Collecting life experiences

What’s the point of trying new things?

When I came back home from college, I realized that I was able to more accurately represent and describe what was happening in the present. The things I’ve done so far have given me the context and the language to understand what I was doing. For example, I’ve never been as thorough in studying something before except in my computer science class this past semester. I would go over every lecture, ask my professor questions, and look for further readings to make my knowledge fullproof. I got into the habit of finding people to teach what I was learning to make sure that what I knew wasn’t based of rote memorization, but that I could prove everything. I approached my learning in a way similar to what I read on Quora.

Here’s my short summary of it: The way you should approach learning is to throw out all previous biases and beliefs you have about a subject because they are (probably) unsubstantiated, and because you haven’t proven them for yourself from scratch. This reminds me a lot of mathematical proofs: Of course what you’re reading from the book makes sense, because it’s telling you exactly what to do. And I think that this happens a lot in lectures: of course, whatever a professor says in a lecture is going to make perfect sense to you, but I believe the real test should be whether or not you can convince somebody with no prior knowledge that something is true ,which means that you should be able to build all the basic principles, essentially the entire curriculum, from scratch. (It was an extremely well written answer and I would recommend anybody to spend the time to read it!)

So what did this do for me now? Now that I have more free time, I have picked up learning new things like new web frameworks and machine learning / neural networks. Going through new material now, I noticed myself referencing what I did and how I did things while in that CS class: I tried to replicate my past experiences to make my understanding of any new topics fullproof as well.

This reminded me of the movie Inside Out, how Riley had her memories stored inside orbs. Joy, and other emotions, were able to look into the orbs to remember specific past memories.

INSIDE OUT

Throughout my whole life, I have been storing memories into orbs, shelving them away. In my sophomore year of high school, I used to play a lot of video games – League of Legends. Oh boy. I remember the weeks when I would get home from school at around 3pm then play till 11pm everyday. While I did learn many things from playing League, like goal-oriented practicing, team communication, etc it was ultimately a negative influence in my life. I ate unhealthily, gained a lot of weight, and my performance in social and academic situations suffered. This was definitely a low of my life, especially when I was trying to discipline myself out of playing. After about a year, I figured myself out and was able to stop playing. Like in Inside Out, plop came down a memory orb on stopping my addiction to video games.

At school, there were times I would catch myself falling into the traps of some distractions (watching YouTube videos, playing mobile games, etc.), but this time, I knew exactly what was happening to me. This has happened to me before – getting addicted to something. At times it was even funny, thinking of how I used to be, now that I have grown out of playing League of Legends. I was now confident in my ability to quit anything cold turkey.

Furthermore, I have picked up on a lot more experiences that I can now add to my arsenal of memory orbs: socializing with friends, having fun, playing music, etc. and it only goes up from here. I feel like this is an interesting way to think of going about life – by acquiring experiences.

From now on, I want to enjoy and experience more thoroughly the present, so that I won’t waste time in the future falling into traps I could have avoided. So that I can focus all my effort on experiencing the new, uncharted parts of life. 

Exploring New York’s Waffle

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!

Sashimicentral-park-view

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 NYC Subwaysubways 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:

manhattan-night-ferry-ride-back
Manhattan on the ferry ride back

Closing thoughts

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.

new-york-waffle        waffle-syrup