I’ve just come back from Asia, 2 months living like a monk. During those two months I’ve had my head up my ass, oblivious to a bunch of shit going on in my home land – America. I missed the whole Pokemon Go hype, presidential elections drama, Arthur memes, Harambe memes. And to be honest, it was fucking great. I didn’t have to spend time thinking about these random things. I could focus just on my meditation practice and writing. Landing back in California, I remember my head physically hurting from reading the headlines of all my emails and notifications.
We spend so much time ticking off our to-do lists, making aspirational Pinterest boards, and thinking about our next big goal, dream or plan. And then we wonder why we burnout?
Ask yourself, honestly: How much energy do you dedicate to things that don’t really matter? Or things you think you “should” do, rather than those you actually want to?
Because true balance takes work. It takes sacrifice.
Alright fuck it, let’s go. Write a list, mentally or physically, filled with things not deserving your time. Think of it as an anti-bucket list of sorts. I call mine a Fuck-It Bucket.
Complainers: Especially the passive-aggressive, subtle complainers. Oh my god, I have so many meetings back to back. I have so much to read. I feel like complaining is such a negative energy that kills my motivation and optimism. Especially in college, sometimes we can get into a huge complaining circle jerk that really isn’t beneficial at all. Same goes for me. No more complaining that I don’t want to wake up.
Dessert: I’ve tried it, it’s just way too sweet. I can do without it.
Gossip: No I don’t want to hear your secret gossip about Suzy over there. I don’t want to talk behind somebody’s back, if you want an impression of them go find out for yourself.
Being Messy: Clean up after yourself, knoll everything. I lived such a simple life in Asia: a 15 lb suitcase, one style of monastic robes – and I noticed a HUGE decrease in stress. My sleep quality improved, I could remember all my dreams! I woke up singing “Here Comes the Sun” from the Bee movie, and skipped my ass out of bed.
Things will definitely change, but this is my fuck-it bucket for this next semester. None of these things matter. By acknowledging them, saying “fuck it” and waving them on their way, I free myself up to be as energetic and present as possible.
“It’s impossible to be everything for everyone. But if you treat yourself with a little more acceptance and understanding, you’ll find you have so much more to give.” – Bianca Bass
Check out the original post, and comment if you decided to make a fuck-it list yourself! I want to hear what’s on yours.
One year ago, I started this blog mainly to sort out my insecurities and why I chose to go to Swarthmore. I was honest with myself because I never intended to share it with anybody, and over the year, this honesty has come more naturally the more I write. In this blog’s first post, I stated that reading other people’s experiences online had helped me in my life, so I wanted to contribute to that community.
In reality though, I didn’t know what I was talking about, I didn’t know what writing for other people meant. I wrote for myself, to sort out my problems and maybe share them with other people.
But shit is different now.
This past year has felt like a hyperbolic time chamber. I remember thinking how disappointed I would be if I came out of college the exactly way as I did in high school. But things have definitely changed.
I used to hate writing – blogging was a chore I challenged myself with to open up. Now writing has become a part of my lifestyle – waking up in the middle of the night to write, writing before homework, writing before sleeping.
I used to read because it would make me look smart, picking up trendy books about self improvement and pop psychology successful entrepreneurs shared. Now I share an appreciation for literature and understand the unbreakable harmony of reading and writing.
Now I have friends who don’t just do amazing things like win awards and make money. I have friends with personalities that inspire me, and hanging out with them feels like the fabric of our existences are weaving together and pushing outward together to grow.
I used to think of self-improvement as a solo mission, but you can only achieve so much alone. Within a genuine community, the selfish energy of achievement dissolves and harmonious successes amplify to create completely unimaginable things together like the reverberating overtone of multiple tuning forks.
Going Back: Why I started this blog
When I first started this blog, I had to choose a title and tagline. I asked myself before: “What do I want other people to see me as? Or what do I value in my life? They will probably change, but for now:”
Title: Becoming Interesting
Tagline: My reflections as I seek passion and relevancy.
So far, this blog has very accurately paralleled my life. First starting off with a lot of confusion and insecurity at Swarthmore, then moving into a strong phase of discipline and self-improvement. Late 2015 writing about my self-progress at school and some embarrassing sprinklings of romance talk. Early 2016 exploring eastern schools of thought, moving into my own theories of combing Asian philosophies. And Mid-2016 summer writing about my monastic life experience in Japan and Asia.
I appreciate this parallelism especially because when reading old posts, I can see myself progressing and moving forward with time. But I think the idea of always progressing in life can be harmful, so I prefer the term moving forward with time. More importantly, it is not my achievements moving forward, but rather my personality, which I think is what truly defines people.
Looking back at the taglines
My reflections as I seek passion. The most significant realization I had this past year was my naiveté towards the idea of “seeking a passion.” What really grounded me was a sense of purpose to challenge myself in all aspects of my life. Now, however, I feel that I have solved this passion problem and it’s time to move on to the next challenges.
I would characterize this past year as period of really questioning if I did things just because they were sexy. This past year I challenged my obsession and ultimately insecurity for success, and I realized that cultivating a pure personality of integrity is much more important to me.
But this past year, there were definitely times where I have slipped up. Thoughts, intentions, actions that I regret. And it’s time for a change. No more dishonesty, especially with myself. I would shy away from truly opening up because that would leave me vulnerable. But like I said, it’s about time I moved forward.
My reflections as I seek relevancy. I was getting too ahead of myself when I first said this a year ago, I didn’t know what this really meant. But I’ve been starting to get a taste of what it means to be part of a community, not just living in the solo self-improvement mindset all the time. So this is something that I will continue to reflect on.
This is a small thing, but I think a good way to symbolize this move forward is to update my tagline. This relates to my previous post Finding Home where I talk about how you shouldn’t think of a commitment as losing something. It is fulfilling because it pushes you to do more. Self discipline was not a one year phase as it has become the core of my existence, and it will continue throughout the rest of my life. But this year marks my shift of focus to commitment. What is commitment, and what does it mean to me? To others?
As for the title, Becoming Interesting has grown on me 🙂
Committing to honesty. My reflections as I seek relevancy.
In a month I’ll be beginning my second year of college. But no way am I going back to school, things have changed and I won’t be repeating the same mistakes ever again.
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.
Too many people at Swarthmore fall into the monotonous routine of always studying, so I’m going to make these posts every break to check in with myself and make sure I’m always spicing things up and tackling something new.
Starting from the first semester, I have been able to diet pretty well and stick to a regular exercise routine. I was able to steadily lose 20 pounds, and now I want to play with my weight. I want to challenge myself and see how well I can gain twenty pounds before the semester because I am pretty confident with my discipline to diet and exercise. The idea of playing with my body weight seems very appealing to me because I would be able to prove to myself that I have control over my physical body. But gaining weight is fairly easy for me, it just means eating more food and working out more – I can already see my belly rounding up 🙂 Also this requires a change in lifestyle, I need to budget my money differently as I might be spending more on food, I need to eat more both in volume and protein intake. The real challenge is after my bulk, when I have to slim back down while keeping my same strength. This will also entail a lifestyle change which will be a nice change of pace.
I recently made a deal with my friends that will last for the rest of our lives: Every time one of us eats candy, all of us have to miss our next meal. Many people have said that this is outrageous, and it is pretty outrageous. But this is one way for us to cut out candy from our lives forever, and to be honest it is quite fun to uphold!
So most of the new things that I have started this semester were lifestyle changes to improve and take control over my health. Academically, I am getting used to the workload of Swarthmore and have pretty much killed procrastination from my life. One thing that I started doing less though was going to professors office hours, there isn’t really much of an excuse for this so I will set the times in my calendar to make sure I attend them.
I have also gotten more into poetry and freestyle rapping! So hitting these goals from last semester’s fall break post. I have also been writing a lot more, especially in my journal, and I’m glad that this has become part of my lifestyle. Damn this feels pretty great, visibly seeing progress and making the goals I wanted to achieve last semester into habits!
What I want now:
“If I were to describe you in word, it would be mellow.”
Shit. That was my reaction when a friend visiting said this to me. Ever since coming to Swarthmore, I do feel that I have become more mellow. More accepting of things and as my friends have commented – I always have a half smile, half stoic face. I don’t really want to be mellow though, I want to have a more exciting personality. I have also been told that I have a poker face most of the time so I want to work on being more physically expressive.
I want to try writing fiction. I think that writing styles force you think and write in different ways. With poetry, you have the idea of rhyming and a sense of obscurity in the back of your head. With fiction, I would have the freedom of telling my story through multiple characters, setting, plot twists, etc.
Chasing romanticized ideas of some things, then realizing the reality of them.
Having my eyes wide open in my seminar. Soaking everything in, learning so much that I can’t imagine to be asleep. Pages flipping so quickly as everything in my brain is clicking together when looking at past readings.
When relationships get nuanced.
Maturing my naive feelings, and the joy of chasing those matured feelings.
Sitting in the chair of the music library, completely entranced in my readings. I don’t feel my neck pain anymore, because the ideas in my head are flying everywhere and making connections with each other.
Walking frustratingly into office hours driven by questions rather than trying to impress.
Questioning… Questioning why the hell I’m here.
Questioning why I care about prestige.
Not knowing what I’m going to get myself into, then doing it anyway.
Feeling like you’ve met a spiritual sage talking to your professor.
You know that feeling when you have to write a paper that is 7 pages long, and have no idea how the hell you’re going to complete it? But there is the beautiful moment when you get so immersed in the content that you forget about small details like page length. Getting so dedicated to trying to tell the best story, forming the best arguments – then by the time you know it, you’ve exceeded the page length requirement.
Having the autonomy to do what I want, and focusing the things that I actually care about. Then riding on that positive wave of confidence where everything just seems to be getting better. Hitting new PRs (increasing my lifts) everyday in the gym, sleeping better and better, classes getting more engaging and challenging, becoming happier and happier in general.
Being unable to sleep, then playing pool, talking about life, and cooking with friends until 5 AM.
Reading about my culture and things from my childhood – but scribbled in the margins are the confusing inconsistencies stuck in my head, questioning how my values are conflicting with what I’m reading.
Being completely captivated by your math professor.
Doing random things just to spice things up.
Having people you care about that do those random things with you.
Maturing relationships with parents and friends.
Having a lot of things to do but ending up writing anyways because that’s what is more important.
Eating by myself.
Making mistakes, feeling terrible, and vowing never to do them again.
Going to New York during finals week.
Talking late into the night not just about academics but about living life.
Waking up in the morning, jumping out of the bed and skipping to the bathroom with a smile plastered on my face. What a time to be alive.
Having lots of homework to do, then dropping all of it to do something spontaneous with friends. Just to spice things up.
Having friends who are genuinely happy and passionate about life.
[This was extremely fun and nostalgic to write! I’m excited to write another every semester/year to see how my college experience matures]
Is this who I am? Sometimes I catch myself acting differently around different types of people. This post is for me to look at when I’m too busy, caught up in life and need a reminder of why I’m here. This post is for me so I can hold myself to my degree of integrity. This post is for me to look at when I feel like I’m having conflicting identities.
This is for me…
I want to be the kind of man who is interesting, regardless of who I am with.
The kind of man who spends life finding value he can give to others.
The kind of man who is creative and confident in his imagination.
A man of kindness and affection.
The kind of man able to articulate his thoughts clearly through every medium: words, music, speech, art.
The kind of man who is not absent minded, intensely focused and aware of every moment.
The kind of man who builds an image of himself as someone motivated by learning difficult things.
The kind of man proud of having worked hard rather than being smart and talented.
The kind of man who not just experiences, but also puts into words and shares with other people.
The kind of man who looks for change.
The kind of man who sees the value in you before you need to say anything.
A best friend.
The kind of man with eyes that look into your soul and makes you want to tell stories about yourself.
The kind of man who won’t stroke your ego but will build you up.
The kind of man who sees the beauty of ideas before everybody else does.
The kind of man who is comfortable showing affection.
The kind of man who makes you think and feel…
The kind of man you notice when he’s in the room and the one you miss when he’s not.
The kind of man who acts out of love and passion.
The kind of man who is educated and talks about issues that matter to people.
The same person in work and play.
The person who makes you think about things you’ve never thought about before.
The kind of man who doesn’t need to tell people about starting, but shows up with progress.
The kind of man who never grows old because he is always changing things up in his life.
The kind of man who laughs at his mistakes.
The kind of man who wanders the path of questioning and failure, but never forgets to look at the beauty around him.
This post was inspired by a similar post Andrea made, thanks for making me think about myself in this manner.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss
Back in high school, all I cared about was boosting my GPA. I never thought I could learn so much from failing.
I didn’t come to Swarthmore to continue doing the things I excelled at – then college would just be an expensive summer camp. Pass/Fail meant that I could spend time on myself, I could take that seminar on Philosophy, a topic I thought I’d never study. I could spend my time with new friends, maybe get into a relationship, exercise to maintain my health, all without these dreaded grades pressuring me, right? Most people I know failed at certain subjects in school (maybe not getting F’s, but by struggling) and now have simply decided “I’m not a ____ person” or “I just don’t get _____” e.g. “I’m not a Math person.” That absolves them from trying, which keeps them from failing, which keeps them from learning.
At a place like Swarthmore, too many people are killing themselves working to get that perfect GPA. Make sure you get a B, and do it early. Once you do you’ll stop worrying about having to get a perfect GPA because it’s no longer attainable. Only then will you be free to actually get an education. College is the time to take risky courses in topics you don’t understand, in topics you aren’t sure you like, and in topics that appear beyond your grasp.
Successful students have been taught to rely on talent, which makes them unable to fail gracefully.
But I challenge you to go out there – challenge yourself and fail.
Today’s the first day I’m back in college. I feel like throughout my life, as I’ve been growing older, most of the emotions I’ve been feeling have been difficult. Growing up is hard, as I have told many people. But being back here in my dorm, with my best friends in my room, I feel like I can take a break. Take a break not to enjoy the flowers, not to enjoy the snow falling outside, but to enjoy the warmness weighing down in my heart as I’m here with my friends. I’m present here. Four months ago, when I first met these people, we played awkward ice breaker games in a room trying to get to know each other.
After graduating high school and entering my first semester here at Swarthmore, I’ve been a pretty social person. I was extremely confident with large groups, but something that I struggled with was making close friends. I was scared at the beginning of college. I was scared that I would know many people superficially but not have any real friends. But right now, in my room, this warmness I’m feeling is extremely heavy. It’s so heavy that it is squeezing tears down my eyes because I know that I have found the people who I truly care about. I have found the people who, at any party, I am truly free and can tell them anything. I have found the people who I know also care about me.
Who would’ve thought that on the first day I’m back I would cry. Who would’ve thought that I would cry with the same person who brought me to tears at one of the first parties of the year. I remember at that party, I didn’t feel the need to go out to any fraternity house or go out to dance to loud music because being present with the people I care about was all that mattered to me.
This warmness is something that I’ve never felt before. I don’t know what it feels like to finally reconnect with a friend for over ten years, but I imagine that this is what it would feel like. I have only known these people for 4 months, but I feel like I can spend forever with them. For somebody else to call me a best friend. For somebody else to care about me is something that I could only try to repay.
This warmness that is so heavy, so heavy in my heart it is squeezing tears down my eyes because I know that I have found the people who I truly care about. This warmness that is so heavy, this warmness that I have found tonight is something that I can only try to express with words.
This warmness in my heart is so heavy, I can hold you all in my embrace forever. But right now I’m not thinking of the future. I’m just cherishing this moment we’re sharing together.
I’m back home for winter break, where I’ve had the opportunity to meet with members of my family. Being raised in an Asian family, the topic brought up the most in family dinners is college. Which college my relatives got into, which college I’m attending now, etc. And I know many people who go to a relatively small school can relate – when people ask me where I go to school, I already expect that the person asking will have never heard of Swarthmore. Even before the semester started, when my peers were talking about matriculating into extremely reputable institutions, I was uncomfortable – I would even say shameful, when I would tell people where I was going. Why was that? Sure Swarthmore is a reputable school in the academic world, but my family here doesn’t know anything about it. Many people my age in California haven’t heard of my school before. So why was this?
I wanted to have a name brand school under my belt so that I could show it off, or as one of my friend put it: “I wanted to cower behind a Harvard label so that every time someone asked me where I went to college, I could pretend that I was really smart and successful.” I truly believed that my self worth was defined by what college I attended, and what everybody else thought about it. I had judged people based on what colleges they attend, and being on that other side of the judgment now has taught me a lot about what I valued. Throughout high school, I had some insecurities about what I was capable of, how “intelligent” I was compared to other people. And I thought that if I ended up attending a brand name school, I would be able to patch up those insecurities and (falsely) reassure myself. But that’s just the easy way out, it doesn’t tackle the real problems at the core. One of the most difficult experiences I’ve been facing so far in college is finding out what I value, and more importantly, holding a sense of integrity with myself. I don’t want to be somebody who isn’t comfortable with himself, and going down this path, staying true to myself, would require much more thought and hard work.
I was talking with my friend the other day about how we judge people first by their college. And then after this segment of life, we judge them by their employer. Judging somebody that works for a prestigious company (Goldman Sachs, Google, etc.) differently than somebody who works somewhere else. It truly is sad how the majority of people judge like this, but there isn’t much (or anything) I can do about changing how other people think. If I want to uphold some sort of integrity with my life, might as well figure it out now right?
Most people associate things like intelligence, social capacities, whatever else based on an institution. But I don’t think that it should be this way, rather, it should be with qualities. For example, with my insecurity of intelligence, instead of complaining about how I won’t have some brand name label to cover up my intelligence, why not just actually study and learn. Fix the root problem here. This is what I’ve started to realize: The most important things are qualities, like discipline, passion for learning, hard work, generosity, compassion. I shouldn’t be associating myself with institutions, but with qualities. But wait, don’t people already do that? I do know people for their friendliness, passions, etc. But you only really get to know these sides of people when you talk to them and really get to know them. So my solution is to make those qualities about yourself extremely salient. To wear a badge of compassion like you would a logo of your alma mater. To be proud and confident enough about your passion for learning that that is the first thing people think about when they hear your name. That’s the way I would want to live, because those qualities are things that I have to built up by myself. I have to deal with them everyday, and it would be amazing if all of those qualities were true. Sure I can say I am hardworking, I can say whatever the hell I want. But if I’m at home watching tv shows, wasting time, I am not being integrous to myself. I wouldn’t have to always be acting on my “A game” because that’s who I really am.
Sure this is a much harder path, but I chose this path exactly because it was hard, because it’s the only way I’ll be true to myself.