It’s Time To Move Forward

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.

hyperbolic
Hyperbolic Time Chamber (Dragon Ball Z)

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 🙂

Becoming Interesting

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.

It’s time to move forward.

 

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.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

“What goals do you want to accomplish this summer?”

Huh. I was surprised that I didn’t have an answer to this. For the past few years of my life, I have set goals for myself for big blocks of time like this. I had an idea of what I wanted to do this summer, travel to another country – probably couch surf with locals and get to know them, spend some time at monasteries to meditate, and write a lot more. But goals-wise, I was blank. Sitting down outside thinking about this question, I started to realize that I was getting a little too comfortable. So I just finished the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a book I borrowed from the same friend who asked me this question, and it has sort of been a wake up call, changing the way I view my goals and future.

Rule #1: Don’t follow your passion

So reading this made me reminiscent of this post I made over winter break: Don’t Pursue Your Dreams. The passion hypothesis – this hypothesis claims that they key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion. Cal Newport goes on to talk about how this passion hypothesis is not only false but also potentially dangerous. Passion comes from first actually being good at something. Half-assedly dabbing yourself in multiple activities trying to figure out what to put your time into, trying to figure out what you’re “passionate” about is an act of innocent optimism that will lead to life a confusion as you are constantly wondering where your passions lie while time passes. And at the end of the day you don’t have anything valuable to offer.

Rule #2: Be so good they can’t ignore you

Be so good they can’t ignore you is the phrase Cal uses to talk about building career capital, a term he coined to describe the skills you have that are rare and valuable to to the working world. Having a substantive career capital is the key for creating the work you love. This rule resonated the most with me because it was essentially a wake up call that while I want a bunch of shortcuts in my life, if I want to cultivate a substantive arsenal of value I can offer to the world, hard work is necessary. I know I have talked about this before in my posts, but I feel that this drive and grit has subsided a bit during break. And it’s time for that to change. Thinking about the skills that I have are rare and valuable, I don’t have much really haha. These are currently the skills most important to me which I consider are rare and valuable: writing, meditating, and learning. So one way I have changed after reading this book is the way I view my time at Swarthmore. I’m going to be that student that uses his time in college to cultivate an extremely strong foundation of career capital up to the point where I am confident that I can find opportunities to get paid for doing things anytime I want. I want to be the first person people think of when they’re thinking that they need a person to do ____.

Deliberate Practice: The style of difficult practice required to continue to improve at a task. Deliberate practice requires you to stretch past where you are comfortable and then receive ruthless feedback on your performance. In the context of career construction, most knowledge workers avoid this style of skill development because, quite frankly, it’s uncomfortable. To build up large stores of career capital, however, which is necessary for creating work you love, you must make this style of practice a regular part of your work routine. This is the type of practice that I have subjected myself to as a musician and an athlete, and reading Cal talk about it really substantiated this type of practice in the skills I want to develop like writing and programming.

Rule #3: Turn Down a Promotion (Control)

So this rule is mainly about the importance of control when creating the work you love. I don’t have much to say about this yet since I’m building the career capital in my life. But Cal warns readers of the dangers of trying to introduce more control into your working life when you have not acquired enough career capital. Which tl;dr means not to demand too much control in your life if you don’t have any actual skills to back yourself up.

Rule #4: Think Small, Act Big (Mission)

A mission is another important trait to acquire with your career capital when creating work you love. It provides a unifying goal for your career. It provides a unifying goal for your career. It’s more general than a specific job and can span multiple positions. It provides an answer to the question “What should I do with my life?” The unifying glue that connects everything I’m doing in my life. Blogging and journaling have definitely helped me become more in touch with myself, and my mission right now is to master all the difficult challenges in my life. I go more in depth into this as well in my post: Don’t Pursue Your Dreams.

I don’t want to be the person who graduates college searching for the ultimate job for myself. I don’t want to be the person who spends time thinking about a career that sounds appealing to me. I want to be the person who comes out of college, hell this semester with rare and valuable skills that will make me compelling. So what do I want to accomplish this summer? I want to write a lot more, especially in the vein of self-help posts that have a lot of popularity on this blog. I also want to write about my experiences living in another country, vigorously reaching out for feedback so that I can improve my writing to the point where other people want me to write for them. And you know me, I’ll always be playing music and programming on the side >:)

Thanks for the wake up call.

Let’s go.

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.