Thursday, December 06, 2007

We bid farewell...

Dad slipped away in the morning of December 5th, 2007. This post is a tribute to his journey in life. Mom was feeding him, when he slept off, never to wake. I take solace in knowing that his transition was peaceful.

Not sure if there ever can be a perfect good bye. I am on my way back to Sri Lanka to observe final rights.

I am not sure I want to see him in a state any different from the many memories that I have of him. Not sure if that is what he wants from me either.

I am privileged to have with me the company of my family. They are a huge strength to me as I am to them. I am honoured to have the support of my friends. Most of all, I am grateful for memories that I have of Dad.

I wish I were able to do more.

I feel numb.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Psychology in the Asian Workplace

Sometime back i wrote about the fantastic journey that started at the mega-corporate. That journey continues to bring excitement. As i look back over the past 9 months, and shuffle through the numbness of how work sometimes stifles creativity, I ponder about the many reasons why its becomes so darn difficult to write a decent blog while working.

During lunch last week (and numerous other times) i was asked if i “can read minds”. I had an ah haa moment at that point, that showed me that people no matter how “modern” they claim to be, have no freaking clue who a psychologist is. At least not in Malaysia. This my friends is REALITY.
I am in a position to educate people about this special kind of mind readers. Morons, psychologists don’t read minds. Yes, they do become very sensitive to inferring subtle behaviors that might otherwise be missed out.

As a student of psychology, i would like to dedicate today’s post to explain how I/O psychologists evolved, what they currently do, how they can add value to a organization, and what the future is for I/O psychology in Malaysia.

I/O Psychologists are people are interested to study the interaction (Thoughts, feelings, and Behaviors) between humans (who sometimes act like animals) and the workplace. Why? Because more and more organizations realize that human capital development directly influences the bottom line. The humble I/O psychologist belongs to this ambitions group.

Industry perception of the I/O Psychologist has been not been positive, specially in growing markets such as Asia, where industries are motivated by cheep labor and a general inadequacy of legislation relating to employee health and wellbeing. Psychologists are thus, perceived as people with lot of “fluff” (mumbo jumbo at best) with no real operational experience.

The purpose of this article is to provide psychology students like my self some realistic background on what we can offer an organization and how best can I/O psychologists add to the organizations value proposition.

The Development of I/O Psychology:

The history of I/O psychology can be traced back to a time frame during the industrial revolution. It was at this time, when the research question relating to how an organization is able to effectively manage many thousand employees arose. Though the setting of this early history was derived from systematically observing manual labor, around the factory setting, and then redesigning the workflow, the basic premises of this theoretic model became the building blocks of modern I/O Psychology.

During World War 1, the focus of I/O Psychologists made a major shit in focus and dealt with the question of which people should be hired to perform all the new jobs created. Of course, by this time, the industrial revolution and the society that supported it, was changing radically. Un-validated tests measuring cognitive ability, psychomotor, and personality was developed. These tests would later lay the foundations to I/O psychology. The modern form of hiring experts are born.

As i write this blog, WWIII has come and gone. Society has changed. “work” has been redefined over and over in complex ways. The need for professionals understanding human performance in the workplace and determining how to best hire and promote employees became most important.

So how do these special breed of Psychologists add value to an organization? I have listed below areas in which an I/O Psychologist is able to add value.

The organization understands that strategic development and management of a business does need the help of a scientist. Case studies of compliance issues in the area of racial discrimination, social justice etc, are areas that Psychologists spend years training. Psychologists are also better able to communicate and change existing cultures. Being architects of human behavior adds value to the globalization of work. Psychologists everywhere are increasing the dialogue between very senior management and junior employees by representing the complexities of each side to the other in a manner that is understandable.

So, if you are pondering, “How can a I/O Psychologist really add value in the HR function”, below is a list that can help you bring some understanding. I will not go indepth into each area as they deserve write ups by them selves.

The grand list, and by no means exhaustive, is:

-Recruiting and Staffing
-Leadership Development
-Training and Development
-Performance Management
-Compensation
-Organizational Development
-Survey Work
-Change Management
-Counseling
-Workplace Violence
-Employee Wellness
-Statistical Analysis and Methodologies

So, is there a future if you become a I/O Psychologist in Asia?

In Asia, probably not. Not for the next 10-15 years. Global organizations choose regions such as Asia for the simple reason of it being cheaper than else where. Hence, it is highly unlikely that organizations would be too keen on hiring expensive specialists in this region.

But, that’s no reason why you should not become an I/O psychologist. Entrepreneurs are now turning to Psychologists for ideas to solve the work problem of a modern Asia.

In addition, there is a boom in mid size organizations taking on the services of the I/O psychologist to boom. Mid size HR research organizations, Organizational change management companies, etc all look for the specific talents that these students of psychology carry with them.
The perception of the Psychologist will soon change in Malaysia as key regional players such as Singapore, Japan, and AnZ push forward with advanced forms of human capital management.

If you feel differnt about the development of I/O psychology in Asia, then pls share your thoughts.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sunset in Sri Lanka : A Tribute


As i read Eugene O’Kellys book “Chasing daylight” my thoughts drift to my own dad who like Eugene once did, stands at the edge of darkness. Like for Eugene, Dad has been taken over by a tumor that is about the size of a baseball. Unlike Eugene though, Dads condition is marked with profound confusion and pain.

Days pass, and as i reflect on my own journey so far, it is hard not to search for the meaning that life as we know it offers. As my days with the giant corporate pass by, i increasingly feel more and more numb about the things that i once used to love doing. I am reminded a close friends favorite quote (perhaps from Eugenes own wisdom), “begin with the end in mind”. Had dad known that his end would be turbulent, how different would he have lived his life? I wonder then if this perhaps in his own way, is his own life lesson for me.

Dad is not my hero. He lived in a way that pleased him. His decisions on his own desires. In many ways he lived a life that of his own. Unlike Eugene, he didn’t want to share his lessons, encourage, or be inclusive. Dad is private. His relationship was very much absent from my own life, yet, perhaps he thought me the profoundest lesson, of all what i should never be to my own children. Perhaps then, ironically, his influence on me is deep. When you juxtapose the influence of experience and consequential learning that follows, you derive meaning of a future that in which his influence has been nothing short of magnificent.

Dad moves towards the end of his book. The final chapter teaches me that i need to live each day of my life and only then will my book bring meaning in the end.

I held my fathers hands for the first time ever (he has never held mine). He squeezes them tight and his tears start rolling. He and I both know that his final chapter is magnificent.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Connecting with nature



Connecting with nature: Perth, Australia, April 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Swayed

I wonder if there is "social" discrimination in the job market. Do HR leaders make hires based on the way you speak, where you live, or where you were educated? And at what levels are this kind of selection most likely to be prevalent? At a recent career fair that saw the participation of a large number of organizations, i could not help but wonder, how different people make their hiring decisions.

I feel that social discrimination is very often disguised as businesses attempt to find the "right cultural fit". This process in my opinion includes hiring candidates of specific socio-economic status by recruiting people from a certain area.

Though it is mostly illegal to discriminate on the basis of social origin, it is difficult to prove that no social discrimination takes place during the application and selection process.

A good recruiter then, becomes aware of this biases, and will actively refuse to recruit people based on social demographics. Reality of hiring, i think, is far from that.

Social discrimination is explained in psychology in terms of perceptions and stereotypes. These really are snap judgments based on pre-conceived ideas which may or may not be accurate.

Though the attributes of top performers are numerous, no research points to factors such as where you grew up, the school you went to, or whether you speak the kind of English that is befitting of….. Sadly however, there is an unspoken barrier built by the folks hiring, that is still present ... This is particularly in law, finance, and consulting.

Research shows however, that social discrimination becomes less prevalent in senior positions, because by that time, employers are hiring on proven capabilities or existing networks.

So, do recruiters or the strategies they employ discriminate based on sex, and age? The answer, at least on an implicit level, is: yes, they do. While mature candidates are seen as outdated or set in their ways, there is some truth to the saying that “sex sells”. In the work place, it helps being in the fairer sex if you wanted something done. At the career fair, i quickly realized that women tend to have longer interviews as compared to men. I don’t mean to interpret the difference in lenth of interview in terms of the quality it represents. But, really, why should there be a difference in the first place?

In terms of the age, mature candidates should ideally be a valuable resource to organizations. Though, there are other challenges such as an older employee feeling isolated in an office of younger colleagues, organizations tend to favor younger employees.

So when can one rightfully feel discriminated against?

I think the reasoning to this answer will be found in a scenario when a person has gone through the process and agreed to whatever's been described to them but feel they're not getting an honest answer when they're trying to find out why they weren't successful in the first place.

The answer to the question on another level could be overly philosophical and less practical. However, it is an questions to which i have no answer.

Happy weekend everyone!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Graduate Leadership Program @ GE

GE International Inc (in Malaysia) recently announced the start of its esteemed Internship program "Graduate Leadership Program" or GLP. GE was is on the lookout for talented final year and graduating students from graduating from Malaysian Universities.

GLPs or Interns are said to have an opportunity to work on GEs business, and gain valuable experience. The program is structured in such a way that it really kick starts anyone’s career. In addition to training, GLPS have an opportunity to be mentored and learn from the best in the industry.

If you want a career in Finance, Human Resources, or Engineering and if you are tired of internships that make you file documents and the morning news paper with coffee for some fat guy, then you should be applying to for the GLP.

The level of empowerment that GE offers to its GLPs cannot be matched in the industry. If you are up for a challenge, then send your resume to internship.malaysia (at) ge.com
Sources tell me that admission is not easy.

Besides setting the benchmark at a basic CGPA of 3.3/4 GE also demands for leadership experience during your university tenure. Go for it!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Crystal ball career advice:

Universities and career guidance centers get ahead of themselves by harping on drum that is now off beat. What on earth am i talking about? I am worried about the extensive use of type indicators, personality indicators, and standardized testing instruments to help undergraduate students make career decisions. In theory, you answer a few questions in a few minutes, the administrator plugs your number on a computer, clicks some buttosn, *make machine noise here* and pronto, your life is explained. Like the mysterious magic ball, career counselors too can tell you where you are most likely going to head.

However, the problem is that the logic used by the so called personality inventories, are in my opinion, flawed.

It all starts like this: Personality tests like the MBTI made in the US are very conveniently imported to countries like Malaysia. The western models of career counseling is applied vigorously. The counselors boast of personal accreditations from prestigious organizations like the American Psychological Association, *insert list here* If you have not noticed anything wrong with this picture, it is because you think that the people of the world are made of Americans, and only Americans. You don’t see anything wrong because you think that the million plus cultures are very much like yours. And you are dead wrong in making that assumption. Why?

In the west, the Mother of all assumptions is made(at least in the case of career placement): it is assumed that matching personality and work interest is the best way to determine a good career fit. But this does not have to be so. Though this seems like a logical deduction, In the Asian, career choices are largely based on a family or group dynamics. An Asian student may choose to become a doctor because his families esteem or his communities esteem depends on it. Thus, in collectivistic cultures, individual choices may be given up for group choices. Though they may see “dependant” and unable to make their own choices, to think other wise is to deny cultural heritages, and is a demonstration of cultural tunnel vision.

What’s interesting is that current research originating from the America and Europe identify this gap, and have proposed strategies to overcome it. For example, research ideas now point to measuring the degree to which people are able to adopt to various jobs as a function of a good-career fit. The new models admit that people inherently change and thus, identify change as a key variable. Sadly, this development is yet to reach Asia.

Then there is the assumption made by the test, which makes it flawed in its very assumption of human nature. Tests assume that personalities is static: They assume that People do not change. They assume that people are static totem poles with predefined and robot like personalities defined largely at birth or in few years spent as an adolescent.

Reality however is far from that. People, by their very nature, are changing everyday. The well known verse “all the worlds a stage, and all the people the actors” is best used. The current personality inventories assume that “all the people play the same parts, over and over and over and over and over”. People are able to adopt, change, wear masks, learn though experience, and people are uniquely about to change each day.

My desire is to drive psychology in the Asian context. My desire is to adopt personality types that are flexible enough to encompass the complex cultural forms that is seen (if you choose to see) in this region. My desire is to bring awareness of the potential pitfalls, issues, conflicts, and problems that the application of the western chop-block-model brings to our clients in Asia.

Peace!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Living and dreaming

Several times I caught my self thinking to my self. A kind of self-processing, as if caught by an mental loop. An imagination of sorts. It happened to me before, and now its happening again. The ramifications of these moments of self absorbed and self processing this time is different to the moments during all the other summer internships. This time, its not an internship, but a full time position with the world most admired organization.
I am now work with GE International in Malaysia. An opportunity which I feel blessed to have. GE for those of you who may not know has been fortunes most admired organization. Its strategy has been one of innovation, imagination, invention. GE is a learning organization, one that is continuously changing.

I lead many exciting projects at GE. I am developing an internship program, I am conducting research about the characteristics of a leader, I am working on logistical issues, and most of all, I am having fun doing it!

With this new opportunity, I shall be changing the focus of this blog to suit the work that I am currently on. If you are wondering whats happening to my plans to become a psychologist, well, all I can say is.. they are still that… plans… I am attending a couple of courses in the evenings, but will have to put that on hold so that I can concentrate on work. With the focus set to I/O or work psych, and the opportunity at GE looks exciting.

My dear readers: I am currently working on doing research of what makes an organizational leader. Please feel free to share your views on what it takes to become a leader. I would like to hear what you think are traits, or characteristics that leaders have. What sets them apart from the rest.

Till next time!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Beyond the Resume: Getting an Interview and Surviving it!

When you right after college, and are in the quest to find your first job, the first thing you do is to mass email resumes to every email that resembles hr@...... That i feel is the first big mistake that you can make.

If you are reading this article, and have not read the article on creating a resume, then i recommend that you read this first.

Firstly, do not mass mail organizations for your email will either end up in junk or get deleted. Organizations have peculiar, fragile, and vulnerable personalities. They like to think that you have thought about why you want to join them seriously and expect some demonstration of that dedication in your applications. It’s like asking a girl/boy to start a relationship with you. If you ask any random person (will you be my bf/gf), then s/he is most likely going to reject you on the grounds that you did not make her/him feel special. Organizations are no different in wanting to feel special.

If you are working with an agency/job bank then ask the agency all the relevant questions you can think of about the organization. Remember they will give you lots of information provided that you ask. Further, look at the organizations website and if possible try to get any brochures or other marketing material from the organization.

Sometimes we tend not to take this step seriously. Time and again, i have been asked at the interview “soo…. Tell me/us what you know about my/our organization”. If you find this happening to you, heres your chance to tell them that you know in-depth about their organization. It will help them gauge that they are special and not just another ‘item’ on your list. Besides, it’s a golden opportunity for you to do some well deserved ego-stroking.

When you get the first call inviting you for an interview, then try to ask them about the interview process, how many interviews will there be, and with whom. Find out if there are there any: technical areas to cover? tests to perform? Where will the interview be? And if you don’t know where their office is, then its okay to ask for directions and/or land marks.

Questions to ask
Think of what you would like to ask the interviewee. You have choices to make as well. Some questions that worked for me in the past include

Where do you see me fit in your organization?
Whats the working culture of the organization like?
What would be some of the challenges of working here?
What am i expected to accomplish during the first year?
How will i be evaluated?
What does the future look like for this company?

While they are assessing you, you have to make up your mind if you want to work for them too. Questions also served as a tool for persuasion (think self-generated arguments in social psychology). Regardless of your motivation to ask questions, do no forget that you are being assessed with regards to your enthusiasm, your curiosity, your eagerness, and your level of insight.

If you do know something that is not so good about the organization, do not put the interviewer on the spot. If you don’t like the organization, don’t join it. Remember, your goal is not to bash the poor interviewer ego. Stroke, don’t bash.

I like visiting the organization a few days before the interview. You can play the “i am lost” card. This clandestine visit can help you visualize the company culture.

At the interview
Make sure to dress appropriately. For example for interview with corporate companies, make sure you were corporate attire but dress down for social service organizations.

Some of the standard questions you may be asked are:

Tell me something about yourself
What has been the most disappointing time in your career?
What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
What has been the most rewarding time?
What benefits can you bring to the business?
What are your long term goals (ie. What do you want to do in 3, 5, 10 years from now)
Why did you apply for this job/company/Division? Why this career?
What can you offer to us? What do you think we can offer you?
What are something’s that have given you the greatest satisfaction? Least satisfaction?
Could you tell us of some instances of how you react under pressure?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
What other jobs did you apply for?
What courses did you like best? Least?
Why did you choose your major? Plans for graduation?
What can a psychology major do for this organization/position?
How did you finance your education?
Did you do the best you could in school? Why or why not?
if you had a chance, what would you change about your education?
What 3 things would you like to achieve, that you did not get in your education?
How do you describe your ideal job?
Have you ever experienced conflict? How did you deal with it?
Have you worked in a group?
What qualities do you think that a successful manager should have?

Some pointers:
So if you think about the questions, they can vary from the easy to the rather difficult.

Some items that have helped me survive them were: Use humor appropriately (humor about yourself and NOT about the organization); Know that you have limits to how much you want to reveal about your self; Know that you may not know any thing; Remember be enthusiastic (at least during the interview)

It may be a good idea to get to your interview 20-30 minutes early. Remember, that they do know that you may be anxious, but will be impressed by your attitude to what you are doing to deal with the anxiety. And yes, this means getting to a place early allows you to deal with your nerves. It gives an opportunity to chat with the receptionist, get a feel of the work culture, and generally get an image of what it would be like to work for them.

While at the interview, give time for some small talk. Complement them if the office looks beautiful. Do thank them for giving you the opportunity. Introduce yourself confidently yet be friendly. Smile.

Non-verbal behavior (such as gesturing and eye contact) should be culture appropriate. This is why it will be useful to come to the company 20 minutes early.

Relate your experience with the role they are interviewing you for talk about your experience. Its ok to be chatty, but don’t over do it.

Some do’s and donts:
Never swear even if the employee does so. Yes, i do have a foul mouth, but i would never dare swear at an interview.

Never make negative remarks about your current or previous work experiences. If you cant talk about it without being negative, then it helps to say that you cant talk about it because of the personal nature of the encounter.
Never reveal secrets that belong to the previous work place. Keep in mind that modern organizations need you to be ethical in your behavior. Hence, if they push you to tell them, then tell them that its confidential. Remember your goal is to demonstrate that you are self sufficient and responsible individual and NOT a blood sucking secret leaking fool.

End the interview with your positive points on why you would like the job and how you feel that you are right for the position and the company. Remember they are looking for someone that wants to work for them and can show that ability.

Finally – Enjoy the experience. You may ‘booboo’ the first experience. But, that’s just it. Its your first, and don’t let that wack your mood because its just the first.

Reference:

Kuther, T. L. (2006). The psychology majors handbook (2nd E.d.). Wadsworth: NY

N.B. I find the cited book extremely useful. Specially if you are a psych major like myself. It has important information about what you can be doing after your first degree in psychology. It should be given to every psych student out of undergraduate school.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The paradox of consciousness

I was reading a book by Merlin Donald, titled “A mind so rare”. Donald provides some insightful views of the human consciousness ie. Our capacity to be aware of ourselves. Ofcourse, my short definition does not justify his writing, as he has dedicated 350+ pages for the expanded explanation of the human consciousness.

I would like to quote a quote that was inside this book. Its written by a certain Marcus Aurelius. It reads

"Were you to live three thoudsand years, or even thirty thoudsand, remember that the sole life wheich a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses. This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. Fot the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours. When the longest-and the shortest-lived f us come to die, their loss is precisely equal. For the sole thing of which any man can be deprived is the present; since this is all he owns, and nobody can lose what is not his"

Have a good weekend all :)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Selling yourself: Building your Resume

The last few months have been about job hunting. I had been editing, re-editing, and double editing my resume for nearly every job that I have applied for. In the process, I encountered many events. Interesting replies from potential employers, emails that were never replied from potential employers, and Malaysian government bureaucracy about hiring expatriates. Those juicy topics are best suited from another day cause I am not in the mood to bitch right now.

I want to tell you today about my experiences in putting together a resume. Firstly, I feel a resume should not be seen as a product goal but rather as a product process. This means, that your resume needs to grow with you. Each day, you take the chisel, and chop off bits, add little portions, and trim the edges. Thus, a resume should be a description of your life as it grows. I would consider it appropriate to consider a resume as something that evolves.

What are some of the things that helped me get the most out of my resume?

The sole purpose of the resume is to represent your skills, abilities and experience enough for the organization to contact you about a matching job which they might want to consider you for. This is essentially your marketing brochure, your personal advert, your marketing tool if you like. It is what helps you secure interviews. Just like all other advertisements, your resume is going to be one of many first impressions of you that a potential employer is going to have.

While building your resume, keep it to 3 pages or less and make sure that the layout is logical, simple, and covers all about yourself. Your resume should ideally be tailored for the position that your are applying for. This includes matching relevant information such as your experiences, referees, and skills. Typically I have applied for two kinds of jobs and maintain 2 resumes for each industry (one in Human Resources and one for the Human Services industry).

I have listed below some sections in the resume which i think are important. They are not arranged in any particular format or order, but reading it should give you an idea as to some of the things that you should include.

Personal Information
You might want to cover the following areas in your resume. Personal Information includes your name, address, contact numbers, e-mail. I also like including a profile which explains in one paragraph my strengths, type of work i am are looking for, any major achievements.

I have seen some resumes with information such as marital status, passport or national identity card number, number of children, insurance policy number, fathers car registration number, the number of times i have been to the church/mosque/temple/synagogue/(place where you pray if you belonged to a cult)/..insert any other strange information. Believe you me, that this information is not necessary. Keep your personal details short and expand on the rest. People want to hire you based on your skills and competencies, and not on how long your arm is (unless you are in…. lets not get there)

Education and Professional Qualifications
With regards to educational qualification, I like to include the most recent information. For example, if you have just finished an undergraduate degree, then state that and avoid information about your kindergarten and secondary school information. If you really want to highlight your secondary school because you studied at the school for little wizards then do your thing at the interview.

With regards to professional qualifications, awards received, or special training projects that you may have completed, i like to separate them with information about my formal education. Remember, they don’t have to be under one heading, just make sure they are inside your resume somewhere.

Technical Summary
You should include a summary of your technical skills, knowledge in computer applications, computer languages etc. Organizations tend to like candidates who are IT literate.

Work History
I like to use a reverse chronological order (most recent job first). Also, remember to indicate the year/month you started and ended each job. Ensure that you do not have unexplained gaps in your work history. Indicate some of the main tasks and responsibilities at organization that you worked for. Keep in mind, remember all the achievements (major projects, tasks, awards, etc) that you have completed along the way.

Interests/Hobbies
Organizations like people who are able to demonstrate that they lead a healthy work-life balance (if they don’t appreciate the balance, then don’t work for them). Describing what you do at your free time will help the potential employer see what kind of person you are. Do you support a charity? Do you take photographs? Do you dive? Tell them, people are better able to size you up more holistically.

Referees
I like to include contact information about the people who are able to be my referees. I typically have four of them listed in my resume. Two from the academic world, and two from the work world. But before you start slotting someone’s name inside your resume, make sure you inform that person and have his/her permission to do so (Psych students remember informed consent)

Finally
Look at the use of heading sizes, fonts underline some of the areas you want to stand out. Get your friends, to proof read it before sending it. From the tons of feedback that you get, change as you see fit, and get on the way grooming your resume. The cycle of edit – feedback – edit should ideally continue for as long as you want to update your resume.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Honored at HELP University

I was honored by my university, HUC, to address a crowd of 150 (may be a little less), brand-spanking-new undergraduates, their parents, some graduates, and faculty, at the academic lunch hosted by the deen.

The invitation from the Deen went as follows:

(Astrorat),

We would like to invite you to present a speech at the freshman lunch on Saturday. There will be 4 speeches; one by a senior student, one by a grad (that's you), one by a lecturer and one by me.

The speeches will be at the start of the lunch.

(The Deen)


The event was formal. Every one wore academic robes (minus the trimming). I could best describe it as a scene out of the movie made in honor of my dear friend, Harry Potter. There were four long tables, with students all dressed in their dashing robes. The picture shows half of one of the tables. However unlike the scene in Harry Potter, is the presence of the parents and the press (heh)

The scene was like a movie which i had dreamt for. The Deen introduced me, citing all the lovely things that can be said.

My speech went something like this:

Faculty, fellow graduates, friends and family,,

My challenge today is to try and describe to you the attitude that helped me and my fellow graduate students get though the years of undergraduate life. Believe me, you are at the door step of the most challenging and difficult, yet the most exciting times in your life. These are times when you will like the previous speaker said, not just cry, but dance with joy.

One of my favorite topics in psychology was dreaming. No, not the different theories, but the fine art of day dreaming, when lectures seem to go on for ever and ever and ever.

(laughter is heard from the crowd. The deen says “now we know what you been upto”, and i said “opps”!).

Well, our day dreams mean more than that. For there is something distinct about what we did to our dreams. We didn’t just stop at dreaming, we went on to make those dreams into reality. Let me illustrate with some examples.

(I paused and looked for a moment at the paper and then at the crowd – at least that’s what i think i did).

Some of us dreamt of great journeys, we dreamt of going to distant places… We organized, created and ran psychology camps.

Some of us dreamt of writing the next best novel or story books.. We created and printed our own publications.

Some of us dreamt dancing through the night… we made and enjoyed the many parties, and of course the grand psychology ball.

Some of us dreamt of giving our own lectures… we became tutors and learnt that lecturing is not as easy as we had once thought.

Some of us dreamt of becoming the heros and heroines we met in our texts… we signed up as research assistants and honed in our own skill as scientists

We all had some dream, and we worked hard in making those dreams reality. However some, did not dream. They, would also sit in class, take careful notes, and go back where ever they came from… i don’t know what happened to them.. (almost faint with some verbal effect) they just faded away.


(the crowd was hushed and i can see from their reaction that they were taken by what i had said)

I would like to quote to you what Robert Goddard said. I quote “it is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.

Those of you who are freshmen and are standing at the doorway to this great journey, i hope you too will dare dream the impossible dream: spin your own magic, and make those dreams into reality. I welcome you to this prestigious program, at HELP University College.


I heard the crown applaud, but all i was aware of was how profusely i had been sweating. It was the first time i had been given the honor of addressing a crowd in an academic setting. Nothing in the years before this could have prepared me for such an honor. As i walked down, and back to my seat, i remember shaking the hands of the Deen, the head of ARCCADE, the HEAD of the career development center, the head of the clinical program, and my friends.

I was aware that i had faced a dream, and i had pulled it off in style. I am grateful for the university for giving me the honor. I am grateful for fellow blogger and friend, Steph, for giving me the topic which i spoke about: dreams. I am also grateful for another fellow blogger and friend, Tessa, for taking the lovely pictures that you see here (incidentlly, Tessa was also my date for this lovely lunch).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Set forth and sail

There is a certain uncomfortableness to steer without a rudder in the open sea. There is a certain unknowingness that arises when all there is are the deep and somewhat unknown currents that push you along. Time never stops, but for a moment, for a fleeting moment, the drifting doesn’t seem aimless.

Who am i to tell where this ship is sailing. The map that i for so long relied on, no longer valid. Perhaps i should set the sails up high, but, the sails are torn and tossed about, in the chaos that no one realized. I don’t know why no one wants to abandon this ship, perhaps knowing that the gentle drift will some how take them somewhere. The destination, desirable or not, is bound to happen.

As night falls, they eagerly await moments of escape, even if only for moment, in dreams. At least in a dream state, they are able to escape from the greater unknown voyage, set sail again, and command the ship into great places that are thought unknown. The dreams are important, for in them, lie the deep desire to turn the ship, and to visit the towns by now their heart desires. But, in the still of the night, dreams too remain still. In the morning, unknown to them, the ship would have drifted further to a world yet unknown.

Where is this world? Is it the paradise that they dream of? Would there be wine and dance as there has been before? What does the path ahead have? Perhaps the lands ahead, though uncharted, will nevertheless be more exciting than the past.

Its only normal to reflect the past, and wonder how things could have been different. Almost in smile, yet in deep thought, the journey thus far, brilliant. A voyage, that for now seems to have no sense. Perhaps the crew are all but tired to phantom a direction. As if to say, that there is satisfaction in not knowing, as if a drift right now is ideal, the journey my friend, continues.

Cheers!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tomorrow

As i lay on this pillow of life,

I realized that just like how all good things that come to an end, so must all bad things. For that is the pact life handed down to us, that everything in life will be renewed and nothing shall remain. This, i recon, is the light that we all hope for and desperately embrace when moments of darkness is upon us. There is something sweet about knowing that darkness will come to an end.

Sadly, someone trying to elude from this darkness realizes that, happiness too, does not last, as it too must some day, surely, come to an end. Then, what can remain as our only hope is the assurance that no sorrow or joy is ever static. That our world is forever changing, for ever renewing each day as the sun sets. That though we find ourselves in solitary, it is but all fleeting moments experienced in our quest for life.

Tomorrow, the weather will be different, for tomorrow may be a bright spring morning which call for good cheer. Tomorrow may be a day of winter spent in solitude and deep thought. I may never know what the day brings, tomorrow, however, no doubt, will be celebrated.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

a 'Promising' 2007

Happy new year all!

I having a reserved optimism for the new year that stems from the belief that the world today, cant get any worse than it already is. Well, it can, but i am cautiously optimistic. We stand today, divided, east versus west, black versus white, left versus right, so on, and so forth. We are concerned today about who will triumph. The mighty us (who ever we are) versus them (who ever they are). You get the picture?

However, the turbulent world outside, extends into the private domains of our own world (it always does. At least to some of us). My own life has been becoming increasingly challenging. Perhaps it is because time is giving a beating that i am yet to learn to deal with, or perhaps i do onto myself. The reasons don’t matter for reality is that, the world as i know it today, both inside and outside, is becoming ever more twisted and difficult to untangle.

Despite the struggle, i am optimistic for 2007. There are many things are brewing. Among the two most important are

* I will have to stop graduate school. I cant seem to find any way to fund my living expenses, and will be joining the workforce. I don’t really like the idea, but i am out of ideas. I hope that the tuition scholarship that i have, will remain till i come back.

I have tried bank loans, personal loans, other scholarships’, etc… but, the options are easier said suggested. Though being side tracked does not feel great, right now, it is the best possible outcome (unless the tooth fairy comes along)

* I got back together with my long time sweetheart (this ones happy stuff! It’s the stuff that’s meant to be taken with chocolate pudding). Me and her broke up for the strangest reasons, but we remained friends when things got ugly. Eventually, we realized that we were in for something big. Something bigger than we had earlier hoped for. It great to be love and be loved.

2007, like the one before, has some challenges ahead. With the looming threat of being packed back to Sri Lanka and loosing the graduate opportunity, the possibility of loosing love to distance all seem possible. These challenges however, promise for a good fight ahead. There nothing more interesting than a lovely battle to change what seems inevitable. Oh well, 2007, is not going down without a bruised arm n a broken leg!

I don’t like resolutions, i will break them if i make them and so i did not make them. this year, i want to achieve the following:

1. I want to learn to speak in French. A hot French chick should do the trick ;)
2. I want to volunteer my time for Children with special needs. I might want to develop this into my research area
3. I want to research and outline my family genogram in detail. There so little i know about them
4. I want to learn to dance the Latino way (isent there more than one form?)
5. I want to start reading more :D (really vague right? That’s cause it might not happen ;) hehe)
6. (and probably most important) Figure out a way to finance my living during graduate school.

To those of you my dear readers, here’s a toast, hoping that your own lists of “i wants” are well on the way. Here’s to a splendid year ahead!

2007 has another reason to celebrate! this is my 100th entry! yay! :D