For almost all of today I was adventuring in New York: I rode the subway, walked for several miles, and ended up on a ferry to another island. I normally never travel alone (I’m notorious for my shitty navigation). But I guess the stars had perfectly aligned today, and today would be the day I figure out maps for real. Also New York couldn’t be too hard to navigate, it’s just a grid, like a giant waffle! The waffle’s pockets are stacked high with tall buildings, lined with a grid of sidewalks. And within those walls was a sweet pocket on 72nd street where I had lunch at Sushi Yasaka!
After lunch, I walked a couple blocks over to Central Park. Central park is huge, and I could’ve easily spent a whole day walking through all its trails and listening to street musicians play. I also got to finish some of the book I’m currently reading (Being Mortal) under the sunlight with a beautiful view (above). Overall, I feel that Central Park would be a really nice date spot, where you could also take a boat and row around in its lake. Afterwards, I hopped on the subway, which was cool and surreal to ride. These were the famous New York subways everybody rode in, and also after reading the book The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell), it was crazy to think that I was sitting on the exact subways the Broken Window experiments were conducted on. It was also on the subway where I noticed some differences between subway riders in New York and public transportation riders in California.
There are a lot less people on their phones (maybe due to the fact there is no signal).
Everybody moves fast, the train doors only stay open for about 3 seconds if nobody gets off (as opposed to ~10 seconds on California’s BART)
People talk more about law and Wall Street (as opposed to tech on Caltrain)
Many more people read the newspaper
I wanted to cover the whole span of the subway, so I took the 1 Train to its last stop – South Ferry. It’s nice how a free ferry is offered to take people from South Ferry to Staten Island and back every 30 or so minutes. When I arrived on the island, I wasn’t sure where to go, so I followed a man with a faded-black coat onto some sort of express train. It wasn’t until about 15 minutes into the train ride when I realized how deep I was going into Staten Island. It was over 15 minutes, and the train has still not had a stop yet! Finally when the train stopped, there was nobody else on the train platform, and the creaking of the train made for a creepy ambiance. I walked around for a while, and everywhere I looked there were big warehouses surrounded by barbed wire fences. My phone battery started to get low and I was starting to get a bit creeped out, so I headed back to a train station. I waited the same 20 minutes to get off the train, but I must’ve taken a different train back since I ended up getting off at a wrong stop (LOL). I thought this was pretty hilarious, and had to wait about another 20 minutes for the next train. Overall, I was pretty bummed out since I didn’t really see anything interesting in the chunk of time I spent on Staten Island. But if I hadn’t stayed that long, I wouldn’t have been able to see this:
This reminded me a lot of the time I hiked across Japan with my friends, but it was different this time since I chose to go alone. I’m pretty confident now though in my navigation skills, and I will certainly go out exploring again soon. What really helped me was having a funny analogy of Manhattan’s map in my head (the waffle). Riding the subway was like sliding down a syrup trail from uptown to downtown, and that definitely played a huge role in helping me map out Manhattan into a memory palace.
It’s been about two months since college has started, and now that I’m on fall break I have time to reflect on what I’ve been up to, and (moving forward) also think about what I want now and why.
What I’ve Been Up To
I’ve been pretty lucky since the beginning of the school year – I didn’t face much of a social transition from high school to college. I feel that my strength of being sociable really gets a chance to shine here, since everybody lives on campus and there really isn’t anything stopping people from hanging out. Something that I will note though is that my schedule feels extremely cyclical. 4 classes on Tuesday and Thursday means I have only two days to finish the majority of my homework before it’s due by next class, and it can really feel like a drag knowing that these every week, these two days will always consist of heavy studying. Also, while I feel that the always-studying mentality at Swarthmore can be harmful for some, I feel that I’m feeding off the pressure quite well. In high school, I’d prioritize socializing over studying, so studying in a sense actually gives me a break from messing around all the time. I also enjoy the feeling of actually engaging my mind and challenging how long I can focus while studying.
One thing that I’ve picked up is always studying in different locations. I hear many people say that they can only study in one library, and I really don’t want to create an association between the amount of focus I have with a specific location on campus. The buzzing silence of McCabe’s basement also creeps me out, so I’d rather study in a lounge or common area. So one way I accomplish this is to segment the type of homework I do according to professors’ office hours and help clinic sessions. For example, on Tuesdays during my math professor’s office hours, I’ll just sit outside his office and do only math homework. The benefits to this are that first I don’t have to prioritize which assignments to do first, and second, if I need help, I can just take a couple of steps and walk into his office. Outside of office hours, I like to move around to different popular places to study so that I can interact with different crowds of people on campus.
Stress wise, I feel that I’ve adapted my work ethic efficiently and am pretty proud to be stress free. Since I’m putting in the time to thoroughly do my homework, I didn’t have to cram/study much to do well on midterms. I’m pretty happy to say that I haven’t procrastinated at all, and I’m confident that it won’t be a problem for me in the future. The consequence of this is actually quite a bit of free time, which can be a bit boring when everybody else is studying. Extracurricular wise, So far I’ve written an article for the Daily Gazette, dance ballet 2x a week, and work out 4 – 6x a week.
What I Want Now, and Why
I want to get into a serious relationship. I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, and the reason isn’t because there’s some void in my life I want to fulfill to be content. I want to share the feeling of completeness with somebody, which I feel would push me to go on and do bigger things with our lives. I’m pretty happy with the type of person I’ve become right now, and the only thing (I can think of right now) that will round off that feeling is being in love. What’s important though is that this won’t make me complacent, in fact, it’s the opposite. What I mean by going on to do bigger things with my life is that experiencing the ideal sense of wholeness I have in my head right now will enable me to create and imagine bigger goals I probably can’t see right now. Also, it’s really nice to share your life with somebody you care about 🙂 One thing I’ll be cognizant of though is that I don’t get too caught up in this, or I might end up getting into something where it’s mainly physical attraction.
I want to get better at freestyle rapping. I met a friend that’s pretty good at it, and tried it for the first time at a party. I want to get better at it because freestyle rapping taps different parts of your thinking: the way you speak, your attitude, rhyming, and rhythm that makes you speak your thoughts in such a new way. Also something really interesting is battle rap, where you mainly have an aggressive attitude to roast your opponent. In that video, it’s amazing to see how Dumbfounded weaves in his criticism on society while staying in character to denigrate Conceited.
I want to get deeper in academia. Before I thought college was all about preparing for a job, but being exposed to research papers and books has showed me this whole new world of research and the unknown. Researching creative ways to develop faster algorithms, studying children to make a TV show like Blues Clues so captivating, this stuff is crazy! Like this is a whole new world that I’ve never been exposed to before, and I want to get in that world. From my cognitive science professor, I learned that I could build neural networks and train it to learn sentence structures, play chess, etc and I’m really drawn to this because unlike making a website or a mobile app, the results aren’t all charted out already. There aren’t meticulous tutorials to guide the way, and my thinking just might solve some important problems.
I want to write more. Every time I read a good book, blog post, or op-ed, I wish that I could articulate myself as well as the author could, and I don’t think I’ve been taking advantage of Swarthmore’s liberal arts college curriculum as much as I could be. So next semester I’m going to take more writing courses, read more, and write more in my free time. I feel that if I were applying for a journalism or writing position, it would be so different from going to an interview for something like a software engineering position because in the latter, I would be walking in to show off my expertise in computer science. But in the writing situation, I would want to get the job to so that I could learn how to write better, and I would actually be comfortable expressing that I’m not that good at writing yet.
I want to spend more on others. More time, moremoney. Sure I can buy myself new clothes and other things, but I’d rather spend it on things like a meal with an acquaintance or a train ticket to go visit a friend. Because for me, spending time with other people gives me more happiness and is what lasts. This gives me a different perspective on spending money, and I think it’s for the better.