Reflections on Graduation

Well hey there, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on here.

News? News… I’m a senior in high school and graduating soon, that’s a pretty big change.
I’m going to university next year, which is exhilerating but also entirely more freedom than I’m used to.

One of the biggest changes from high school I’ll face is not seeing my friends every day. Goodbye to the places we ate lunch together every day, goodbye to effortless interaction at school and the ability to be loners at home because we’d be seeing each other at school. Now, some of us are working and some are going into different school programs. I may never see some of these people again. And the ones I do choose to keep in contact with… Well, there’ll be a lot of meeting for lunch and high school get-together parties. This is a pretty big step for someone who has very little social life.

This is not to mention all the people I’ll meet in university. I have dreams of like-minded individuals who work hard, but the reality is that I’ll still be dealing with a wide variety of people. The nice thing is there’ll be less people who don’t care in university, because they’ll all be doing whatever it is that isn’t school, but there’ll still be people who can slide right through while I have to follow my normal study schedule.

I’ll miss the teachers and clubs and familiarity of high school, but one thing I won’t miss is seeing people I don’t like. And I won’t miss doing subjects like history, physics, chemistry, and others that I hate. A bonus of choosing what degree to pursue means not having to take as many classes that you don’t like. I’ll also look forward to the shorter days and the freedom (i.e. bus, bus pass, and many libraries). Summer break is also June-August, which means one more month of relaxation! And the many free things that students can have access to. That sounds great.

So really, I’m looking forward to next year. But It’ll mean different friends as well, or more difficulty keeping in contact with old ones.


In the Company of Chaos

In high school, you either care or you don’t, you’re loud or you’re quiet, you’re serious or you’re irreverent. But it’s a lonely place, where people who stand differently are unconsciously absorbed into the herd.

I’ve always heard wiser people say “you are who you spend time with.” If you desire success, happiness, or motivation, surround yourself with people who are motivated. Even in theory it makes sense, for the conversations of kind people are different than those of the rude. A person craves acceptance, and to get that, carefully listen to what other people are saying, doing, and how they are acting, and mirror them. Even better, ingrain it into yourself, and suddenly it becomes who you are, and you’re following that age-old advice of “be yourself”, through your changed self might not be one you’re happy with. The effects can be innocent; If you hang around people who play a lot of video games, chances are that you will gain an appreciation for them too. But the dangerous alternative is that the people near you are walking down a path which you suddenly realize is darker than you realized.

Environment is truly important.

Back to the crowded halls and new classes of high school. Teenagers are a prime example of the “you are what your senses eat” phenomenon. Blame the raging hormones, but also the constant questions of “who am I” that make trying on someone else’s shoes so easy. But the thing is that this total shift in action and in thought can occur quickly, albeit temporarily, without you even realizing it.

The stage is set: A teacher which I have for two classes, but with mostly different students in each class. Class A is Psychology, a great interest of mine. Analyzing how people work, theories to explain my inner self, why we are the way we are… I would take it in university if it wasn’t such a hard degree to make fruitful. On the flipside is Class B, History. Throughout my years I have gained a vested disinterest. Boring, old, irrelevant. I struggle to keep my eyes open. I actually admire people who love it, because it’s one of the few classes I can easily say I don’t like.

But here’s where the interesting switch happens – The past few days, I like the History class more than the Psychology class. And I doubt it’s the subject matter. I think it’s the people who are in it.Roughly half of the psychology class is made of people who are eager to voice their disinterest. For the teacher, for the teaching, for the subject matter. We don’t get a lot of work done. It’s loud, and the noise is chatter or ridiculing laughter. There are phones out constantly, with games, texting, and obvious snapchats taken between questions. Once a day the teacher catches someone. People demand extra sheets because their other one is gone, or at home, or in their other binder (and they can’t be bothered to take notes and transfer them later). Things are tossed around the classroom. Unsurprisingly, half the people aren’t listening. And at the end of the day, the teacher is a laughing stock and nothing gets completed.

Oh, and there is also the other half the class, who are quiet and willing to endure, or even enjoy the class, but are also (I imagine) silently wishing that the people who didn’t want to be there would just leave. But they are periphery, because as always, those who are not rebellious are overlooked. Needless to say, I’m one of the quiet ones. And because of assigned seating, I’m stuck in the back, in the middle of the chaos.But the story doesn’t stop there. Let’s jump to History.History is quieter. When the teacher gives work time, it goes completely silent as the class actually does what he asks. There are students from multicultural backgrounds, who are fine with answering whatever (sometimes weird) questions the teacher asks about their homeland and experience. There is a greater sense of responsibility and of openness. There are jokes, but they serve as comedic relief rather than to raise anarchy. In general, there is more people who are interested, or at least respectful. And those who think otherwise are quieted by the overall respect and tolerance of the rest of the class. Their ammunition is sparse, they don’t have enough comrades to do anything disorderly.

The difference is palpable. Psychology’s atmosphere is closed and negative, History’s is at least neutral, and at best optimistic. Take for example the teacher’s well-meant but unorthodox idea of having a Body Break in the middle of a high school class. In psychology, we saw him bend over at the front of the room, encouraging us to do the same, and that was it. For everyone around (and me included), there was no way butts were possibly going in the faces of other people. The class stood there, gave each other disbelieving faces, and that was it. But in history, when the same idea was suggested, the class was fairly confused, but followed his example, close butts and all. We were led through a quick stretch and resumed class time. There was even one enthusiastic person who wanted to lead a body break the next day (though student interest stopped there). And the crazy thing was that this thing which I had been so dead-set against doing before, was now the same thing in which I fully participated in. And my obstinacy wasn’t only because I didn’t want to look like a fool (because I probably would’ve been the only one doing it). My mind went to the exact same place that the others’ did, that it was a terrible idea and there was no way I would go along with it. The mob mentality is strong and quite encompassing.

Even the most well-crafted gear cannot by itself change a broken machine into a cooperative one. Instead of fixing people, stick close to the people who lift you up to your best self. Because if you don’t make an effort to, the ones you happen to find yourself with will be the ones you become, whether you realize it or not.

2015, Adventure’s End

Through many misplaced bookmarks and library fines and unfinished tomes, I actually completed my 2014 goal of reading a book a week. Throughout the year, I realized that books with a 4+rating on Goodreads are the ones worth my time. I found that the best time during school to read is after finishing a test early. That you need to get about 50 pages in before you get a sense of the book. That if I get more than 4 books from the library at once, I probably won’t finish all of them. That even though they’re cool genres, I can only take so much sci-fi and fantasy. That the genre of New Adult fiction exists.

My four most favourites this year were Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, Blankets by Craig Thompson, and Say What you Will by Cammie McGovern. (Following closely behind are Among Others by Jo Walton, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks, and Don’t Touch by Rachel M Wilson.)

I tried to read some things from different genres as well. Mystery (The Yiddish Policeman’s Union), comedy (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Non-Fiction (Quirkology), New Adult (The Sea of Tranquility), memoir (Unsinkable), and graphic novel (Blankets). I also listened to books in different formats. I didn’t read any ebooks, but I did get into an audiobook kick for a month or so. To find a full list of what I read in 2014, go to my Book List page.

All in all, I am pretty surprised that I was able to actually do this in 2014. Normally, New Year’s resolutions are useless for me, but I suppose this one had enough hype and reason and focus behind it that I was actually able to do it. And yeah, many times it was hard to sit down and actually read whatever book it was I had started. Especially when it was something like Dune, which was long and sci-fi and full of description. But eventually I stopped trying to read what I didn’t like and I became a lot more practiced in focusing on a book (it’s most definitely a skill improved with time).

I read almost three times as many books this year as I did in 2013, but I don’t intend on pumping it up even further this year. I’m going to let my reading take whatever course it may. I know that I will read a lot even without a resolution, as the habit has been made and I just plain love to read. What I do want to do this year is review a few books on this blog, getting further in depth than a 1-5 star rating. Since I’ve read all these, it should follow that I have a little more to go on for what makes a good book and what doesn’t… (keyword, should.)

My Other 2015 Resolutions

  • Take a photo of my face every day in 2015, so I can do that time-lapse video thing
  • Play piano twice a week (this is my replacement hobby focus for books – the target practice amount may increase as I become familiar with what can and can’t fit into my schedule)
  • Learn how to drive – this is a big one: both a big fear of mine, and an important thing to know
  • Review 3 books (as stated above)

Thus, I enter into 2015 with big plans and shaking knees.

Here’s a note – Write down your goals, and make them specific and measurable. You’ll be more likely to achieve them.