Happy Anniversary

Wow, it’s already been a year.

One year ago I started this blog, thinking that I would just write for myself. Never wanted to show it to anybody. I wrote because I knew it would help me understand myself better, understand why I chose to go to Swarthmore. I kept my blog private until my friend encouraged me to make it public, and you can bet I was embarrassed as hell – what was I thinking, writing about love. Before I dreaded writing, especially in the common app days. Now?  It is my foundation.

What excites me?

The fact that exactly one year ago, I could’ve never imagine myself as a writer, that I could bear writing alone when everybody else was doing other things. Staying up after doing homework to write, even writing to procrastinate from homework. But this is just the beginning. I took my last final today, and now my freshman year of college is over. I have changed so much in one year, and writing is something I never imagined I would be doing. I am excited about what I will become in the future. Will I continue writing, stay in college, do something completely different? Who cares, what I have learned is that it doesn’t matter. If I held my preconceived idea of what I would be doing in 5 years, no way would I be writing in my free time. I would probably be forcing myself to make some programming side projects. What comes to mind are two professors from Swarthmore – Barry Schwartz and Steven Hopkins. When asked why they decided to pursue psychology or religion, they said that they didn’t really choose it. They tried it out and fell in love with those subjects.

Almost none of the big decisions I have made in my life felt like decisions. I applied for one job what was my decision? Do I take it or not take it? So I fell in love with psychology as a freshmen in college—I never in some sense decided to be a psychology major; there was no “Plan B.” I was really enthusiastic about it so I took as much psychology as I could and I was a psychology major. So it feels to me that most of the things that looking back were decisions felt at the time more like things that happened to me rather than things that I chose. – Barry Schwartz (interview)

So my answer to the question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I don’t know, and I don’t think it really matters. I will continue putting all my effort into the things that interest me, and if those interests change, I will simply shift my efforts. I’m open to change, and I will take things as they come.

My Biggest Change

I came into college thinking that everybody had some sort of plan, and the purpose of college was to pursue those plans. College was a time to be selfish, do everything for ourselves. Define ourselves by our successes, build up a reputation, develop personality traits that will eventually become marketable business skills. Every action was chosen because it would benefit me in the future. Or as the Little Prince would say, everything was a matter of consequence. But learning for the sake of learning then became an empty phrase that I said to distinguish myself from others.

In my freshmen year of college, I have transitioned from wanting a successful life to a meaningful one. And living a meaningful life means being open and vulnerable. Now I am noticing a transition from a sense of identity defined by what I do for myself, to one defined by what I do in relation to other people. I thought that life was about building myself up to be the best, but it is others that make life fun and significant. Life’s not about optimizing. What exactly is the “best”? Nobody knows the answer to these questions, and you will torture yourself if you are committed to finding the best.

A lot of my thinking has been influenced by the Lun Yu – I feel like I have grown to understand what it really means to do something for the sake of doing it. Again, when I first started writing in this blog and my personal journal, I wrote because I knew that writing would give me benefits – understanding, writing skills, etc. But now I write because writing is fucking wonderful. 

So now as summer arrives, it’s time to keep things moving (and cut all the weight I’ve gained from my bulk :P). I have changed so much over the past year, and I’m not done yet. I’ll be headed to Kyoto, Japan and Shanxi, China to practice meditation alone in some monasteries. Planning out my summer plans reminded me of my mom’s disapproval and fear when I told her I was committing to Swarthmore. But I know that I would’ve never grown like this if I hadn’t come here. Maybe I should just continue doing the things she is scared of in order to grow. But on a more serious note, my mom is really an indicator of my comfort, and going against her will probably bite me in the ass in the future.

But when that does happen, you better believe that I’ll be writing about it here.

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Contributing to the world, as myself

What would not get done if you were not here?

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be myself, to actually have things that I stand for and believe in. I fell upon this question while reading Improv Wisdom this morning, and was wondering that if I were asked this question in high school, I wouldn’t have had an answer. I think this is an important question to think about too, so you should take some time right now to think about it! If I was not in high school, people would have continued prepping for standardized test, doing extracurriculars, etc. I think that I can now pinpoint this to a specific thing – competition. Competition is a rat race, if somebody drops out, that’s just one less person to worry about, right? So let’s go back to the question, when you are competing in something (college admissions, interviewing for internships, etc.) you’re not really adding anything unique.

Consider your unique vantage point, your talents, your loves, what you have been given to do. What are you here to do?

Competition is a zero sum game. Not many people remember the losers, which sucks. For myself, I think that if I continued competing, climbing some corporate ladder for my whole life, I would never be able to answer the question: what would not get done if I were not here? But I do have answers to that now. For one, this blog. If I were not here, nobody would be writing this blog. To show my unique vantage point, talent, passions, loves, my purpose, I have to create. In my philosophy seminar this semester, although everybody was reading the same texts everybody would contribute different and unique perspectives every class. Depending on how we were raised, what environment we put ourselves in, different things are more apparent to us. So by participating in a class discussion, posting your thoughts on the internet, filming YouTube videos, making a movie, or whatever creative medium you choose, you are doing something that nobody else could do.

So here’s my idea: Don’t compete, create.

I’m going to adapt this from an answer I read on Quora. Let’s say that 100 people spend 100 units of energy each competing for some award. In the end, there is only winner, so only 100 units of energy (out of 10,000 units) are recognized. If everybody decided to go out on their own and try to create something, they could’ve each spent the 100 units of energy making something unique. That’s an overall win win, adding 10,000 units to the world. The effort that you put in will still count for something, even if you don’t win. Furthermore, since everybody was raised differently, everybody has value to add to the world. 

So this is a challenge for myself next year. To spend more time creating, spend more time writing content for my readers because that is something unique to me. And I’ve been practicing a lot of piano improv lately, so I might start uploading my improvisations onto YouTube to I guess make my dent in this world. Writing this, I’m starting to realize I’m mainly using the internet to publicize myself, which might change or grow in the future. Also another big thing I will plan to do is not search and compete for any jobs this coming summer. This is a pretty big jump for me, since I would love to land a nice internship so I can more easily find a job in the future. But I think creating something by myself, making something I can be truly proud of of is more important to me right now than spending time competing for an internship.

So you know what, I’ll go with it. With this mindset, I’m interested to see what kind of future I can pave .