Monday, November 9, 2015

High School Victory Lap in Full

After high school I wrote an essay for the St. Louis Chinese newspaper.  I have blogged about it before, but I realized that I should copy it in full before it disappears from their site at some point.  It is still somewhat embarrassing, but it's still interesting to reread every few years.  Regarding what I wrote about persistence, I had no idea how true that is.  However, I don't know if I still like the discussion about happiness.  I still agree with the gist, but the wording is kind of confusing and pseudo-wise. 

High school. HAHA! because high school = OVER. I laugh a laugh of confidence built over years of insecurity and doubt, a laugh of proud accomplishment, gloating over my luck, of excitement for the future, of sheepishness from excessive praise, but also more caustic laughs of grim irony over the hypocrisy and the shallowness of my apparent worth. I don't suck! Cuz I did it! In fact, I ROCK! College is going to be awesome! And I'm getting cocky! And I'm not even that smart! Just really lucky! And upon that my worth is judged, and for that I get respect! Oh, sad.

So that's what I call my posthighschool reaction. Looking back at the last four years, I feel like it's only been four years, but so much has happened and so fast. I could almost feel myself change and change and change again. When I first began my high school career as a hyperactive, self-conscious adolescent, no one expected me to excel academically or socially. Thus, I did not expect much of myself. When I thought of successful model students, I always thought of it as a standard that did not apply to me. I guess it's strange for me to think of now because I never had any conception about my future because I was afraid too many things would change, and then I would be disappointed if I did not reach my goals. So I never even thought of myself as working towards any standard or model in particular. I didn't think about college seriously until junior year was almost over when it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't even know what state Harvard was in. I ! said, people didn't expect much of me, and so I did not think much of myself.

But actually I did. I didn't always have the confidence in my abilities, but I always yearned to be just as good as the best. In choir, to lead my section; in tennis, to play varsity singles; in math, to win at competitions; even standardized tests, to score with the best, etc. High school, compared with real life, was nice and sheltered. It was a great place to get a head start in competition without serious repercussions if you fail. For example, I never got better than moderately good at speech and debate. However, the coach remained supportive and helped me focus on what to improve. In high school, especially during the first two years, I developed diligence and persistence. Diligence because homework still counts, and persistence because improvement is almost always guaranteed. For the last two years, diligence was for studying even if there was no homework, and persistence for being creatively assertive in finding ways to get something done.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in high school is that persistence pays off. I just needed a goal and a plan, and I almost always got what I wanted. A goal, a plan, and NO FEAR! because there is always the fear of difficulty and the possibility of hidden obstacles and failure. Although you should always be prepared to deal with these difficulties, fear clouds judgment and hinders performance. So am I afraid when I organize events such as a chess tournament and take tests like APs for college credit? I'm TERRIFIED, but I do it anyway. Besides, even when I don't get exactly what I want, things always work out in the end. Thus, I am always prepared to revise my goals to adjust to changing circumstances and new priorities. Consequently, my secret weapons of mass getting-things-done are as follows: a goal, a plan, NO FEAR!, and adaptability.

My goals are derived from my priorities, which were cultivated by my strong sense of self. In high school, I learned a lot more of this self; I developed my tastes in things such as music, food, and people. I learned how I like things done, and I learned to get along with people I never thought I'd ever get along with. I found that I like getting involved to get problems solved. Also, how hard I work for something is directly proportional to how important my goal was to me. Biology and government classes were not as important to me as chemistry and math, and so I reaped some benefits and paid some consequences. I made some sacrifices, choosing to put off art classes in favor of academics. And yes, I did do many things to appease parents, especially in the beginning. It's hard to say whether or not I (or my parents) made the best choices. Nevertheless, it's important to me to live without any regrets. I like to think of the things I did as worthwhile because they we! re good experiences, and I needed them.

Now, I seem to have met so many challenges. And yet there remains a sense of irony for me when I think of how some younger students and their parents think of me as a paradigm of success. You are interested in what mistakes I made so you can avoid the same mistakes or what worked for me that might also work for you. It is the way I thought of some of my older friends and the way I still think of them, those who are now at Harvard, Stanford, Yale, some of whom will be my neighbors. Is it right that our worth is measured by our success in high school and what colleges we got into? Then again, who could help but be flattered? And who could help but be interested by such prestige? After all, these are the accomplishments that each of us has worked for and achieved in our own way, on our own terms.

So what am I saying? What is the secret to my success? Does everyone have the secret weapons that I mentioned? The secret is that there is no secret, no magic potion, because success does not equal happiness (success != happiness). However, if happiness IS success, then there is hope for you. As Aristotle said "Happiness is something final and self-sufficient and the end of all action." It is what we live for. Then, have I succeeded? I dunno, do I seem happy to you?

The truth is I am still very young. High school was (relatively) easy even though it didn't feel that way while I was there. On the whole, I had few responsibilities; all I had to worry about were grades and sometimes my mood. My food, shelter, basic schedule, clothes, money, etc, were pretty much taken care of. Plus, I only had to care about my own well-being most of the time. Friends and family mostly took care of themselves. I didn't even have a pet. In other words, I ain't seen nothing, yet. That's what college is for.

In high school, I learned about what was important to me and what are sources of pride for me. I am proud of what I am capable of, and I feel it a shame to waste time and energy when I could be at least trying to get a problem solved. Maybe someone else might find it more worthwhile to hone their skills on the guitar or baseball or maybe spend time on having lasting friendships. Anyway, so this is what I find rewarding to spend my time on. Besides, I think it was worth it for me just because I got to write this article, and you will read it because I did well, and you want to know if I am still human. I think I am.

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