So after 23 years, 6 months, and 13 days of my miserable little life, I received my first salary. It's not much, just barely above the minimum Taiwanese salary. And I worked 7 call nights on top of the regular weekday 8 to 5 and 8 to 12 on Saturdays. So don't you dare ask me for treats just yet.
For some, a first salary meant self-dependence and the start of a mortgage, loans, refinancing etc. For most medical students in the States, it means the start of a long road to repaying your education loan. I had read inspirational articles on how people spend their first month's or year's salary on something evilly awesome; and others who survive on breadcrumbs for paying debts. Long story short, getting your salary is supposed to be a big event like sweet sixteen.
But not for me.
First of all, I was fortunate enough to born in a family of reasonable means and responsible parents. We were taught in the Confucian way of moderation and lived happily on grocery store flip flops and hand-me-downs. The happiest day of our lives is during the annual state flea market. And somehow I developed magnetism toward flea markets I have to hunt one down whenever I'm visiting a new city.
Secondly *ahem*, I was a scholarship student up till my senior year, which was the longest period the school is willing to extend. Every month money will automatically appear in my bank account. And boy did I enjoy the days back then. Practically I was paid to study, which I didn't really enjoy but found out later it was much better than being paid to work.
Thirdly, I always have "ways" to make things work. Most of them involved my university which faculty is yearning for international exposure and had plenty of cash. Our school provides a stipend for student exchanges and international conferences. In other words you are paid to go attend a conference, which is more play than work honestly. I made use of the stipend for France, Jakarta, and New York. However, the school found they were bleeding money on me and decided to stem losses by rejecting my Boston stipend.
In a nutshell, I never worked very hard for money in my life. I know this is detrimental to character development and I might end up bankrupt or worse, in jail for committing fraud (think Catch Me If You Can), but I can't change what's already done.
I sharpened my senses and try to detect any trace of emotion when I stare into the ATM screen showing a surplus on the last weekday of June. I had none. No excitement, no happiness, no "I'm going to buy this and that." I don't even have the emotion to squeeze a tear for my aloofness. I felt distantly cool, detached, and positively emotionless.
Maybe life is more than just money after all. It's about call nights, responsibilities, publishing articles, handing in evaluations on time, and feeling on cloud nine when they announce you could have 2 weeks off during Chinese New Year.
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