Warmth

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.

Fall Break: How I’ve been, and What’s Next

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. I want to spend more on others. More time, more money. 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.

Discovering yourself through others

I used to think people could achieve more alone, that other people weren’t necessary. I thought everything was attainable as long as I had the discipline, and to some extent that is still true. In the realm of developing new skills: like doing more pushups, waking up without an alarm, and programming, these are things you can refine with practice. But I’ve come to realize that there are “fuzzy” things (not hard skills) that are difficult to discover alone. This year was my third and last year at LDC (Leadership Development Center), and while it’s name is essentially a buzzword to attract high schoolers for college applications, it was only through LDC this year that I grew to realize how important of an influence others have had on me.

My first year at LDC was as a delegate, where I participated in the actual camp. The next two I was a staff, where I planned and led the delegates at camp. I went into LDC each year with a predetermined goal I wanted to achieve. My first year, it was all about me. I did whatever it took to improve my leadership, to achieve a captivating charisma. I took every opportunity to stand in the spotlight, practice my public speaking. I was on a hustle every day to talk to as many different people as possible. And this wave of self improvement carried on throughout high school. I knew and believed that if I wanted to improve my social game, I could do it myself.

The following year, I came back as a youth staff. At that point in time, I felt being a staff was more of a social status. They were the confident people in the red shirts and cool sunglasses. All the delegates would talk about them, and now I could become a part of it. I fed off this social energy and it gave me confidence. I continued to take opportunities to improve myself, and in turn I become a pretty likable character among the delegates. However, something I wish I had done differently was pulling myself out of the spotlight. After all, the camp isn’t about me. It’s about the delegates that came here to improve themselves. Thet following year, I wanted to take a step back and just witness the magic that I had experienced my delegate year. Putting my delegates before myself and making sure everybody felt included and happy. Until now, I was more of the social hustler, wanting to meet as many people as possible (like superficial friends) over developing close friendships with a smaller group of people. I wanted to use this last LDC as a chance to watch other people grow, and I wanted to develop meaningful friendships with them along the way. Taking that step back allowed me to become more aware of how people were feeling around me. Like noticing subtle signs when people felt isolated or unhappy. Also celebrating others’ excitement with them. I came to realize how caring some other staff were towards the delegates, how they would always go out of their way to make the delegates feel comfortable. Watching this made me realize how much I valued having these caring relationships with other people. I also realized how to care for others. To have somebody share their story with you and develop a closer relationship with you, you have to first put yourself out there. So many people come back talking about how LDC is so magical because it can bring people so close together in just a couple days. We get to become so close to one another because we encourage everybody to push their comfort zones and put themselves out there. When we put themselves out there and become vulnerable, others can relate with us and grow closer.

So yes, while it is exciting to put 10,000 hours into mastering a skill, you’d have a much more fulfilling time experiencing life’s ups and downs with the people you care about. You may be the one who gives meaning to somebody’s life, and along the way, you’ll get to meet the people who’ll help you discover yourself.

lucky_charms_clan_discover_yourself
This is my last clan, and its a clan I’m proud to end on.