Category: Positive

Stabilization

When I woke up this morning, I realized that my hair has thinned to a point that it is difficult to hide it. It has been happening for a few years now, from one too many stressful days of school, homework, and the “lack” of free time.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get a leg back up on social interactions and learning how to empathize with people through weekly group and individual sessions. On the receiving end, I listen to how others relate to my constant regrets over lost opportunities in making friendships and meeting people. On the giving end, I talk with the most emotional, yet most recent, event I could possibly recall: my trip to Japan. Needless to say, the strong emotions I expressed at the conclusion of the trip and during surreal moments (such as the first morning in Kyoto, during that shocking, first-hand realization that that the sun rises at 4:45 am; or perhaps the dramatic entry into Tokyo through Rainbow Bridge) seemed to have been expressed genuinely, and were thus understood by the counselor.

I have also realized that most of my emotional state pivots around grades and homework: good grades means less self-regret and self-deprecation, while less homework means less anxiety and burden imposed on my self. It doesn’t help, though, that scholarships seem to be paramount if I don’t want to myself to a middle-class life of work – yet only the top-notch, stellar students get the scholarships, regardless of national origin. Just because I lived for an important part of my life in a Spanish-speaking island that is now physically and politically devastated doesn’t entitle me to anything, nor does it seem to give me a leg up on any admission. I want to find a way to decouple my emotions from my grades, because the notion of a class rank still haunts me from high school, and I will break myself if this continues.

I have already taken two midterms, and I have two more tomorrow. I have little concern for midterms. Studying for a midterm implies that one is trying to compensate for a failure to learn something in the past, and thus partly defeats the purpose of a midterm. The mastery part should occur during the homework and after the homework is reviewed in class (or answers are revealed). The midterm is simply an assertion to the professor or teacher that you really know the material you claim to have learned. Yet I seem to be erring on the side of Bs when I take these midterms: my first one was an 88%, and that was a 50-question multiple-choice test. My second one was somewhere around an 83%, and that’s only because I missed one multiple-choice question out of seven, and then failed to compute the correct answer on the free response even though I followed and communicated all of the steps correctly. My target is “please, just anything above a B.” If I get Bs on all my exams and 100% on all of my homework, I would still end up with an A- in my classes, which is not great if I want a scholarship.

The bottom line is that I don’t want to bind myself to endless work because I owe money to someone.

The phoenix

After receiving a carefully timed letter from the people at MIT – as if they knew perfectly the stages of grief of an MIT applicant – my confidence almost immediately reemerged after flipping through the pages. It reassured me that these people aren’t demigods, they’re real people who took the time to document the fun in their lives that they have over there.

My brain somehow took what I knew about MIT, who you’re up against, what it takes, what kind of people get admitted, and the passion I’ve had for it since I was twelve, and melded it together. And that evening I felt, since a long long time, that I was intellectually driven by a purpose. I got to work right away: I constructed “the path to success,” what needed to happen between now and the day that I apply, in order for me to successfully assert my worth.

Yes, I missed many opportunities I could have seized, but humans are not built to perfection, and like I’ve said, are influenced by circumstance. It’s hard to get to MIT, and that’s an understatement. And if I truly want to get there, then I will. If I want to be successful, then I will. If MIT has to be the impetus to get off my lazy butt and do what I love, then I will.

I never cared about the prestige and the fame, but rather the people and what they do. The engineers, the coders, the mathematicians, those are my people! I wish there was somebody at my school who would love to talk about Lagrange points and Taylor series. But there’s really nobody to compare to. I’m unique, and thus the doors are not closed.

And even if they find me uninteresting, I have options. The world is growing, and MIT’s officers know that they cannot possibly expand the campus. The people just get better and better; the 10% of soon to be 8 billion people in the world.

The science fairs are over and the competitions. No more awards. It’s time for me to just show off my projects, unadorned and unappreciated, to the world.

So here we go. Another phoenix is rising out of the ashes.

Back to our roots

I’ve been reading a bit on how extremely difficult it is to get into MIT. It appears that nowadays the classes are just the amalgamations of all the “best” people in the world. The admissions website makes the process seem easy. But these people are telling me that you have to be in IOI, be a champion at a couple things, make a bunch of cool stuff (not just one thing), rek high school, make friends, do sports/band, the whole extracurricular shebang (be president of everything), AND somehow live?

That is devaluing rather than valuing human life right there. Because by abusing the opportunities you’re given, you’re basically draining the life out of everything. Being the best is putting yourself first at the cost of everyone else, regardless of how many people you led or helped. You trod on everyone’s faces and now you expect them to smile back.

If that’s the kind of college I want to go to, where people idolize their hobbies and do studying on steroids, then heck no! I want a balance. I don’t want to feel alone working on a project, but then again, I don’t want to be pushed into doing things from 6 AM to 1 AM every day.

I don’t really know what I prefer anymore. For so long I’ve lived “alone,” i.e. nobody really helps me in my projects or homework. I just do it. I have not assimilated into the American collective identity.

But then again, maybe I should stick to my guns. MIT might have what I want. For all I know, there is a snake eyes chance of getting accepted. Even if I don’t, MIT has a much better grad school anyway.

But since I doubt myself, I am going to ease the pressure on myself. By doing things for fun and profit rather than for college, I’ll get a better result. I am unencumbered trying to fit myself in a nice suit. I don’t prevent myself from doing stuff because “going to college is a higher priority.” I go to college because I do not prevent myself from doing stuff.

My faith in humanity has been restored

Some-faith-in-humanity-has-been-restored

I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I feel better now. Not sure for how long I’ll feel better, but certainly I feel somewhat more confident of my abilities now.

That said…

LameBoy

LameBoy debuggerIt’s going okay. Right now it’s clocking at about 5.5k lines of code, so evidently still in its infancy, but we are making progress fairly quickly. I had to break everything so that I could add a layer of abstraction. It’s just a matter of cleaning up Denton’s crappy code and future-proofing it.

(more…)

An epiphany

Many people seem to be stuck in this cycle of misery: that their life hasn’t gone “as it should have been,” that they’ve made too many mistakes, that they just want a chance to start over, that everything is impossible now, that all the windows of opportunity are gone forever now.

But I have realized that what you call “mistakes” is actually a particle of individuality.

I’ll give you an example. Sometimes during the day, I feel really stupid for doing simple math wrong; other times, some brilliant idea pops up and never gets written down; and sometimes, the intelligence just comes out and I do a couple of hundred lines of well written code in an hour or two. The stupid and the smart moments, and how we tolerate them – that’s individuality.

One too many times have I seen people who don’t care about individuality. You have to be the ideal person: the “best” person. You wanna be the guy who does a 200 day streak on GitHub, because without it you’re nobody. If you’re not part of the hive mind, you’re an outlier. These days, the clusters of people are crystallizing; it’s harder to be an outlier. You’re either in the regular, ordinary people cluster, or you’re in the “I-started-coding-when-I-was-two” hyperintelligent cluster. Suddenly, the outliers grouped and it became a cluster on its own.

And what if you’re in the middle? Are you an outlier? Are you a nobody? Or are you a ripe individual?

How about this: let nobody judge you. Exalt yourself when you must; humble yourself when you can. Do not let people view your dark side, just as people on Earth never see the other side of the moon.

Don’t think about the scatterplot. Think about you, the point. It sounds selfish, but it’s not, because if you think about the scatterplot then you will feel like a grain of sand. You will be overwhelmed, because there is someone better than you but no best in sight. Do not be overwhelmed. You are not a grain of sand, because if you were, you could only be picked up by the wind and carried away, stomped on and be destroyed. But you can move. And because you can move, you are self-conscious and therefore a powerful entity of the universe.

If you want to win, stop trying so hard, be an individual, and that in itself will be a victory. The victor isn’t the one who gets the trophy, the victor is the one who made the most out of the contest, the one who helped, the one who put up a fair fight against his adversary, not the one who spent six hours practicing the day before. Such dedication is not what the human body was designed for. It was designed for survival. Is this what you call survival? Clearly it is not survival, because it is at the cost of yourself.

To survive is to be the individual. If it means breaking from the trend, do it. If it means fighting the stream sometimes, do it. (But please, you should follow the streams most of the time.) If it means looking like a madman trying to get a point across, do it. If it means getting 900 downvotes trying to bring a message across, do it. Persecution is not a barrier. There are no barriers, because the individual is only bound by the desire to be free.

So do it. Be the individual. Forget about fighting against the big stream of time. There is an expanse of time ahead of you.