By Yuyun Zhou, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Accounting
We all have a life story, but I’m going to start mine somewhere in the middle: in 2016. Why 2016? Because two events that happened that year changed my life forever.
The first was getting Monkey. I figure that nowadays, most of us become attached to cute puppies much more quickly than we connect to human beings. That was certainly the case when my first puppy came into my life. Monkey is a seven-year-old Maltese. I adopted him back in May 2016, when I was squeezing myself and my girlfriend (now my fiancée) into a 500-square-foot apartment in New York City. At that point, I’d already been admitted to UTEP for the accounting Ph.D. program, and I was hoping to get a dog for my girlfriend so she would have a companion while I was gone—I’d never seen a city as crowded as New York City that could be so lonely at the same time. I’d never had a dog before, and having Monkey made me realize that the dog, as a species, is highly dependent on humans. I can’t imagine how they could survive in nature by themselves. Monkey’s hair grows non-stop until we groom it, and it seems like his main motivation in life is to give us unconditional love with his endless cuteness. I am willing to do whatever I can for him just for his cheerfulness, passion, and loving soul.
The second was starting my Ph.D. journey in August 2016, with my family and Monkey thousands of miles away. I still remember the first time I met my academic mentor. I was a couple of minutes early, and he told me to wait outside of his office until the scheduled time. I was shocked; no teacher had ever been so strict with me. On that day, I realized that the journey ahead was going to be tough. In terms of living conditions, I slept on air mattresses and lived in apartments with no decoration and no unnecessary furniture for four years. That was when I realized that home isn’t somewhere you lay down your body but somewhere you lay down your heart. I spent all my free time on three things: video chatting with my family, weightlifting, and cooking steaks. (Trust me, steaks are way cheaper in Texas than Oklahoma.) The four years I spent in El Paso were the longest four years of my life. Sometimes I ask myself if I had another chance to make a choice again in 2016, would I accept the offer from UTEP? The answer is yes. I would accept the offer and spend my four years in exactly the same way again.
Fast forward to March 2020, when COVID-19 started to spread in the United States. I guess we all have something to say about it, and I’ve seen the stages experienced by people facing COVID, just like how we handle grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I was in New York City in the spring and summer of 2020, when COVID went crazy. I didn’t go out for months and sometimes wasn’t even able to buy or order deliveries for groceries. Today, we are in the process of returning to normal. But what happened during that time will forever remind me to never take the little things for granted.
In August 2020, I joined UCO. This time, my fiancée and Monkey moved to Edmond with me. Confucius used to say that if there are three of us together, at least one is good enough to be my teacher. There is always something to learn from others. I joined UCO as a teacher but also as a student. I am humbled to know and to learn from every one of you. Being here has been a pleasure.