houston and share their stories are living proof that Houston is about diversity—the diversity of people, opportunities and successes. I’ve personally found Houstonians to be very warm, welcoming and unpretentious— a rare trait in today’s world!

My impressions of the University of Houston are the exact same. Certainly, I knew of the many facets that make UH a great university— including our 35,000 students, $88 million research, famous National Academy faculty, many nationally ranked programs and 220,000 successful graduates. However, in only a few months, I’ve learned so much more. Did you know that our annual economic impact of $3.2 billion is the same as hosting the Olympic Games right here in Houston? Are you aware that UH students contribute over a million hours in community service each year, or that the university has hundreds of educational and research partnerships all over the region? Our university is also a true global destination for many—housing students from 133 countries. Proud Cougars are everywhere and most choose to stay in the region and fuel the local economy.

Hundreds of graduates have also told me that if it were not for the University of Houston, they would not have been able to go to college—which helped me realize that, in many instances, UH is about firsts—first generations, first opportunities and first chances at success! The campus community here is second to none— our faculty members are world class, our staff members are dedicated and our students have fire in their bellies. All of these signs point to a university on the move!

People often ask me what keeps me awake at night. I think it is the anxiety that comes from knowing that you are in the right place at the right time with the right opportunity. As I take pride in the University of Houston’s past achievements, I also know that our best days are yet to come because potential is a terrible thing to waste.

So what’s next for us?

Eleven thousand suggestions from the community, both internal and external, contain many “big rock” ideas. While we continue to study these ideas as we chart the course to our next destination, I would like to point out several messages that you have sent. Many of you want to see:

* A nationally competitive university that offers cutting-edge creativity and innovation to fuel the regional economy.
* A university that defines its success by the success of its students.
* A university that partners with its community and builds on its strengths.
* And, a university that enriches the arts and athletic environment of our region.

We will be setting the university’s destination based on your input. I believe that it takes an entire community to build a great university— faculty, students, regents, staff, alumni, philanthropists, civic leaders, policy makers, businesses, industry and the community itself. We have already begun our strategic planning discussions, and are working to chart our course for the future.

You are part of the community that will transform this great university into a greater one. Every success is a journey, and ours begins today with you.

With warm regards,


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

agitated mind

My mind is scattered and all the details I have to attend to in the coming weeks. I realized that I cannot even listen to my favorite Buddhism podcast while driving. That was a surprising realization. I did not know I am so agitated. I did not know listening to something I consider casual requires a calm mind as well. I suppose I am good at making a list and checking items off as I go. Maybe I should really practice stay at the moment and focus on one thing at a time. What a time to truly test my Buddhism practice - most of the things that need to happen are out of my control. Sometimes I feel I am a control freak who likes to be always 200% prepared and 200% ready. Not this time for sure.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Abbot's permission

I ran into the abbot today at the temple. He said he heard the news. "Have you decided?" he asked. After knowing I have already made up my mind, in a split second, he seemed disappointed. Maybe I was just faltering myself. Maybe not. Jokingly, he said, "you did not ask for my permission, did you?"

Sometimes I do wonder what moving to Hawaii means in terms of my Buddhism practice.

It was summer of 2006. I just graduated with a doctorate degree but without a tenure-track position. Working as a post-doc was no where near my career goal. Honesty, that was one of the darkest moments in my life. Out of nowhere, the Abbot had a private conversation with me about the possibility of working for Texas Buddhist Association. The conversation happened at the lowest point of my life and it helped me to regain confidence. After all, I do think I can be a productive and contributing member of the society. Someone sees that in me!

We talked two more times after that but no decision or action was made. However, it was the first conversation that really encouraged me to think deeply about what I can do to help spread Buddhism. Many things happen after that but today, I still attribute that first conversation with the Abbot a monumental one. I went through a long period of contemplating my goal of life and finally made peace with the realization that I have more passion about Buddhism than about making a career in academia.

Even though I am quite committed in my mind, the "conditions" are not there to make this happen. One thing after another, now I am moving to Hawaii, in peruse of my academic career.

After all, it was the Abbot who awakened me to the idea of working for Buddhism. Maybe he has the right to be a little disappointed to see me leave. The truth is, if the conditions are in place, I am more than willing to stay.

At the present moment, I simply can only do what is presented in front of me. Moving to Hawaii opens a new chapter in my life. I question if and for how long I will be able to maintain this willingness to be a dedicated dharma worker. I am afraid to know the answer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mommy said yes

When I called today, uncle was also in Taipei. That was a good thing. I was worried how mom would react to the news that I am moving to Hawaii. She was not very happy when I talked to her last time. She thought I am doing well in Houston. Why move? Of course Uncle was very excited. Like most people, he likes the idea that he can come visit me. With Uncle's enthusiasm, mom seemed pretty receptive to the idea now. She even asked if there will be a place for her and aunt to stay if they visit me. I told her Honolulu has a very good bus system. She can come and stay with me for a longer period and take the bus to China town every day. She seemed to like this idea. It was a relief to get her okay on this. She was also very pleased that I found Fo Guan Mountain and have made some initial connections. This is something good about being a Buddhist - when we move to another city, we just find a Buddhist community and we are good. Mom was happy for me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bliss coming to an end?

So I talked to more people today about my new offer. I have to admit that I am in a state of happiness. Why not? After all, I did receive a job offer. However, I am close to not wanting to talk about it anymore. Everyone wants to know about every details. After repeating myself so many times, I think I am pretty much done with bragging (a little).

In the midst of happiness, I am fully aware that the reality will sink in pretty soon - all the details about remodeling the apartment, going through all the belongings, garage sale, packing, renting the apartment, shipping the car, more packing, then more packing. Most difficult of all will be to leave all the people I know.

I am patiently waiting for my happiness to end and the scary realty to kick in..... It is coming and I know it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Leaping Forward

A day to remember - I verbally accepted Hawaii's job offer with the Dean. Moving date will be around late July and early August.

I tell myself, the past is gone and the future is in my hands. Am I scared? Yes. But challenges make us grow. This is a great opportunity to practice detachment and letting go. I am forever grateful of what Houston has provided for me.

Let me suit up all my courage and blessings and move forward with my new life. To start your life all over again is not easy to say the least. However, take a look at the beautiful palm trees against the beautiful blue sky... who wouldn't want to move to Hawaii?

Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. by Robert Forest

A day to remember indeed.