Fall semester conundrums (my dad has been auditing college classes)

We talk strategy:
Scope what intrigues, choose fav’rite.
New field; keeping busy.

As a child Dad loved history, a field he gave up on when he moved to the US from Taiwan and realized his language skills were insufficient for a college deep dive. Instead, he chose physics. Then, he gave up his dream of a PhD in physics when he graduated into a heavy recession (early ‘70s) and all the physics PhDs he knew were struggling to find jobs. One even opened a food cart (then a literal cart) near the Berkeley campus. (Many eventually made their way into computers)

So Dad went on into medicine, a very practical choice, where he stayed until he retired. (I think he still works very part-time for a medical group today). The first year of his retirement, I may or may not have badgered him into auditing an introductory Literary Chinese Literature class at UC Berkeley (both our alma maters), in part because, having taken that sequence myself, I knew how difficult it would be to teach himself literary Chinese, yet literary Chinese was what he would need for what he really wanted to do in retirement: read ancient philosophical, medicinal, historical etc. texts.

Dad has been a real trooper, taking public transit across the bay and up to Berkeley 3 times per week (no small feat in the bay area’s inefficient transit system). “Some of my classmates cried in class,” he told me once. “That was me!” I said. “I never knew what the fuck was going on. But I knew you’d be fine. You have a much better foundation in Chinese.”

This year he’s exploring upper division and graduate seminars. Do I take the course on Zhuangzi or the one on medieval texts? he says into the phone. It’s fun to see him coming full circle to his childhood passion after a series of deferred dreams, making the best of his choices in the way immigrants do.


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