I love personal statements, because they feel a lot like I’m seeing myself and others for the first time all over again. It isn’t until you see the vision of a person’s life that you can competently walk alongside them. A great way to capture the vision I have for my life is to start with an inner-dialogue – much like the one I am writing now – which conveys my passion for unraveling an experience into its externalized and internalized component parts.
My internal world holds dearly to affect, asking only herself if others feel the same way she does, as she yearns to be known for her thoughts and experiences. Conversely, my external world removes all sense of self, and navigates reality using inductive reasoning, guided closely by rationality. The external world needs the internal world’s keen insight into how logic interacts with human experience, activating an important aspect of human morality and empathy. Similarly, the internal world needs validation from the external world in order to feel as if her notions of self and ambitions are consistent with the story she is embodying. When we externalize, our internal self asks the external self, “Does my experience speak to rationality? Am I behaving predictably?” When we internalize our experiences, our external self asks the internal self, “Does my experience resonate with my identity and harmonize with my moral framework?”
It’s been a basic trend in my life to dance between my internal and external worlds. When posed with the query of who I was, what I wanted, and where I was going throughout bouts of my life, my external self sent me inwards, into narcissistic rumination cycles that seemed to ask the same questions of an implied but not proven greater importance. My internal world weighed my likes and dislikes (hedonistic identifiers) with my general objects of admiration (identifiers of worth and respect) – largely influenced by the worldview of my childhood – in order to sculpt a basic identity and quest. Over time, these “sculptures” have engulfed my personal ethnography.
Taking my ideals and advocacy for enhancing the quality of life, while combining my natural skills for math and science, I emerged as a Biochemistry scholar in the beginning of my collegiate years. The fragility of life compelled me in the same way that the complexity of a human being did. I wanted to know how both could be reconciled, existentially: I wanted to break down life into its smallest components in order to make sense of the larger organism those components comprised. During my journey in Biochemistry, I had a lot of experiences in the laboratory, which were meant to be the seat of my discoveries. However, my chemistry and biology labs did not make me feel closer to the deeper insights of the human condition, and I was not inspired by their routine methodologies: I had zoomed to the nth level of complexity in search of a deeper understanding of humanity via its component parts and had discovered I had lost the intuitive component of my internal world. Life at the biochemical level was void of the emotion and moral judgment that makes one scene feel connected to other scenes.
By then, my ethnography had already turned to the mind of a Behaviorist, where I then probed into a four year investigation of the human mind, via the neurosciences, the social sciences and philosophical conquests. I spent bouts of time specifically perspective-taking in many paradigms within psychology – including Behavioral Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Social Psychology, Psychological Anthropology, and Counseling Psychology – reintroducing my internal world with strong representation. I tried methodology after methodology and began to favor some questions over others, but by the end of my first undergraduate degree, I had decided to pursue a masters degree in Psychology at NYU to further extend my explorations in the field, because no vision or methodology had captivated me yet. At NYU, I had largely shifted my focus to social psychology – with particular attention to moral psychology. Over time, my coursework and my interactions with faculty members just impressed on me more and more that I was either asking the wrong questions, or that the questions I was asking held too many assumptions to hold any merit. Soon after, I began to become disillusioned by the values of social science regarding its large emphasis on human ethnography and subjective experience. I began to feel the paradigms of psychology I was dabbling in were largely metaphysical and destined for ruminative questions, malleable truth claims and that they possessed only subjective freedoms to comment on the human condition. I felt no closer to understanding my humanity in the social sciences than I did in the life sciences laboratory. Instead of being completely immersed in the external world like I felt in Biochemistry, I felt completely immersed in a tangled-infinite-loop-of-internal-dissonance in Psychology. I began to lose faith in human experience and to distrust human ethnography as being a rigorous or valid measurement.
Amidst the onset of this disillusionment, I had immediately become a TA for Perception Psychology at NYU, and while Perception was not an area of personal expertise and I struggled gravely the first semester, by the second semester of my teaching assistantship, I got raving reviews from my students. I began to fall more and more in love with lower level analyses of human behavior. So many constraints, for example, that come from basic perception can identify many parallels to topics in social psychology, social anthropology and the more malleable scientific analyses of human behavior. This realization was my first glimpse at the vision I had been looking for my entire life: a posit to the connection between the inner (sensual) and external (perceptual) worlds. Perception was a gateway into a deeper passion that gave me the bravery to switch gears completely. After just two semesters at NYU, I left the program and enrolled in Oregon State’s post-baccalaureate program in Computer Science.
As I had always suspected, I immediately began to love computer science’s logic-oriented structure and its roots in more objective measurements. Bearing the mindset of an engineer while building a toolset of technical skills, new questions seemed to be coming up regarding how I wanted to use my new skill set. I considered which programming languages I loved the most, and I could see a safe existence pounding away as a Web Developer or Software Engineer for a reputable company like Intel or Microsoft; however, when I think about the vision I got a glimpse of while teaching Perception Psychology to a series of undergraduates at NYU, every component in my biology is telling me that I cannot morally accept a life that includes programming for the sake of programming, but rather, programming for a greater good and for a vision about which I am passionate. More than ever, medicine has been a huge preoccupation of mine for the past couple of years. Go one year without medical insurance in the dirtiest place in the country – New York City – and just try not to start asking questions about health and medicine. Especially given my training in the life sciences and the neurosciences in combination with my concern for medical advancements, I am compelled – both internally and externally – to align my new skills and love for computer science with efforts to unveil biological mysteries, specifically with efforts to understand mental health and neurological networks. Modeling neurological processing with computational measures seems, to me, the most natural measurement. I sometimes “see” a neuron orchestrating a symphony of transduction while implementing various systems, related to biology or not. There is something very compelling to me about lower-level programming especially that makes me feel connected to the inner workings of my biology and which compels me into intrigue. It’s the kind of glorified creative freedom I want to spend the rest of my life fully immersed in.