The Best $5000 I Ever Lost
By Scion Li，May 18, 2019
Welcome to my parent's home, or as my siblings and I like to call it, Doeskin Estates.
Thank you all for coming today to celebrate such an important day in my life. I decided to have this graduation party, not just because of the food and excuse to take jagerbombs, but because I wanted to share with you a very personal story and speech that I spent the last 4 years writing - in my head, and finally on paper. It's a speech that encapsulates my experience over the last four years at Bentley, and a lesson learned from probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. And I call this speech, “The Best $5000 I Ever Lost.”
On May 1, 2015 (4 years ago), I received my acceptance letter to the Bentley University Master in Business Analytics Program. I was on my way to become a sought-after profession, a data scientist. I was beyond thrilled and honored that they accepted me, and couldn’t wait to start classes and be once-again immersed in the classroom environment. In the same month, I was also starting my brand new job at Shire Pharmaceuticals as a Business Analyst. It was a big month for me, and my life was about to change. I was turning over a brand new chapter in my life, juggling a new full time job, while pursuing my masters in the evening. I was motivated, determined, and felt like nothing could get in my way. I was ready to take on the world.
四年前的2015年5月1日，我收到了本特利大学商业分析硕士研究生的录取通知书。其时的我正在潜心追求成为一名数据科学家的热门工作。我顿时欣喜若狂，深感荣幸被本特利研究生院录取了。我迫不及待地期盼上课而再次沉浸在课堂的那种气氛中。也就在那个月，我开始在Shire 制药公司就职，担任数据分析师这个全新的工作。这个月对我来说真是一个无限风光的里程碑，从此我的生活即将发生改变。它翻开了我生命中的一个崭新篇章，我将在晚上学习硕士课程，白天从事新的全职工作。那时我浑身充满活力，踌躇满志，觉得自己所向披靡 ——我已经准备好迎接这个世界。
That August, I took my first step on the Bentley University campus as a first-time student. I looked around at the sea of students walking from all directions to class. I breathed in the beautiful Bentley air, and made my way to the classroom of the first course of my graduate career. I took one deep breath, opened the door, and walked in to see the oddly familiar rows of desks, chalkboards, and faces and voices of my future fellow students and professors. This was happening. They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I'll never forget that first step.
The first semester went really great. I was gung ho and fired up. I made a lot of new friends, participated in class, and even looked forward to class on some days. During the days I was grinding at work and at night I was either in class, doing homework or studying. On weekends, I was either studying or going to shows with my friends. I struck a perfect work-school-life balance and everything was like a well-oiled machine. Life was good.
第一个学期感觉真的很棒，我高兴极了。在那里我结识了很多新朋友，按时上课，有些日子甚至期待着下一堂课的来临。白天我照常工作，晚上我要么在课堂上，要么在家做作业或复习。周末我和朋友们一起学习或去看演出。我达到了完美的工作 - 学习 - 生活平衡状态，一切都像一台运转良好的机器，日子过得惬意美好。
However, this was short lived as the reality of being a working part-time student kicked in. By the time I was about 2 years into my program, that drive and motivation deteriorated significantly and I headed down a downward path. My mind started to wander in class, I felt tired constantly, I would be regularly up until 3:00am cramming a homework assignment that I should have completed the weekend before, and I was showing up to work late. I was passing in half completed homework assignments and doing the bare minimum, all while going through a difficult break up with my ex. Every day just seemed longer than the day before, and everything just started to feel meaningless. It was tough, and I would regularly ask myself, what is the point of all this? Why did I decide to go back to school and torture myself like this? Will I actually finish my masters? I was miserable, and the idea of quitting my Masters turned from a tiny thought into possible reality. It seemed to me, the solution to all my problems and I started to let go.
So, I started going out a lot more. I spent weekends traveling to see friend when I should have stayed in and studied, I spent lots of money on going, drinks. I was spiraling out of control, being self destructive, and in the Fall Semester of 2017, I failed my first graduate class, Time Series Analysis with Professor Pangchech. Bentley is a pretty expensive school, and each class costs $5,000 in tuition and fees. That's a lot of money. If you fail a course, you not only get an F on your transcript, but the company will not reimburse you for the amount. I stood there thinking to myself; All the time spent on class and coursework that semester, wasted. All $5000 of my hard-earned money, disappeared with absolutely nothing to show for it. So there I was, staring at my F, and a $5,000 hole in my bank account, miserable. I hit rock bottom, and I knew it. So, I decided to take the next semester off to take a much needed pause, and a step back to reevaluate my life decisions.
It was during this time that I did some of the most difficult soul searching I had ever done in my life. I was asking myself tough and honest questions. Should I quit grad school? Do I even want this anymore? Do I even have what it takes to see this through? These classes are no joke. What about all the time and money I already spent? Will I regret this in the future? How would I tell my boss, friends, and parents?
I dug deep for anything, a small glimpse of inspiration or a sign of whether to continue, and then, it hit me. It was during this time when I was reminded of my purpose, put into perspective, I was reminded of the most important people in my life and what inspired me to do my masters in the first place; and that reason, is my mom and my dad.
My dad has one of the most incredible and inspiring stories I have ever heard in my life and this story has molded me into the person I am today. My dad grew up in a very poor family in a poor village in Fujian Province of China called DaYang. He had very little growing up, and when I say little I mean little. As a child, my dad owned two outfits, one pair of hole-filled shoes, and two pencils for the whole school year which he would sharpen by hand with a small knife and continue using over and over again until there was no more pencil left. Those were all the possessions he owned in the whole world. He was skinny, constantly hungry, and when they did laundry, sometimes he would have to wait in bed until his mom finished cleaning and drying his two outfits. He dropped out of middle school to help his family in the farms until one day he decided that he was going to strive and to have a better life for himself, his future wife, and his future family - us.
My dad was very smart and very hard working, he was the top of his class every year. My mother was as well, and both my parents eventually got accepted to college in 1977, at that time only the very top students had the privilege to attend in China. When my parents met, my mom saw something in my dad and knew that was going to be something special. Now, my dad is a very smart man and hardworking, but as many geniuses are, he can also be lazy. For that I am so thankful that he met my mom. They say that behind every great man is an even greater woman. And that's who my mom was. She was the superwoman pushing my dad to do something no one in their families have ever done before; dream big, pursue a PhD, and start a family in America.
After years of painstaking hard work and sacrifice, my dad was finally accepted to the PhD of Pharmacology program at the University of Minnesota in 1985. With only a few dollars to his name, the clothes on his back, and a plane ticket from Fuzhou to America, my father came to Minnesota to pursue the American Dream. My mother soon followed him to America and he ultimately finished his PhD and applied for his first real job. He did not get his first job until the age of 35, 6 years older that I am now. He started his life so much later than any of us have. He worked hard, understood deeply the value of money, and with the help of my mother raised a family of four, paid for piano lessons and Chinese school, paid for tutors, college tuition, food on the table, soccer practices, my first skateboard, my clothes, everything for us that my parents never had growing up. Ultimately he bought his dream home which we are all standing in today. Even then, my parents still donate to church, donate to charities, and send money back to their families in China, and so much more. How many people do you know who has achieved not only something so extraordinary, but the unimaginable?
The point I'm trying to make is that my parents sacrificed so much for my family, so that we could have the life they never had. They understand what poor is, they understand what true hardship is. They understand what sacrifice looks like and what it brings. They understand things that I will never understand because of the opportunities I have because of them.
So during that semester off, when I was sitting there, feeling sorry for myself, thinking about the possibility of quitting my masters, I thought to myself, how can I even think about quitting when I don't even deserve this luxury of having a choice to quit, when everything I have was a gift from all the hard work of my parents? I live in America, I have a college degree, I have a good job, I have a loving family, I have the opportunity to go to graduate school, everything I have, I have because of them. This hardship I’m going through is sand compared to beaches of sacrifices my parents went through. Not to be dramatic, but the truth is that, that night I cried for the first time in a very long time.
“That's it!” I said to myself. “I'm going to finish what I started and make my parents proud.”
And that's exactly what I did. For the next two years, I roughed it through. I signed up for courses again. I re-enrolled in Time Series Analysis. Went to every class, worked my ass off. Got an A. Prioritized my coursework, studied hard, completed my assignments, stayed up late if needed to make sure I understood the material and the homework problems, emailed the professor with questions, passed on partying to study (although not all the time). One by one, I was crossing off the courses completed from my MSBA curriculum down to the final last one. And here we are today.
As I stand here, having walked across the Bentley graduation stage, and here in my parents’home surrounded by my friends and family and beautiful Jillybeans, it feels so surreal. I have been waiting for this day, this exact moment for four years, and I can say that I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.
This is not a story to say that I am anything special, or yay I'm happy now, because I'm really not anything special and do have a lot to be thankful for. This is a story to finally tell my mom and dad, thank you, for everything you have done for Kellen, Louisa, Mark, and I. I speak from the four of us when I say that you are amazing parents and we're so proud to be part of this family.
I still often open up my Bank of America app and think about what it would be like if I had that extra $5000 in my bank account. That's my mortgage payment for many months, 4 cruises to the Bahamas, bijou/the grand tickets for a year, lots and lots of jagerbombs.
But I'm glad I lost that $5000 because it will always remind me of the price you sometimes pay in life to learn an invaluable lesson. It's a reminder of the necessary sacrifices that come with success. It's a reminder that failure is temporary. It's the reminder that sometimes things get tough, but if you stick through it, with the right motivation, it is all worth it in the end. There's a quote my mother taught me when I was little, it's “No Pain, No Gain”. Nothing extraordinary is ever easily attained, and if it's not hurting, you're not trying hard enough. It's a reminder that sometimes you don’t appreciate good until you experience the bad. It's a reminder of my parents sacrifices. And although my situation will never compare to the hardships that my parents went through for my family, I am glad I got to have just a small taste. It is the best $5000 I ever lost, a small price to pay for a lesson I will carry with me for the rest of my life and share with my children and my grandchildren.
There are a few more people I want to thank for getting me to this day.
To Jill, my amazing girlfriend who would stay up with my until 2am when I was doing homework and ask me what seemed like every 5 minutes if I wanted snacks, and be there with dinner prepared for me when I got home from class at 10:30 at night. She would munch on Cheetos, loudly on the couch behind me watching anime on Netflix while I was attending class remotely, reminding me she was there waiting for me when I was done. Thank you for being my rock, for keeping me sane, pushing me to the finish line, and always ready to celebrate with me whenever I was done. As I said earlier, behind every man is a great woman. You are my super woman and I am the luckiest man in the world to call you mine.
To Louisa, Jason, Kellen, Jesse, and my rock star brother Mark in China,
To each of my amazing friends, James, Bora, Hannah, Ben, Shirley, Berny, Sevag, thank you all for taking the token to be here and for all your support, for making the last 4 years so fun, and for being there to take shots with me and celebrate this joyous occasion. That's right, all this time everyone thought I was partying, I was taking classes as well. Achievements never feel real without your true friends and family to celebrate with.
衷心感谢我的每一位铁杆好友：陈晨，Bora，Hannah，Ben，Shirley，Berny，Sevag，感谢你们今天的友爱光临和昔日一路的宝贵支持，让我过去的四年时光充满乐趣；你们往日在各地与我共赏美景，今天一道来庆祝我的欢乐时刻。 是呀！此时你们都看到我在举行派对，其实这也是我人生学习过程中的另一堂课。 倘若没有你们这些真诚的朋友和家人来一道举杯喝彩，任何成就又怎能算得了真呢？
And of course…
To Mom and dad, you two are truly incredible parents who not only spoiled us with your love, but by the example you set for the four of us and showing us first-hand, that if you work hard, you can do anything you set your mind to. Thank you for getting me through my Master's Degree. This Master's was for you.