28 Jan


Fear is defined by Merriam Webster as to be afraid or apprehensive.[1]  But while we know how to define fear, where does it come from?  The question of fear and its basis is an important one.  But when I thought of it more, the answer became clear: we fear what we do not understand.

One only needs to look at countless examples from our history to see this: before the Wright brothers mastered the art of flight, flying was seen as not only an impossible endeavor, but also one that ensured death; before 1968 it was seen as ludicrous to even attempt an unconventional method for high jumping.  Then came along a man by the name of Dick Fosbury who revolutionized the high jump on the way to winning a Gold Medal.[2]  My point is that difference can lead to a lack of understanding, which begets fear.

I have experienced much of this in my own life: growing up Asian in a primarily white neighborhood led to some (but not many) misunderstandings and fear.  I played tennis growing up and was once asked by an opposing team member, “how I could possibly see the court with my slanted eyes?”  This lack of understanding is amplified now with my current condition as most who come across me are unsure what (or what not) to assume.

For you, does being told that you (or a loved one) have a ‘brain tumor’ scare you?  Perhaps it’s because all we know is that brain tumor = bad.  Maybe if we better understood them our fears would be lessened.  I remember when I received my diagnosis, I was scared; a flood of questions came to my mind: What is an Epidermoid Tumor?  How is it treated?  Does it require surgery?  How long have I had it?  I could list the countless number of questions that came to mind, but the point is not the number of questions, the point is that I was asking myself these questions, a sign of my lack of understanding, which led to my fear.

Thus, in the future, when you find yourself anxiety-ridden over an upcoming (or past) event or happening, try to turn this fear into inquisition, to broaden your understanding.  Hopefully, this will help to quell your angst.

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear

[2] https://www.dickfosbury.com/

01 Jan


At this time of the year, with January 1st here, I feel it is both an appropriate and vital time to think about what it means to reflect. If you were to ask a 10 year old what reflection is, they might say it is the image produced when you look into a mirror (or glass or still water). The truth is that (besides that being one of the definitions of the word) they would not be too far from what I discuss here; when I think about reflection, I do not think about a physical image that is produced when looking on a certain material, but a less tangible ideal where our past actions and occurrences are pondered. The thought of a physical image that details how we look upon an object (whether it be a mirror or a window) does not stray too far from this existential meaning; in both one sees oneself in their true form.

When I think back to this year, I recall the countless interactions I had; from the cashier at a local grocery store to ones with my close friends. I know what I meant by my actions and words, but were they received differently, I ponder. How has my diagnosis of an Epidermoid Brain Tumor affect my life? Even though the diagnosis and subsequent surgery was back in 2013, I still often wonder questions about it. While I am also thankful that I am able to write for you through the EBTS, I often ask myself if the topics of my pieces are appropriate ones: would different topics be a better read for you? You’ll find that this process of reflection often generates more questions. Don’t let this discourage you, this process should create questions. The art of reflection is a process, not a magic trick, where you instantaneously emerge an improved human being; asking questions is not only an initial step, but also one that happens in the middle of it.

Reflection is how we grow. If Steve Jobs did not reflect on his past successes and failures, would the Apple technology be where it is today? If Albert Einstein simply accepted a half-hearted Theory of Relativity, this concept would likely be a lost one today. The point is not that reflection will always produce an iPhone, or time-space continuum theories, but that reflection is crucial for our progression, as both a human race and individually as people.

So during this time of year, take some time to pause and reflect on your past; whether it be a new brain tumor diagnosis, or perhaps a short interaction with an acquaintance, take time to ask yourself, ‘how did this affect me? Could I have handled it differently? Have I or the people around me changed because of it?’

The art of reflection is an important one that is vital to both us as individuals and the human race as a whole. Use this time of year to reflect. Most importantly, have a safe and Happy New Year!