Because he said so

Illustration by Justine Liang.

Dad, if you’re reading this, I know by the end you’ll have a really big, proud, “I told you so” smile on your face. For once, I won’t ask you to put it away.

Every time I call my parents, they (but mostly my dad) always tell me to listen to lectures here on campus. My dad sees it as one of the privileges of being at a large research university: you have the opportunity to listen to so many people share their ideas, even if it has nothing to do with what you’re interested in. He believes so much in the power of listening to people talk that he’ll send me emails with lists of lectures occurring in the next week with little excerpts detailing who the speaker is and what they’re discussing. And being the stubborn child I am, I never take his pieces of advice to heart.

Come TEDxUCSD, and I finally realized my dad was right all along. Aside from the fact that each speaker or performer had an idea truly worth spreading, each speaker was inspiring to the point that I wanted to drop everything and become just like them. Even the speakers with a medical focus, Michael Fujinaka and Kai Chang, made me want to learn about heart murmurs and save lives. Although my mind was not fully changed – I’m still not interested in the medical field – listening to how others think and how they solved the problems around them got my brain working as well.

I know that I’m more stubborn than I should be. I like to learn and know things for myself – for me it’s all about the process. But that often means shutting out other possibilities and ideas just because I do not think they fit with my end goal. In a sense, this is good. As Dr. Henter told me, it’s good to know what you do not want. But we should still allow ourselves to be inspired. In a world that’s more connected and interdisciplinary then ever, we should seek to learn as much as we can about everything not for mastery, but to apply what we learn and make what we know and love even better. The best ideas have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is not our minds in isolation.

But how do you find talks to go to? How do you find people to speak and inspire you? First, find a topic. For us biology majors, the Biology department website has an event page that lists all types of events occurring in a month, from thesis defenses to the weekly Biology Division Seminar Program. My dad enjoys reading UCSD news and sending me emails of events. If you want, you could even look at the calendars of the other venues, like the Price Center reservations for the day or even the Birch Aquarium or the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. It takes a little legwork, but once you prioritize listening to a talk every other week or so, you’ll constantly be on the prowl for your next inspiration.

So Dad, thought I would let you know that I’m going to another lecture on Tuesday. I’ll take notes.