Our Second Anniversary

Dear Youwen Zhang,

It’s hard to believe that we got married two years ago.

The moment we said, “I do,” our life together began and we were immediately met by the challenges of life in New York City:

I had to balance academics, research, and patient care.

You had to meet the demands of work and make money to support this family.

And yet, we did it.  It wasn’t easy, but we pulled through.

We are where we are today because of God’s grace, help from family and friends, and our love and support for each other.

Next year, things will be different.

After I graduate from dental school, we will leave New York City and start a life in the military.

I don’t know what to expect and I have no idea where we will be, however, one thing for certain is that we will enter this new chapter together.

I’ll never be afraid or anxious about the future anymore because no matter what happens, I know we’ll be there for each other.

Here’s to another year in New York City together and to the future beyond.


Eric Chia-Lin Cheng




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Filed under July 2013

Her Birthday

Dear Youwen Zhang,

I want to take this time to write this letter to you.  Your birthday is a very significant event not just for a celebration of when you were born, but rather, a celebration of who you are to me.

Our time living together has been a learning experience.
We have both faced our own unique tests.
I have had the challenge of meeting the demands from clinic and academics.
You have had the pressure of balancing work and supporting this family.
These trials have taught us a lot.
Even put a strain on us as a couple.

However, despite it all, we still stand together.

Our marriage is not one where we have separate lives whenever we leave the house on a workday.
You are a dental student at NYU.
I work at PWC.
Our marriage is one story.

I’ll never need to worry anymore because I know we are here for each other.
Whatever challenges that arise, we face it together.
No matter what happens, we will always be together.

Since you came into my life, my story was forever changed.
Since our wedding day, our story together began.
Since the time we wrote our first chapter together here in New York City, I’ve treasured every moment.

I can’t wait to write more chapters with you in the coming future.

Happy Birthday!


Eric Cheng



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Filed under July 2013

Not getting older, Getting better

Going from 0 to 5, it was all learning and being a kid.  I have to rely on the memories of my family members on this one since it’s been too long ago.

I was born.

Going from 5 to 10, I was learning how to make friends and be “cool.”  I always sought out fun things to do.  I didn’t really have a direction or sense of purpose.  But what could you really expect from me at such a young age?

I was simple.

Going from 10 to 15, I found purpose.  I accepted God in my life and wanted to prove to people and myself that I was capable.  I learned responsibility, honesty, and determination.

I started trying in my life. 

From 15 to 20, I built up a strong work ethic.  I tried hard at everything.  I went to college at Penn State University, where I made life-long friends.  While I had to go through a learning curve, I became organized, independent, and professional.

I was motivated. 

From 20 to 25, I left college and went to nursing school in Philadelphia with an enthusiastic attitude.  Unfortunately, I struggled.  While this was discouraging, I stayed positive.  All I needed to do was stay strong.  I was so wrong.

Bad things happened. 

It was a life crisis (not middle, simply, because I hope to live longer than 46).  I left nursing.

I was lost.

From 25 to 29, by the grace of God, I pulled through and found purpose.  I attended a post-baccalaureate, took my DAT, and applied to dental school.  I couldn’t get in.  I attended graduate school at West Chester University with a mission and left with far more than I bargained for.  I earned a master’s degree, got into dental school, and found the love of my life.

I was back.

I started dental school at New York University with a strong motivation.  Although there were a lot of challenges in the past two years, I was able to pull through with the support of family and friends.  Later on, more life changing events occured.  I earned a scholarship from the Air Force and got married.

I was growing up.

As I enter this 30th year milestone, I’ve been blessed to be where I am today and have the support of family and friends.  Although I’ve experienced a lot in my years, I still have that drive to always keep on trying, learning, and wanting to get better.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me for the next two years of dental school and beyond.

I’m not getting older, I’m getting better.


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Filed under July 2013

Our First Anniversary

To commemorate our first anniversary, this poem is a reflection of how my story has changed from a life without you to a life with you.

Since that time last year, when we both said “I do,” I never once thought about a life without you.

From that moment on, my story has changed to a life with you.

This current chapter of my time at NYU dental school and New York City has, thus far, been relatively the same story I have had in the previous chapters of the life I had without you.

However, unlike those past chapters, this present chapter is very different since it is a life with you.

The grace of God, family, and friends have helped me overcome past struggles and obstacles in the previous chapters of the life I had without you.

Yet, since the time we’ve met and became part of each other’s lives, the recent challenges and stresses I’ve had to endure were different since this time I was able to face them with you.

Since you entered into my life, I will never have to live alone in a life without you.

I look forward to the chapters yet to be written with you.

I can’t imagine the story I would have had without you.

Because life is so much better with you.


Eric Chia-Lin Cheng



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Filed under July 2013


This was a blog post that I had saved as a draft back in December 27, 2014 at 03:47 AM.  Because of the crazy dental schedule and life I currently endure, I never got the chance to publish it until now.

This post explains why I decided to take that big step.

Initially, I was going to recreate our first date on December 21 (Sunday) and propose at the end of that day.  Unfortunately, Youwen found out due to a freak accident on my part and the whole plan blew up in my face.  However, your boy was able to conjure up a plan that had meaning and, with the support of family and friends, was able to succeed and give her the biggest surprise of her life.  Below, is the plan that I had drawn up with the time, location, and meaning behind it.  When I had initially made this blueprint, I accidentally treated like a blog entry.  From this proposal idea, I hope you will gain a sense on what Youwen meant to me and why I decided to take the big step and pop the question.

12:00 pm: Lunch at Landmark Americana (West Chester, PA)

Figure 1: What better way to meet people than at a bar?

Meaning: This was the first place where Youwen and I met through a West Chester University (WCU) graduate student social.  It was a miracle on how we met.  We both went there with friends in order to get free food.  During the social event, I met two Asian graduate students and immediately began conversing with them.  Because WCU had so few Asians, it was only natural that we Asians come together like magnets and interact.  Later on that evening,  Youwen arrived  and met up with the two Asian graduate students (her classmates), and was told about that Asian guy who, in their words, “eats a lot of chicken.”   While I sat at the bar table and looked through the drink menu, Youwen (coincidentally) stands next to me and looks at her own drink menu.  Without thinking, I decided to initiate.

Me: Hey, what drink are you planning to order?

Youwen: Oh, I’m not sure actually.

Me: Well…YOU should order the MOJITO! I hear it’s a good drink here!

And from there, we both ordered our own mojitos and began to converse without realizing this would be our first drink together.

When you think about it, if it wasn’t for this event, we would have never met.
We had no mutual friends.
We studied different degrees (she was in statistics while I was in biology).
We both came from different backgrounds (she was an international student from China while I was your typical Asian-American).

If we had never met at Landmark Americana, our lives would have been completely different.  

2:00 pm: Valley Forge National Historical Park (King of Prussia, PA)

Figure 2: Yes, it is easy for us to park our cars and walk there, but I want us to work for this.

Meaning:  The journey to get to this point where I feel that we are ready to take the next step in our life didn’t happen overnight after our first meeting.  On the surface, while our courtship seemed brief, we were able to get to know each other very well.  We saw and interacted with each other almost everyday during our time at graduate school.

The journey is more important than the beginning or the end.

Figure 3: The journey begins.

Meaning:   Our purpose at West Chester University was solely for advancing our own career goals.  When we first met, we thought of each other, simply, as friends.  However, as we got to know each other, we started developing feelings for each other.

We started to have”firsts” that we both haven’t experienced in a long time.

For her, it was the first time in a while that any guy really cared for her and treated her special. 

For me, it was the first time in a while that any girl really appreciated and cared about me.

Figure 4: A meadow looking far and beyond.

Meaning:  When we first started dating, we didn’t know what to expect.  It was something unplanned.  However, when we both took that big step to trust each other, our relationship grew beautifully.  She was an artist.  She complemented parts about me that I lacked.  In fact, she brought out something inside of me that I mostly kept to myself.

Growing up, I always dreamed about being with a special someone.  I dreamed of adventures and travel that only my beloved and I would share with each other.  Nothing would be more fulfilling and heartwarming than sharing your happiness with that special someone.  As you can tell, I watched way too many Disney movies when I was a kid, but I always held out hope that I would find my own princess someday.  However, I kept this romanticized fantasy to myself and focused with my own career and life goals.

She had awakened it.

Figure 5: Cabins left over from the past and still stand to this day.

Meaning:  We were both very honest with each other.  We told each other about our past, our previous relationships, and our life struggles.  It was one of many steps that we took when we decided to trust each other.  We both came with baggage.  We shared our secrets and weaknesses with each other.  It was really tough to do this.  Building a trust like this with someone takes a long time.  However, because we interacted with each other so frequently, we were able to reach this point at a faster pace.  We learned to accept each other for who we were and move on from our past.  Our relationship was not meant to act as amnesia for our past, but rather, mark the beginning of building new memories together.

Our past will always remain, but that won’t stop us from starting a new chapter together.

Figure 6: It takes a team to operate a cannon.

Meaning:  Youwen and I didn’t simply like each other.  We also complemented and worked well together.  She had her street smarts, Chinese fluency, affable personality, and motherly love.  For me, I had my testosterone strength, English fluency, practical and determined attitude, and fatherly care.  Yes, we are able to operate and function independently, but the ideal boyfriend/girlfriend is one who you can work effectively as a team.

There is no such thing as a perfect person, but together, we make a perfect team.

In addition to this, she would come up with all the crazy adventures that we would go on and, 90-95% of the time (barring any safety concerns), I would make it happen for her.

She was the dreamer and I was her guardian angel.

Figure 7: A house big enough for a family.

Meaning:  Youwen and I are career-focused people.  However, we are both also family-oriented people.  We want to do well in our careers not because we love money and prestige, but we both want to build a good life for our future children.  Growing up, we learned the value of family and how we both want to raise our children to be successful.  While money won’t be the end all be all in how we live, we both want to make enough that money will never be a concern when building our future family together.

We will both always give our very best to each other and to our future children.

Figure 8: This is where I will propose.

Meaning: To me, this arch is a gateway.  It is the door that will take us to the next step in our lives.  It can be a very scary thing because of the unknown that lies ahead of us.  I will admit, I was very hesitant in coming here.

I was afraid.

I was afraid of what lied ahead of me and thought about the number of things that could go wrong.  Part of me had that pride that I would be relying on Youwen to support me instead of the other way around.  However, the biggest hesitation stemmed from my fear.  I feared that I wouldn’t make it through dental school and become a disappointment to Youwen (a fear that stemmed from what happened to me at my nursing school).  A midlife crisis is one of those experiences that one never forgets.

I was afraid of hitting rock bottom again.

However, Youwen always comforted and assured me that our relationship was one where she would always be there for me.  We would always be there to help each other, celebrate together, and cry together.

We will always be there for each other no matter what happens.

In all my years in getting here to where I am today, I am at point where I know what I want in life.  While I still have my own career aspirations, I do know that someday I want to be with a loving wife and raise a good family.  I want Youwen to be that loving wife.

While it is true that this was not the initial place I had in mind in doing my proposal, I guess it goes to show that there will be many times in life where things don’t go according to plan.  However, in hindsight, I felt that this place actually has more meaning in our relationship than the previous one.  This also goes to show that God is truly in control of everything.

I hope Youwen will love this idea as I will give her my speech, knee on one knee, and ask  for her hand in marriage.

Figure 9: December 20, 2014 (Saturday).  The first photo taken of the proposal.

The proposal:

Zhang, Youwen,

In celebration of our anniversary, I have a question I want to ask you.

This structure that you see here before you is known as a triumphal arch, which was built by the Romans to symbolize triumph and perfection in the Roman society.  As we reflect on our one year anniversary together, it is amazing how God has brought us to this point since our first met at Landmark Americano one year ago.

This arch is a gateway in the next chapter in our lives.

Zhang, Youwen

Will you, marry me?

The rest was history.


Filed under July 2013

Year 2

So much time has passed since I last wrote here.  I regret not being able to update this blog and being able to post my thoughts on events happening in the background, but this is how my life will be for the next 3 years.

A few updates:
– I have successfully completed my D1 year (year 1) here at dental school.  The school curriculum here is extremely hard and there is little room for error.  But your boy made it through and now he is officially a D2!
– I have received a 3-year HPSP (Health Professions Scholarship Program) scholarship from the Air Force.   What does that mean? It means for the next 3 years, the Air Force will cover my dental school tuition and give me a stipend!  After years of applying for these military scholarships, God has truly provided me with the best fit for me and I look forward to serving in the Air Force as a dentist after I graduate! 🙂
– Lastly, but most importantly, I got married!

Yes, so much has happened since I last wrote an entry here, but I’ll make sure to elaborate more these points above in the coming weeks.  My D1 year was extremely crazy and, truly, it was an miracle on how I made it through given that I had school and other events going on in my life.

Friends, I wanted to write today to let you know that I haven’t abandoned my WordPress and that I hope to write more on happenings in my life.  For now, I will conclude this brief entry since I have to wake up early tomorrow for school.

Please stay tuned.

Eric is back! 🙂

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Filed under July 2013

Birthday entry

It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve started dental school and everything has been going so fast.  I now fully understand the saying, “like drinking water from a fire hydrant” when medical/dental/pharmacy students describe their health professional school experience.  The material itself isn’t impossible to understand, but it’s the fact that these health professional schools expect you to master a large quantity of material in a short amount of time.  Dental school is no joke and you have to bring you A-game everyday.

In this brief moment of respite, I wanted write about a particular date.
Yesterday was a special day.
Yesterday was my birthday.

Usually, I don’t really bring it because it lands at an awkward date.  It comes at a time of great inconvenience to people (especially during the school year) and I usually have some massive exam or homework assignment that I have to get done.  However, despite my intense dental school schedule, I wanted to take this time to really appreciate where I am today.

Since my last entry, I have been super busy and average only 3-4 hours of sleep per night.  Yes, it’s true.  I am very tired.  However, despite all the stress and sleep debt I’ve accumulated, I am very determined to do well in school.  For once in my life, I am satisfied.

This is what I want.

There were times when I wondered what life would have been life had I really figured things out earlier.  Had I gone into dental school right after graduating from college in 2009, I would be a practicing dentist right now or starting a dental specialty program.

But things happen for a reason.

The past 5 years (post-college life) was more than just improving my credentials and science foundation.  It was a time when I really grew up.  Not just physically, but mentally as well.  This isn’t to say that I was a party animal in college.  In fact, I was very hardworking in college.  When I say that I “grew up,” it was about becoming a man (I’ll save this topic for another entry).

To think that it was only last year that I was dwelling sitting at my computer and applying to dental school (for the 3rd straight time).  Sure, I was busy finishing up my last year in graduate school and working at the same time, but I remember the feeling I had back then.

I was miserable.


Some of my friends often joke that I had it good.  That I wasn’t trapped working an monotonous 9-5 job.  That I lived an “exciting” life of doing different things everyday.

No, it wasn’t an adventure.  I was worried.  I worried about my future.  Worried what I would do if I couldn’t get into dental school.  There was no back up plan.  Even with a master degree in biology, it was extremely discouraging to realize how hard it was still hard find a good job.  Thanks to support from family and friends, I was able to hold myself together without breaking down.  Thne December rolls around and…I think you know how the rest of the story went (see earlier entries).

Now that I’m where I want to be, I want to show you a few snapshots of my time here in dental school.
Without further ado, here are some glimpses of my dental school life.


My skull for studying head & neck anatomy. When I was in college, I took anatomy as a prerequisite course for nursing school. While it has been 5 years since that time, learning anatomy here in dental school comes to me much easier than my colleagues who have never taken it before.


This the part that differentiates us from medical students. Yes, we take the same science courses, but dental students have a dental lab in the school curriculum where we learn how to carve teeth.


While it is time-consuming and hard work, this is probably one of my favorite parts about dental school. Working in the dental lab is like art class where you learn how to carve and make things!


Can you believe that I actually made this all by myself? This is one experience where you can only get from a dental school.


Many assignments so far involve using dental instruments to carve a tooth from wax. While everyone has different science levels (depending on their education background), everyone starts from scratch when it comes to dental lab work.


This is an example of a completed wax tooth assignment that I did. It requires a lot patience and time. You need to make the wax look like a tooth as much as possible. How does one go about doing this? Practice! Practice! Practice!


This is one glimpse of my dental kit. I have a lot more other instruments stored in a locker, but this is my work thus far (check out those maxilla and mandible stones in my box!).

There is a lot at stake for me to succeed at dental school given the amount of time and effort I had to invest in getting into dental school.  For me to move on to the next stage of my life, I need to do well here.  While all our instructors have constantly told us that dental school will be over before you know it, I try not to think about post-graduation life or even next year.  During the post-college years, one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is to NEVER take anything for granted.  Never assume anything.  Many will say that I worry too much, but my past life experiences has taught me otherwise.  Therefore, I will always take it one step at a time here while always giving it my best effort.

Many of my colleagues ask why I work so hard at dental school everyday.
My reason?

Well, I guess you could say…


Just kidding.
This is the real reason why I try so hard everyday at school.




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Filed under September 2014