Organizing a Blogging Notebook in OneNote

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A few months ago, I made the executive decision to create a new notebook in OneNote solely dedicated to blogging.

This was a huge decision for me. Previously, I only had two notebooks: one to hold everything I was working on and one to hold everything I wasn’t working on. But after seeing people devote entire binders to blogging, I figured that a digital notebook wasn’t too much.

That still seems excessive. Can’t I just use the WordPress editor/Microsoft Word?

For the longest time, I only used the WordPress editor to write and edit my posts. But ideas came to me sporadically. Sometimes, I’d get a marvelous idea and realize that I only had 2 sentences to write down. This led to an incredibly messy “drafts” folder. When I wanted to work on a post, I had to open all my drafts to see which ones I was interested in working on. Sometimes, I would write something I liked but didn’t want to publish. I didn’t know what to do about that. And I never quite figured how to keep all that writing advice I read online in an easy to access place.

The blogging notebook fixed all that. There were other things I liked about OneNote as well- no distractions a Ctrl+T away, the flexibility of the page (Literally, you can just click and write something on the side if it pops up in the middle of writing.), that it syncs with my phone, that it’s free.

After some trial and error, these were the sections I came up with:

  1. Word Vomits
  2. Currently Writing
  3. Advice
  4. Finished Posts
  5. Trash
  6. For another day

Looking back, these sections were a bit arbitrary, but it worked for me. Here’s how I use each section.

Word Vomits: The first place where all my well, word vomiting, goes. If something comes to me spontaneously, it goes here, whether it’s good or not. I recently purged a good number of drafts, and there are 13 other ideas I could write about here. The first page here is a running list of ideas.  If this notebook were a brain, this would be the working memory.

Currently Writing:  These are “Word Vomits” I feel comfortable with publishing. Once I feel like the post is coherent, I copy paste the post into the WordPress editor and move the page into “Finished Posts”. This section usually holds about 3/4 posts.

Advice: I reached out to two of my favorite bloggers via email a few months ago and asked for advice. I created this section after they both responded, and I never wanted to lose those emails.  If I ever find a good piece of advice on the Internet, I put it here as inspiration.

Finished Posts: After a post gets moved to WordPress, I move the page with the draft into this section. Sometimes there’ll be snippets of lines I didn’t use or personal side notes that I didn’t want to publish. Usually a post will go through much more editing before it gets published on WordPress, and this is another way to preserve the drafts.

Trash: The receptacle for “Word Vomits” that turn out to be actual vomit. I keep them around in case I change my mind (and to remind myself how I can write crappy pretentious stuff at times.)

For another day: I created this section after I wrote a reflection on a trip I took and the people I met. I felt like it was a good piece…but not something I wanted to make public yet. It was a bit too raw, something that would be more interesting to look back on a year. For now, this section is littered with half-baked anecdotes, as well as a page that’s literally “List of awkward moments”.

I could write more about the merits of such a notebook, but frankly, it’s a relief to come up with a writing process that doesn’t mind when I come up with 5 ideas in 2 hours and want to write about each of them, that doesn’t mind when I end up trashing more than half of said ideas, that doesn’t mind when I want to recover some of those ideas again.

Usually, it takes me multiple days to write, review, and finalize a post. This was an exception- 20 minutes to write in one sitting, 30 minutes to look over and publish a few days later. 

Guest Post: Relative Deprivation, aka The Psychology of First World Problems

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By: Dinah Baum

[Note: Being only a newly minted high school graduate who has yet to know the ‘real world’, the examples given will be mostly school related. Exactly what you want to read about during the summer, I know.]

It’s second semester senior year, and university admissions decisions are being sent out. I’m absentmindedly checking my email when I notice that Rice University has sent me a notification indicating my admission status has been posted. I eagerly type in my email address and password to see the outcome. It takes less than 10 seconds for me to read “I regret to inform you that….” The sentence doesn’t need finishing. I know I have been rejected.

I suppose I am lucky. I had not developed any emotional attachment to the University, nor did I have a parental alumnus I had to shamefacedly break the news to. Even if I had been accepted, I may not have chosen to attend. Thus, this rejection, while disappointing, did not reduce me to tears or throw me into an existential crisis. And yet…I was still more upset than I should’ve been.

Was it because I’d applied as a history major, my strongest academic subject and still been rejected? Or because I had chosen to drop debate that year, making me look “uncommitted” to the admissions officers? As joyful Facebook posts found their way onto my feed, the answer became clear. I was demoralized not by my own rejection – instead, I was dejected over the acceptance letters many of my friends had received.

[Note: Friends who were accepted/are attending Rice: Those well wishes I gave you were genuine, not just some attempt to not appear bitter. I don’t begrudge you your acceptances at all.]

Enter the concept of relative deprivation. A term coined by sociologist Samuel Stouffer during WWII, it describes the fact that our sense of deprivation (in my case, an acceptance letter) is governed not by absolute position but relative position in relation to others. There’s another catch – we tend to only compare ourselves to those we’re around most often rather than everyone in the world.

At that moment, I was not comparing myself to all the high school seniors across America, or in Texas, or even in my own high school. Intellectually, I understand that many more students were rejected from Rice than accepted. I was in good – and plentiful – company. However, psychologically, emotionally, I was comparing myself not to the students down the hall in regular classes, but to my own group of highly academically competitive friends, and they seemed to be experiencing great success. To expand on this, who was I to be so upset about a simple rejection? I’d already received several acceptances from other good institutions. There are millions of children who will never have the chance at any college education, or even a primary school one. How could I complain when I know there are children in my own city who are attending failing schools, growing up in poverty, and are statistically unlikely to even set foot in a community college, let alone a four year institution? What a first world/privileged problem: “None of the universities that accepted me are prestigious enough!

Relative deprivation is a surprisingly simple concept that has a multitude of implications. For example, Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway have higher suicide rates than China, Vietnam, and Greece. This is in spite of the fact that Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway are ranked as the top 3 happiest countries and (on average) have a better quality of life than China, Vietnam, and Greece. Why are people in the “better” countries committing suicide at higher rates than people in the “worse” countries?

As Malcolm Gladwell put it, “If you are unhappy, but everyone else around you is unhappy too, then you’re actually sort of fine. You don’t feel so bad. On the other hand, if you are unhappy and everyone else is jumping up and down for joy, you are really unhappy – you’re in a very serious place.”

On an ending note, I think I’ll steal one of Mr. Gladwell’s examples of the effects of relative deprivation.

Consider two universities. One is Harvard, the other is Hartwick. Odds are you only know about one of these places. Consider this chart. (I realize the SAT is of dubious value in predicting college performance, however this gives a rough idea of basic math skill.)

Harvard

STEM majors     Top Third     Middle Third     Bottom Third

Math SAT                753                        674                   581

Hartwick

STEM majors     Top Third     Middle Third     Bottom Third

Math SAT                569                      472                    407

It may surprise you to learn that the percentage of STEM degrees earned by each third is roughly the same. At both Hartwick and Harvard, the top third earn a bit over 50% of the STEM degrees, the middle third earn about 30%, and the lowest third earn about 20%. What these results show is that while math ability certainly matters in obtaining a STEM degree, it’s not the only factor. If that were the case, one would expect almost everyone at Harvard to be earning their STEM degree – the Harvard low scorers are still better than the Hartwick high scorers. Morale, not just math ability, matters – and if you’re the last in your class (even if it is at Harvard) your morale is probably not very high.

Considering I’ll be studying computer science, perhaps my rejection from Rice was a blessing in disguise.

A Smorgasbord of Quotes (Part 2)

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What are quotes without a generic photo to accompany them

The second half of quotes (see Part 1 here) that I’ve saved in my Google Keep. These date back to when I first started using Keep back in sophomore year and go to early this year. (Most evident through the works some of these quotes come from.)

Vlogbrothers on Racism:

While I think statistics and data are really important, I also think it’s important to listen to the voices of people who have been affected by racism. Data is cold in a way that humans are not, and to really understand these statistics and their impact on the real lives of real people we need to find ways to listen to those people.

W.E.B. Dubois:

I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards — ten cents a package — and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card, — refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows.

[…]

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, — a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.

Trich email lists:

We ALL know that it doesn’t matter how long we stop for or how embarrassed and insecure trich makes us feel, it’ll ALWAYS be there. I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade or seem like a pessimist but we HAVE to be REALISTIC. That’s the only way we can get through trich. I stopped pulling for a little more than half a year. That’s a really fucking long time when you have trich lol. But all it took was for me to pull one hair…one hair and all my hard work to go to shit. I’m not saying you can never stop pulling because obviously you can, I’m saying most likely than not, it will come back and make up for time lost. Boy, if I could show you pictures of the damage I’d done! It was bad. But now I know what triggers my trich, what I should and shouldn’t do if I want to maintain not pulling. Now I know that it only takes one damn hair to ruin everything I’ve worked hard for. So now, when I get bored, I find something else to do. I don’t let the feeling (a feeling that WILL pass if you give it time I might add) get to me. That’s what you need to do and stop worrying about finding a cure because as of now, THERE IS NO CURE. Work with what you got and I promise you, happiness and relief will come from there.

I don’t even remember the source:

“Trillions of frames get caught by your eyes that get deleted. Most of your life is 1 player snapchat.” -Deep thoughts by Finbarr Taylor

Writing advice (Posted this once during NaBloPoMo):

Write 50 words . That’s a paragraph.
Write 400 words . That’s a page.
Write 300 pages. That’s a manuscript.
Write everyday. That’s a habit.
Edit and Rewrite. That’s how you get better.
Spread your writing for people to comment. That’s called feedback.
Dont worry about rejection or publication. That’s a writer.
When not writing, read. Read from writers better than you. Read and Perceive.

More Paul Graham:

Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.

Not the Iliad (Despite what the internet says):

The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again

Of Mice and Men:

“Funny thing,” she said. “If I catch any one man, and he’s alone, I get along fine with him. But just let two of the guys get together an’ you won’t talk. Jus’ nothing but mad.” She dropped her fingers and put her hands on her hips. “You’re all scared of each other, that’s what. Ever’ one of you’s scared the rest is goin’ to get something on you.”

Mussolini:

War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it. All other trials are substitutes, which never really put men into the position where they have to make the great decision-the alternative of life or death. Thus a doctrine which is founded upon this harmful postulate of peace is hostile to Fascism.

Atlantic articles about the email equivalent of Snapchat:

There is sadness in this, certainly; there’s also an implied nostalgia. But there’s something powerful in it, too. Not only does a service like Pluto have obvious privacy implications—it’s hard to have your privacy violated when there is no record to do the violating—but it also makes a statement about how we want to conduct our communications in the first place. Do we want them to be on the record, or off? Do we want them to be permanent, or ephemeral? Do we want an Internet that is, as we are, able to forget … or one that insists, always, on remembering?

On the difference between guilt and shame:

“Guilt says I’ve done something wrong; shame says there is something wrong with me.

Guilt says I’ve made a mistake; shame says I am a mistake.

Guilt says what did was not good; shame says I am no good.”

Bradshaw (1988).

From another blog:

If you’re doing it for someone else, even if you enjoy it, you’re more likely to do the least amount required, to focus on satisfying the requirements set by someone else, rather than really digging in to it. We’ve all had that experience in school.

You can make the claim that kids don’t know what’s best for them so we need to force it on them. That they’ll appreciate this in the future. There is some truth to this statement (I won’t let my two year old reach her hand in to a fire no matter what), but you have to admit, based on your own experiences in the world when you are forced to do something against your will, that we are complicating, if not ruining, the joy of learning for millions of students every day.

The Ox-Bow Incident:

“You think I’m crazy, don’t you? It always seems crazy to tell the truth. We don’t like it; we won’t admit what we are. So I’m crazy.”

From SuperMemo:

Myth: Hypertext can substitute for memory.

An amazingly large proportion of the population holds memorization in contempt. Terms “rote memorization”, “recitatory rehearsal”, “mindless repetition” are used to label any form of memorization or repetition as unintelligent. Seeing the “big picture”, “reasoning” and leaving the job of remembering to external hypertext sources are supposed to be viable substitutes.

Fact: Knowledge stored in human memory is associative in nature. In other words, we are able to suddenly combine two known ideas to produce a new quality: an invention. Hypertext references are a poor substitute for associative memory. Two facts stored in human memory can instantly be put together and bring a new idea to life. The same facts stored on the Internet will remain useless until they are pieced together inside a creative mind. A mind rich in knowledge, can produce rich associations upon encountering new information. An empty mind is as useful as a toddler given the power of the Internet in search of a solution. Biological neural networks work in such a way that knowledge is retained in memory only if it is refreshed/reviewed. Learning and repetition are therefore still vital for the progress of mankind. This humorous text explains the importance of memory: It is not just memorizing

One last Paul Graham quote:

There are simply no outside forces pushing high school to be good. The air traffic control system works because planes would crash otherwise. Businesses have to deliver because otherwise competitors would take their customers. But no planes crash if your school sucks, and it has no competitors. High school isn’t evil; it’s random; but random is pretty bad.

Personal notes:

  • I suck at sticking to schedules
  • Board meeting, StuCon meeting, District administration meeting all coming up within 2 weeks.
  • Trich has been and will be giving me a bad hair day for the next few months.
  • Is it bad that I wish that I could function on less sleep?

15 Potential Blog Post Stems

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Confession: I actually enjoy writing college essays.

Everything else about the process makes me groan a bit, but the essays are a time to be genuine, to reflect, where faults are admired instead of scorned upon. It reminds me a bit of this blog.

But like nearly everything else I do, I’m most likely doing it backwards, going from stories, to a coherent essay, to adjusting it to answer the question. And in that process, I’ve accumulated other fringe thoughts/non-epiphanies that are 1) irrelevant and 2) incomplete. Including them below, because not all writing has to be incredibly refined in order to be effective, and these could easily be the starting point for a future blog post.

In no particular order:

  1. Where and how I record life events depends on the emotion it evokes
    • Ranting generally has to go into a physical notebook, with a pen or pencil pressing into the paper
    • Happy feelings always end up typed out during a 10 minute Write or Die session, where I non-stop-no-checking-for-grammar ride off the energy until the feeling is gone from my fingers. and then dumped into my Google Keep afterwards
    • Random epiphanies/analytical thoughts go in Keep or my notebook depending on convenience. (That’s where most of the ideas in this post were first recorded.)
    • Blog posts are generally more refined versions of any of the above.
  2. I almost finished reading Incognito a few weeks ago. (My library loan expired before I could get to the last 2%) Along with the Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, I’ve come to realize how many things in everyday life are the result of extreme conscious deliberate design, and how we’re all just vehicles of evolution. Just because something exists doesn’t mean people will know about it and use it. But just because people know about something doesn’t mean that it works. Between the engineer and the marketer, I am most definitely the engineer.
  3. After realizing long term sleep deprivation is probably detrimental to my health and not sustainable (I’m talking throughout college and into the real world), I’ve really getting more sleep. But I’ve come to realize a disturbing reality– being well rested is a waste of energy in some cases. If I had 5 hours a week to learn a subject, I wouldn’t spend it passively listening to someone else. It’s demotivating to not control my own learning process, unless it’s created by someone who clearly has designed lesson plans that are better than the path I would have taken to learn the material.
  4. I don’t ever feel like I’m getting enough sleep, even on the weekends, which bothers me. I’m afraid that I’ll fall into the rut of blaming everything on being tired.
  5. My own learning process generally goes something like this: After I first encounter something, I form my own personal model of the information. 90% of the time, this model is wrong. Ultimately, how well I learn the material depends on how well I recognize my own mistakes and fix them. For math and science, this takes a couple practice problems. For the humanities, going through every subtlety and mentally correcting it seems stupid and unsustainable if I’m to learn increasing amounts of information. There’s a greater expectation to learn the content correctly the first time.
  6. There’s always been the debate over whether to learn things that are interesting or things that are useful, but the question I’m more interested in is whether to learn things in a useful way or an interesting way. Paul Graham advocates that the best to way to write an essay is to flow in the “interesting” way. School tends to go with the path of least resistance. Some people can learn material regardless of how it’s presented, but some people need learning to be relevant and engaging in order for material to stick.
  7. I realized it’s unrealistic for everyone to know 100% of everything. Hence the general agreed-upon cutoff of 70% of passing, not 100%. But where is the tradeoff? Maybe I’d be fine if a 70% means that the other 30% is part of the “things I know I don’t know”. But most of the time, what’s not learned properly is learned wrong. In science terms, I don’t mind if something isn’t learned precisely as long as it’s learned accurately. (Did not appreciate this until I took art class and failed.)
  8. I used to overlearn material in a lot of my classes, most notably in middle school. I wouldn’t be satisfied with a chunk of material until I could recite it in my sleep, until I could instantly figure out how to solve a problem involving a concept at first glance, until it wove into my conversations, until I became part of it and it became part of me. To this date, I can label a diagram of the heart, derive the infinite series formula, and remember and explain Mathcounts problems I struggled with in middle school. I wish I could summon that motivation back again.
  9. I’ve come to admire two characteristics in people
    • In terms of intelligence: People who can look at a new situation and instantly know what to do. First observed this with math problems, but it’s something that exudes from anyone who knows what they’re doing and isn’t afraid to show it
    • In terms of personality: People who are unabashedly nice and authentic to the point they don’t have to worry about the haters.
  10. I reflected over UPenn’s 5 I’s over the summer to finish off the last few pages in my scratch paper notebook. Perhaps the most shocking thing I got out of it was that almost all of it was self-critical. I had very few positive things to say about myself. I hate coming across as prideful (though I get the impression that I often do), but there’s something deeply wrong with my self esteem if deep down inside, I have nothing positive to say about myself.
  11. My goal in writing these blog posts has been seeing how long I can hold down a specific idea. Not counting posts with details about my life, the record has still been “The Joy of Discovery,” nearing 1700 words. That was second semester sophomore year, during a period where I was lucky to even have time to write a post a month. Most of my other posts reach around 700-800 words before I run out of ideas or decide to break the post up into two.
  12. Instead of taking pictures, I’ve started taking audio recordings instead. Conversations, the atmosphere of a place, inspirational speeches, interesting sounds, seem to capture more of what I want to remember about an event rather than a photograph. But I’ve noticed a couple of differences
    • If they can be properly compared, phone microphone quality is a lot worse than phone camera quality
    • I’m comfortable with taking a picture of something/someone and showing it to someone else. Not so much with audio. It’s a lot more spontaneous, usually a lot more discreet, and a lot more personal. I feel like I’m handling a piece of someone’s soul when I play an audio recording of someone’s voice. Either society hasn’t appreciated audio documentation beyond the radio, or there’s something that simply appeals more in a visual scene.
  13. My four years of high school, my grades have definitely been dropping. Nothing terrible drastic, roughly 1- 1.5 points each year, but it’s surely happening. I don’t think it’s a matter of my classes getting “harder” so much as my motivation slipping. I knew freshman year that my grades were the highest they would ever be.
  14. The Harvard debate team was forced to think more logically because they had specific constraints. Similarly, this is why I tend to only trust my logic with math. Given the chance, I will tend to think as sloppily as the situation will allow. Math forces the logic to be impeccable, with no other option other than the right answer. Alternatively, if the material is interesting (see 6 and 7), I can convince myself to learn the content more adequately.
  15. I plugged a few of my blog posts into this thing: https://watson-pi-demo.mybluemix.net/. Depending on which posts I choose, I come out with a different personality each time.

On another note, I’m considering doing NaBloPoMo again. Nothing like a full schedule to motivate you to write.

Losing a Finger

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photo credit: Untitled via photopin (license)

Gillian Lane’s right hand is bleeding.

Her ring finger. Twisted. 180 degrees.

A bone poking out between her knuckle and lower joint.

And the entire upper half of the finger torn away, two halves held together by a shred of skin.


Gillian finishes a two-hour ride on Phantom. He’s a grey spotted gelding the family purchased for only $200. She knows she has to be careful, knows he’s easy to spook. Knows that’s why he was so cheap.

She starts securing the lead rope to a metal ring on the stable, tying a series of slip knots.

That’s when Phantom brings his head back, jerks the rope, forces Gillian’s pointer, middle and ring finger through the 25 millimeter metal ring nailed to the stable.

Three crunches. And then screaming.


Ms. Scott hears her, hears her friend’s daughter screaming. Stops fetching hay. Runs to Gillian.

And she’s the first one to see her hand. Then there’s more screaming. And running for help.

Victoria – Jillian’s best friend who’s at the next stall – hears, runs towards Gillian, rips off her grey tank top — only a bra on now – and leads Gillian to a bench.

She wraps Gillian’s hand with the tank top. And Gillian lets her, stands there, her hand not really hurting that much, thinking, “Oh shit.”


45 minutes later, Gillian’s at the hospital, waiting for an hour before she’s finally taken to a room.

Jim, the owner of the stable is there. So is Gillian’s mom, uncontrollably babbling beside her bed.

The hospital calls in one of the best hand surgeons in the nation to deal with her case, a surgeon three hours away. He spends seven hours in the middle of the night trying to reattach her finger.

I don’t think the finger will make it, he says, but we’ll do our best.

Gillian spends the next week recovering in the hospital, her arm wrapped in bandages, propped up at a 45 degree angle with a pillow.

7 days.

No walking. Eating with her left hand. IV bags surrounding her.

A bald patch appears on her head from sitting in the same position all day. Her face puffed up from all the drugs. And when she can finally leave her bed a week later, she’s lost the ability to walk.


April 6th . Gillian sits on a doctor’s chair, the surgeon unwrapping the bandages.

It’s been a week and a half since her first surgery. The bandages come off.

And the finger is black.

Dead.

She’ll have to have two more surgeries to remove her ring finger, two more surgeries to repair the damage to her other fingers.


April 12th. Gillian’s had her finger removed.

She walks into her home. Her 17 year old sister meets her at the door with the “nub hats” she’s made out of tape and cotton balls –little covers for her now-half-gone ring finger.

Gillian puts one atop her nub, something she does every day until the stitches are all healed up.


April 27th. Gillian walks into school.

It’s the day of the state standardized test. And it’s Gillian’s first day back.

She’s late. A teacher escorts her to her room. A girl calls out to her in the hallway. “Gillian! You’re back!”

Gillian barely knows the girl. Word must have gotten around somehow.

“I texted a few of my close friends when I was in the hospital,” Gillian says, “but none of them ever texted back.”

She waves back to the girl and enters her testing room. 30 pairs of eyes follow Gillian as she walks in. Or rather, follow her hand.

Gillian gets to take her test with a highlighter.


During lunch, Gillian is a celebrity.

“Everyone knew what happened to my hand. I mean, I even tried convincing people that my finger got bitten off by a tiger, but that didn’t work because people who knew what happened spread the word, ” Gillian remarks. “It’s like, I lose a finger, and BOOM, suddenly I’m popular.”

One girl bakes her cupcakes.

Another offers to carry her books for her.

And Gillian gets plenty of hugs.


July 20th. Gillian’s sitting in journalism class at A&M. It’s been more than two years since the accident. Stiches gone, scars healed.

She listens to the teacher talk about feature writing and takes notes on her laptop. Her stub barely gets in the way. After class, a girl walks up to Gillian and asks about her finger. She explains her story and shows pictures on her laptop.

And then she sticks her stub up her nose, laughs, and says, “I have fun sometimes with this finger. I like to play pranks. I freaked out my six-year old brother’s friends at a birthday party once, and I do the ‘missing finger’ prank sometimes. It’s not all that bad.”


My one venture into journalism. Written last last summer at camp when I was planning on joining the school newspaper. I said hi and bye to Gillian within roughly 48 hours. 

A Smorgasbord of Quotes (Part 1)

I believe that the best writing inspiration comes from real life. Reflecting upon events, exploring ideas of “what ifs”, attempting to organize the human experience into a cohesive narrative,  have all been catalysts for blog posts. (Very few of them end up being published.) But real life takes time, and the more experiences there are, the less time there is to write about it.

These past few weeks have been incredibly exciting and memorable…and for some reason, I have developed roughly zero ideas in my head. You’re welcome for the anticlimax.

As a result, I will be posting words from not-me. I’ve been collecting quotes in Google Keep for a while now, with ideas I found compelling,  statements I connected with, advice that I didn’t want to forget, wake-up calls that I needed, and inspirational quotes. These are in reverse chronological order and range from yesterday to the beginning of the year. Older quotes to come in a later post.

The end of Fast Food Nation:

Whatever replaces the fast food industry should be regional, diverse, authentic, unpredictable, sustainable, profitable – and humble. It should know its limits. People can be fed without being fattened or deceived. This new century may bring an impatience with conformity , a refusal to be kept in the dark, less greed, more compassion, less speed, more common sense, a sense of humor about brand essences and loyalties, a view of food as more than just fuel. Things don’t have to be the way they are. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I remain optimistic.

Data scientist at Columbia (aka math nerd) who happens to run a high school student summer camp for activism in New York:

Because here’s the thing, you’ve got to be brave. You’ve got to live your life fully, and engage in the things that attract you, and trust yourself not to lose it entirely. You’ve really got no other options. Otherwise you’re retreating away from the only thing you really have, which is this one life. Fuck that! Go ahead and take some risks…

Ask Aunt Pythia

Adora Svitak:

Why do we torment ourselves with these mind games, these rules like no double-texting, no instant responding? We do all these things because we’re scared as hell. I don’t want to be the first person to capitulate. We have grown up knowing, from enough self-help books or pop culture or relationship gurus on the Oprah reruns we watched on our mother’s laps, that the person who cares less in a relationship — whether coworkers, friends, or lovers — is the more powerful one. But I know from my international relations class that arms races only ever lead to mutually assured destruction. Escalating our levels of nonchalance and apathy will only ever lead to the absence of sincerity. Honesty. Love.

And yet those are the things we all want, right?

Love is not a power play. It’s supposed to make you unsteady, weak, and vulnerable. Lose some of the ground underneath you, so you can find out who to hold onto.

Origami artists who make flower towers:

It actually looks like I’m not going to do it for most of the time until I do it, because I’m just getting it ready to do it. The funny thing is it always feels awkward–like it’s not going to work.

-Chris Palmer, Between the Folds

Letters to crushes (Yes this is a real site. Yes it’s adorable.)

Sometimes I stare. I admit that I stare at people. But not because they’re hot or they’re not. Because sometimes I’ll look at someone and I see another human being trying to make it just like me. And honestly I think that’s beautiful.

Design books.

For designers, the visceral response is about immediate perception: the pleasantness of a mellow, harmonious sound or the jarring, irritating scratch of fingernails on a rough surface. Here is where the style matters: appearances, whether sound or sight, touch or smell, drive the visceral response. This has nothing to do with how usable, effective, or understandable the product is. It is all about attraction or repulsion. Great designers use their aesthetic sensibilities to drive these visceral responses. Engineers and other logical people tend to dismiss the visceral response as irrelevant. Engineers are proud of the inherent quality of their work and dismayed when inferior products sell better “just because they look better.”But all of us make these kinds of judgments, even those very logical engineers. That’s why they love some of their tools and dislike others. Visceral responses matter.

The Design of Everyday Things, Dan Norman.

Criminal justice system reform:

Criminal justice systems everywhere run on the assumption that people obey the law because they are afraid of punishment. B Tyler argued that the key factor is legitimacy: people obey the law because they believe the state has the right to tell them what to do. Broad legitimacy matters more than whether people believe an individual law to be right or wrong – although the public’s view about individual laws can influence broad legitimacy.

Seth Godin on art:

Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.
What makes someone an artist? I don’t think is has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artists who works with oil paints or marble, sure.

But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.

That’s why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer.  That’s why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artists, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.

Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artists, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artists because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

National level quizbowller:

I once heard the story of a competitor who, as a middle schooler, spent an exasperatingly boring class period watching the girl sitting next to him transform a candy wrapper into a tiny, intricate paper crane. At the end of the class, she joyfully presented it to him; he turned it over in his hand and ate it. “I’ll never forget the look of absolute horror on her face,” he told me. “The crane was beautiful, and it was impossible for me not to destroy it.” That’s really what we do: chew up everything amazing and worthwhile and beautiful about this world, just so we can spit it right back out.

I Was A Quizbowl Champion, Andrew Hart

Atlantic article about jerks

Smile at the customer. Take the initiative. Tweak a few rules. Steal cookies for your colleagues. Don’t puncture the impression that you know what you’re doing. Let the other person fill the silence. Get comfortable with discomfort. Don’t privilege your own feelings. Ask who you’re really protecting. Be tough and humane. Challenge ideas, not the people who hold them. Don’t be a slave to type. And above all, don’t affix nasty, scatological labels to people.

Amy Chua’s daughter

I am that I am, you are that you are, we were not that we had been. Every day with you was red, orange, gold, white and blue. Remember me in color. Remember me with fire. Remember me.

[another source]

Performing isn’t easy—in fact, it’s heartbreaking. You spend months, maybe years, mastering a piece; you become a part of it, and it becomes a part of you. Playing for an audience is like giving blood; it leaves you feeling empty and a bit light-headed. And when it’s all over, your piece just isn’t yours anymore.

Ender’s Game (Which I have yet to read.)

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them -”

“You beat them.” For a moment she was not afraid of his understanding.

“No, you don’t understand. I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist.”

Paul Graham (Erm a speech published by him)

You find this happening again and again; good scientists will fight the system rather than learn to work with the system and take advantage of all the system has to offer. It has a lot, if you learn how to use it. It takes patience, but you can learn how to use the system pretty well, and you can learn how to get around it. After all, if you want a decision `No’, you just go to your boss and get a `No’ easy. If you want to do something, don’t ask, do it. Present him with an accomplished fact. Don’t give him a chance to tell you `No’. But if you want a `No’, it’s easy to get a `No’.

Paper Tigers

It’s racist to think that any given Asian individual is unlikely to be creative or risk-taking. It’s simple cultural observation to say that a group whose education has historically focused on rote memorization and “pumping the iron of math” is, on aggregate, unlikely to yield many people inclined to challenge authority or break with inherited ways of doing things.

The Art of Problem Solving 

The difference between MOP and many of these state and local contests I participated in was the difference between problem solving and what many people call mathematics. For these people, math is a series of tricks to use on a series of specific problems. Trick A is for Problem A, Trick B for Problem B, and so on. In this vein, school can become a routine of ‘learn tricks for a week – use tricks on a test – forget most tricks quickly.’ The tricks get forgotten quickly primarily because there are so many of them, and also because the students don’t see how these ‘tricks’ are just extensions of a few basic principles.

I had painfully learned at MOP that true mathematics is not a process of memorizing formulas and applying them to problems tailor-made for those formulas. Instead, the successful mathematician possesses fewer tools, but knows how to apply them to a much broader range of problems. We use the term “problem solving” to distinguish this approach to mathematics from the ‘memorize-use-forget’ approach.

After MOP I relearned math throughout high school. I was unaware that I was learning much more. When I got to Princeton I enrolled in organic chemistry. There were over 200 students in the course, and we quickly separated into two groups. One group understood that all we would be taught could largely be derived from a very small number of basic principles. We loved the class – it was a year long exploration of where these fundamental concepts could take us. The other, much larger, group saw each new destination not as the result of a path from the building blocks, but as yet another place whose coordinates had to be memorized if ever they were to visit again. Almost to a student, the difference between those in the happy group and those in the struggling group was how they learned mathematics. The class seemingly involved no math at all, but those who took a memorization approach to math were doomed to do it again in chemistry. The skills the problem solvers developed in math transferred, and these students flourished.

We use math to teach problem solving because it is the most fundamental logical discipline. Not only is it the foundation upon which sciences are built, it is the clearest way to learn and understand how to develop a rigorous logical argument. There are no loopholes, there are no half-truths. The language of mathematics is precise, as is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ (or ‘proven’ and ‘unproven’). Success and failure are immediate and indisputable; there isn’t room for subjectivity. This is not to say that those who cannot do math cannot solve problems. There are many paths to strong problem solving skills. Mathematics is the shortest.

Problem solving is crucial in mathematics education because it transcends mathematics. By developing problem solving skills, we learn not only how to tackle math problems, but also how to logically work our way through any problems we may face. The memorizer can only solve problems he has encountered already, but the problem solver can solve problems she’s never seen before. The problem solver is flexible; she can diversify. Above all, she can create.

HONY

 I don’t think something has to last forever to be successful

More Paper Tigers

I guess what I would like is to become so good at something that my social deficiencies no longer matter

Books about Love (which I also have yet to read):

Neither the love of self–what educators call self-respect–nor love of others–responsibility and love for his fellow man–can ever be taught in our present educational system.

Teachers are too busy managing to be creating. As Albert Einstein said, “It is nothing short of a miracle that instruction today has not strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. For this delicate little plant lies mostly in need of freedom without which it will fall into rack and ruin and die without fail.”

So the individual, now fully grown, leaves our schools lonely, confused, alienated, lost, angry, but with a mind full of isolated, meaningless facts laughingly called an education. He knows neither who he is, where he is, or how he got there. He has no concept of where he’s going, how to arrive there, nor what he’ll do when he gets there. He has no idea what he has, what he wants, nor how to develop it. In essence, he’s a type of robot–old before his time, living in the past, confused by the present, frightened by the future–much like the teachers who made him.

Song to this post: Wonderful, Everclear

 

How to organize school materials

2725169624_79e7ace593_b photo credit: School supplies via photopin (license)

There’s not much terribly new or exciting on the 13th first day of school. I knew all the procedures, I knew my classes, I knew who I was going to see.

But as I was getting my materials together on the first day of school, I realized that after a few years of not having detailed supply lists, I had developed my own organization systems for my classes. They still have yet to be perfected, but they’ve been working pretty well.

This is what I’ve adopted after 4 years of high school:

1) A general folder

I have one paper folder with a pocket divider that serves as the hub focal point for all my work. General organization:

  • Front Pocket: Anything that needs to be easily accessible–homework, relevant notes and note packets, paper applications, random handouts
  • Middle Pockets (the divider): Notebook paper and graph paper, as well as any calendars.
  • Back Pocket: Scratch paper, club stuff, origami projects in progress, other random papers .

The front pocket fills up fast, but it should be manageable if every once in a while, you take out the papers and file them elsewhere, whether it’s in a binder, another folder, or the recycling bin.

These folders get beat up really easily  because of the constant use and occasional overstuffing, but since they’re incredibly cheap (I got a bunch for a penny each a few years ago), it’s fine if you go through 5 or 6 each year.

2) Bullet journaling

I’ve used a planner every year since kindergarten, but my school stopped providing them last year, so I started carrying around a small notebook instead. And now I don’t see how I ever used anything else.

Here, I can use as many pages as I want every day. If there’s a specific assignment with extensive instructions, I could fit it in. If I forgot to bring paper or a notebook, I could write it down here and transfer later (if ever). If I wanted to draft a blog post, I could do it there. If I needed to send a note, I could rip out a page in the back and write it down. If someone told me something randomly in the middle of the day, I had a place to put it. This past year, I have blasted through two 100 page notebooks.

But without a formal calendar, it was easy to forget dates and deadlines. I used Google Calendar for important dates, but it seemed stupid to set up “events” for homework assignments and random notes to myself. Those tiny things ended up cluttering my brain and made me less productive. Writing things down does help with anything and everything.

So I decided to try bullet journaling after reading about it on the web. It’s not too much different from what I did previously, but my notebook’s more functional as a calendar now. Highly recommend.

Main differences:

  • Index + numbered pages
  • A 4 month log to record important future dates, as well as a page each month with a monthly “calendar”
  • A coded bullet system with different bullets for recording things to do, events, and thoughts.
  • Keeping the longer thoughts separate from the shorter bullets
  • Being forced to rewrite my to-do list every day including items that I didn’t get done the day before
  • A system to make sure tasks not done the past month/day were transferred properly

It’s not a difficult system to learn, and I chose it for its versatility and its simplicity. It works with any notebook, and it takes like 15 minutes to set up. Give it a try. 

3) Notebooks

Notebooks need to be used carefully. I’ve had multiple classes that required a notebook, yet throughout the year, I only wrote in it a few times, leaving the rest of the book empty. If you’re going to start a notebook, intend on finishing it. Otherwise, notebook paper may be just as effective and more environmentally friendly

For instance, I used to keep a “scratch paper notebook” for whenever I needed a place to show work that I wasn’t turning. I ended up using it for most of my math and science classes and got through 3 notebooks in one year. That’s an efficient use of notebooks.

I also used notebooks in classes that required copying down vocabulary throughout the year. I got through all of them. It’s a pretty satisfying feeling.

4) Binders

Binders are fantastic for storing and flipping through a large amount of material quickly, but they take up too much space on a desk and are a lot less accessible than say, a folder. 1 As a result, most people give up on filing everything away properly and ended up ridiculously disorganized.

I try something different. If there’s a note packet or some worksheets that I need to use regularly, I keep it in my main folder. When I’m done with them, I move all the relevant papers into a binder at once, only to look at if I ever need to reference back to it.

Minimize the number of binders if possible because frankly, they’re space consuming. Combine subjects whenever possible, and keep everything chronologically organized. This can be as simple as putting the newest handouts on the top. That way, when it’s time to study, it’s easy to get all the relevant material together, as opposed to flipping back and forth between different tabs to find homework, quizzes, notes, etc just for one subject.

And when a binder gets full? Empty it somewhere at home and start anew. Very rarely will you need something from many months ago.

5) Other folders

In classes that didn’t require a binder or are notebook centered, I’m putting all the handouts in a folder. One folder per class. Super thin and easy to add/remove papers. But they do tend to fill up fast, and if it turns out that there’s more papers than I expected, I may (grudgingly) get a binder.

I’m still woefully optimistic about this year and have a good feeling about most of my classes. The best part is finally not being amongst the youngest people in my math and science classes, feeling like I somewhat belong, and  that I’m not an obnoxious underclassman pretending to be smart and getting ahead. We’ll see how long this lasts.


  1.  Yes I’m complaining about the physical act of getting a binder out of my backpack, opening it, flipping to the right section, opening the rings, placing the paper in, closing the rings, flipping back to the front, closing the binder, and placing it back into my backpack. No sarcasm. 

Rejected College Essays: Crushes

images

In light of college application season, I’ll be writing a series called “Rejected College Essays” for the next few months. As I’ve been working on my essays, I’ve realized the lack of personal details and feelings I put into this blog. Here’s an attempt at being an idiotic insecure teenager.

Elementary/middle school crushes were probably some of the most intense and irrational things I’ve ever felt.

First, there’s the attraction. The excessive giggling at everything he says, the sickening rush of excitement every time you see him, yet being afraid to look in his direction.

Then, the obsession. The non-stop thoughts, wanting them to never stop, and yet wanting to be able to focus on something, anything, else. Embracing the feeling and hating it at the same time. That fusion of pure bliss and pure sorrow. The stomach knot forming, the physical heartache, the pain at knowing that he won’t know, yet also the idiotic smiling to yourself. Wanting to talk to him one more time, yet also wanting it to become so much more. (What exactly? Who knows.)

The paralyzing fear of someone finding out, while secretly wanting someone, anyone to talk to it about, to gush, to spill it all out. In middle school, if I had to confide in someone, I would pull them aside, quickly whisper “I like_____” in their ear, blush uncontrollably, and start laughing and repeating “DON’T TELL ANYONE”. Actually I still do that. Nevermind.

If there’s a definition of cognitive dissonance, a crush embodies it all. Man middle school was fun.

After around 8th grade or so, I was unable to embody all of these thoughts together. Sometimes, I would get a miserable stomach knot, sometimes I just wanted to talk to them one more time, sometimes I’ll smile thinking about a face or a conversation, but nothing insanely and overwhelmingly powerful.

And even though I’ve been in a relationship for a good part of high school, I find myself attracted to other people quickly and easily. And then I find myself not attracted to them just as quickly and easily.

Songs:

  • Stop standing there, Avril Lavigne
  • Things I’ll never say, Avril Lavigne
  • Quiet, LIGHTS
  • The Listening, LIGHTS (Not just for crushes, but any awkward situation in general)
  • TS:  state of grace

Random related articles

Learning about learning

The struggle over whether to write blog posts/college essays/gov essays is real.

It’s only after 2 months of summer break that I realize a couple of things about my own learning.

I’ve been spending my non-scheduled weekdays at MD Anderson doing bioinformatics research. Read: Sitting in front of a computer trying to make sense of spreadsheets. In the words of my mentor, ” there’s no requirement from my supervisor. He and I both hope that you will enjoy your time here, learn new stuffs, feel accomplished, and find science is awesome” No homework, no grades. I’m just expected to show up and do the work. No one gets mad at me if I don’t show up one day. No one minds if I leave early or take a 3 hour lunch break. (In my defense, that only happened once. Ok fine, twice.)

I didn’t recognize the hardworking culture I was in until someone pointed it out to me. People openly criticize other peoples’ ideas without any criticism of the person. People will eat lunch in front of their computers to get more work done. No one in my department speaks English as their first language. Yet when it comes to explaining their project, they all speak perfect (though accented) English and explain complicated concepts more clearly than some of my teachers. It’s this kind of ease and confidence that I envy in adults (and frankly, that I noticed in the student tour guides when I toured colleges. I didn’t want to go to the school necessarily, but I wanted the confidence and poise that the students had.) Whenever I explain my own work, I constantly stumble on my words and forget whether I’m talking about genes, proteins, or cell lines. Aside from that the biggest difference between me (asides from the fact that they’re all post-docs) is that I can do what someone tells me to do. They know the big picture, the significance, how to move forth. It’s an intellectually active world, and frankly, I’m a bit jealous that I can’t stay.

Learning R

My first assignment was to learn R, the coding language they used. (What is R you ask? It’s like S? What is S? It’s like C. You’re welcome.) The first thing my mentor showed me was how to find the help pages. Rationale being: as long as I knew how to ask for help, I could do anything. Then someone told me there was an edX course on learning R, and I enrolled.

The first unit had 10 video lectures. Borringgggg. But at the bottom, I saw the extra credit opportunity. Swirl,  a program akin to Codeacademy, but on a line by line basis inside the console.

In that instant, I instantly dropped the MOOC to do Swirl. Yup, I dropped the course to do the extra credit. Something about learning to program interactively and working out the kinks myself was much more satisfying and compelling than passively sitting through video lectures. I knew that I was missing valuable gaps of knowledge by not patiently sitting through all the lectures, but I knew I’d learn what I programmed better than what I heard. And besides, the lectures were always there for me the watch if I really needed the information.

Messy learning 

I’ve finished every CodeAcademy course that I’ve started, yet I’ve never finished a MOOC. Even in school, I don’t like doing long reading assignments before I learn something. I’d rather go directly to the questions, only returning back when I’m convinced that I need the material. It’s not that I don’t have the patience to read. I just don’t like reading something without knowing how and why it’s important. I like the back and forth between learning and application. I like my learning to be messy and inefficient, to have a net of knowledge with handcrafted connections instead of merely building upon someone else’s scaffold.

I never write any blog posts with outlines. Even as this post is approaching 1300 words, I always start my posts by idea dumping, writing paragraphs and creating subheadings as I go. New ideas come to me as I write, sometimes random false starts, sometimes epiphanies, mostly stuff i between. One can imagine how this goes when I handwrite essays in class and suddenly get a brilliant idea for paragraph 1 in paragraph 3. Nevermind the fact that I don’t even get a chance to edit. 1 I’m a strong believe in Paul Graham’s ideas about essays that the act of writing itself generates ideas and will shape the direction of a piece.

This creates a weird, weird paradox in my learning. I sincerely appreciate good teachers for their ability for explain difficult concepts and make connections that I wouldn’t have made on my own, but at times, I wish I had more bad teachers so that I could 1) feel the internal satisfaction at having learned something in my own unique way instead of having it spoon fed to me, and 2) still have the external pressure of grades to motivate me. I won’t want to learn something unless I perceive it to be difficult and/or worth learning, aka where I struggle, and if someone short-circuits the process for me, then I feel cheated.

When I listened to the Moth semi-regularly, I remember an episode starting off  “Here at the Moth, we live with the philosophy: Pick the life path that leads to the most interesting stories.” Asides from being an excellent life philosophy, it embodies the struggle involved with learning.

[See: Math with Bad Drawings: America Will Run Out of Good Questions by 2050]

A typical day. 

My mentor usually explains a specific technique used to analyze data and then gives me a script that she had used previously and a set of data. Then I’m off. And even when I know the exact commands and functions to run and the datasets to run them on, there’s a pretty ridiculous amount of debugging. I’ve started measuring assignments in terms of half-days and days.

Yet the one question I never ask is: “Why is my code not working.” I’ll ask which data sets I should use, whether my results look right, but I don’t dare to ask for help on anything syntactical. I don’t ask questions until I can boil them down to a “yes/no” or “which one” answer that I have no idea how to answer. (Usually along the lines of “Am I going in the right direction?”) This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned that I’m reluctant to ask for help, but reality has been that I’ve been able to sole 90% of the problems I encounter on my own (with some generous help from the internet, particularly StackOverflow) I’m hoping that changes as the concepts I learn become more and more complicated, and raw effort isn’t enough to master a concept.

I’m conscious that people like being able to help others, that asking questions isn’t, but some stubborn sense of pride is holding me back. And when I do turn on the faucet of questions though, they never stop. If I ask the first obvious question, I start asking more and more obvious questions that I’d be able to answer had I simply sat down and thought. It’s the same stubbornness that gets me through tough problems, to keep up this blog despite mounting pressures from other places

Side note: I’m trying to associate “New Romantics”  with my time at MDA, aka I try to exclusively play that song while I’m there.

Other songs:

  • Candy, Avril Lavigne (only the instrumental is out)
  • Search Party, Sam Bruno (from the Paper Towns soundtrack)
  • Don’t Let me Get me, P!nk

UPDATE: It’s been a while since I came back to this post. I’ve been playing “We Got the World” by Icona Pop nonstop lately. It’s been a while since I heard this (vague memories of being stressed during sophomore year are popping up as I listen to it again, but that’s gone for the most part now.)


  1.  Typically, I just weave it into whatever I’m writing and pretend like it’s relevant. I have yet to be caught. 

Insomniatic


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photo credit: Insomnia via photopin (license)

This post has been in my drafts folder since winter break and  remained mostly untouched during the past semester. Figured I’d publish it now, when I’m in a better mood.

For a more optimistic and delusional late-night post,  see here.

I’ve had trouble sleeping lately. Every night as I lay in bed, I close my eyes and try to relax. But instead of being swept up into the whirlwind of sleep, I remain stiff and still. I don’t know if it’s hunger or fear or a crush or the cold, but my stomach reflexively churns, sending out shivers throughout my body firing just enough neurons to alert me of pain. I’m scared. I’m paralyzed with the fear of not being enough (good enough? perfect enough? happy enough? I don’t know.), “the constant, gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing” 1

I crave a utopia, where the days can never be too long and the nights never too short. I crave deep connections, emotionally understanding others and feeling alive. Funny that I’m thinking this when I’m alone, when I can feel the most helpless. I knew I had trouble relating to people in public, but this is pathetic.

I know everything will be better in the morning. I’m sure of it. Or at least I desperately hope so.


  1. David Foster Wallace, This is Water