I used to never write while I was emotional. I’d wait until after the emotion left me and then I would reflect and write about it intellectually. Clear headed. Writing emotionally scared me. Scared that people wouldn’t like my work. Scared that my writing would be too emotional — I tend to be sometimes. Scared that my friends wouldn’t accept this side of me: I’m a science/Engineering major so where is the data? Where are the facts?
But a couple of years ago a prominent blogger gave me some advice. Her name is Penelope Trunk. And what Penelope told me to do was write about what I am struggling with now. She said that I’d connect with people better. That all of the big bloggers write about their struggles now.
And what I’m struggling with right now is a breakup. I broke up with her last week. I didn’t want to, but I had to. We weren’t even truly together, not bound by any commitment, just our two souls touching — our minds, our hearts, our hands. We spoke to each other for hours everyday, always finding comfort in the other’s warmth and smiles and laughter and love. Our connection can only be described as: few in a lifetime. She was my best friend. And she was also a potential soulmate. And ultimately, that’s what split us apart.
I haven’t written in two years. I don’t even know if I know how to write anymore. I’m scared that I don’t. I’m scared that my writing will be boring and that my ideas won’t be helpful.
A lot of people have asked me why I stopped writing. I tell some of them that it’s because I’m unsure if I still have the inspiration to write. I tell them that I’m just not “feeling it” — I say that I’m unmotivated and I’m missing a “spark”. But that’s bullshit. It’s just a lame excuse. I know that you can create your own inspiration.
I tell others that I don’t have time. I tell them that I want to put more effort into coding. Into school. Into being a better computer scientist. I tell them that I might start writing when all of my school work has died down, but that’s also bullshit. I’ve gone through one summer break and two winter breaks without writing. Writing and improving my coding skills also don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
These two reasons are how I’ve rationalized why I stopped writing, because I don’t want to face the real reason; that I had quit. Gave up.
Because fuck. Writing is damn hard. I don’t want to write anymore. It’s been two days and all I have are 300 words. I also just realized that I have a Chinese quiz today and now I want to give up again. I always want to quit things when they start getting hard.
Violin. Piano. Soccer. Chinese school.
Hard scares me. I’m scared I won’t be good enough.
I’m scared that my friends won’t think I’m good enough.
I’m scared of rejection.
I’m scared of putting in effort and not obtaining a good result.
I’m scared of working hard.
But I have to remind myself that anything worth doing is hard. Life, love, happiness. Being the person you truly want to be. I can no longer brush aside things worth doing just because they are hard. I have to grow as a person, and I have to find who I really am.
And this is why I have to write. Because it’s worth doing.
For a long time, I believed that I was wasting my life because I didn’t have a goal. The conventional wisdom is that if you don’t have a goal, then it’s necessary to set one. We’re told that long term goals give our life direction and without one we’re just wasting time. There are many people who buy into this way of thinking and then worry and think it’s a bad thing that they don’t have a goal.
But this way of thinking is wrong. We need to unlearn goal setting because goal setting is a backwards process. Continue reading
Yesterday, I saw an article about a book a 17 year old is writing. It’s about education. He’s proposing a completely new system to education including getting rid of the standardized tests like the SAT. I think it’s great, we need more awareness that the current state of education sucks.
And then I wonder why I’m not writing a book. I should be doing that. I’m three years older than Nikhil is and I have the same goal that he does: positively change education.
So I tell myself that I’m going to write a book. I tell myself that I’m starting today. I don’t know anything about the process it takes to write a book, so I do some research. Writing a book is going to be harder than I thought. I don’t have time to write a couple hours every day; I’m a university student and I need to learn how to parse inputs using regular expressions by tomorrow. My motivation starts to waver. Continue reading
College admissions is hyped up as one of the most stressful times of your life. For most people, it’s the first big application that they’ve done. There are no guarantees. This isn’t applying for your high school honor society, this is something more. If you don’t get in to a school you want, you see yourself as a failure.
And that’s the way most people view the college admissions process: they view it in a negative light. People don’t think about how much they can accomplish if they get into MIT. They think about how much they’ve failed if they don’t. Too many people see college admission as “happiness on the other side”; if you get into the school you want, then you’ll be happy. People are motivated by failure.
Let’s change this way of thinking. Why not be motivated to have success — why not be happy first? We know that if you’re happier, then you’re more creative, you have more energy, you can think better. So shift your mode of thinking — don’t put happiness after being admitted. Be happy now and let it lead you to being admitted. And if you’re not happy, just forget about the negative thoughts. Think positively. If you want to be happy, then you can be happy. Continue reading
Last week I had a conversation with my friend about helicopter parents. Her helicopter parents. They won’t let her have a boyfriend (she’s a sophomore in college) and they force all of their values onto her. They feel a need to be in control. She wants to abandon her religion, but she can’t. She has to please her parents; she doesn’t want her parents to be disappointed in her.
Her behaviour is completely normal; no one wants to disappoint other people, especially their parents. But disappointing others happens. And it’s okay that it happens. If your parents love you, they won’t care what path you take. If they can’t accept you for your true self, then that’s on them. If you show your parents who you truly are; if you make an effort to have a relationship with them and they still don’t accept you, then that will be their regret. Your regret will always be not being true to yourself. Continue reading
It took me a long time to realize that I had a passion for math. From elementary school to high school, I was always a top math student, but I didn’t always enjoy it. Classroom math is boring; plugging numbers into formulas just isn’t very interesting. I did competition math as well, but I didn’t always find that enjoyable either.
In Florida, there’s a high school math competition called MAO. It’s the premier math competition in Florida, so most of the kids who enjoy doing math competitively compete.
But MAO sucks. The focus is on rote memorization and drilling. Most of the time, the problems are solved by using one trick that was memorized from a formula sheet. It’s okay that there’s no understanding of the problem, just apply the formula. It’s also hugely relient on speed. There are 30 questions and just 60 minutes to do them. There’s no time to think about how to solve problems, there’s just finding answers. In this kind of competition, there’s no creativity, there’s no room for play. To be good, kids have to just sit and memorize solution methods. Continue reading
Sometime between elementary school and college, many people lose their will to learn. Kids enter kindergarten having boundless energy. They’re enthusiastic, curious — there’s never a day when a kid doesn’t want to go to school. But as these kids grow older, and especially in high school, the enthusiasm fades, curiosity fades — they’d rather stay home than go to school.
Worst of all, kids start to lose sight of the value of learning. We’re all born with innate curiosity, but schools quash that curious nature from us. Instead of allowing us to explore, we’re told what to learn. Even when we find something that really grabs us, schools seem to try to do their best to destroy that passion. There’s no room for creativity; schools try to mold every kid the same way, try to make kids the output of an assembly line. The emphasis is on memorization instead of problem solving, following rules and orders instead of creative thinking. Continue reading