Collection of Things I’ve Realized

  • The fear of failure has stopped me from undertaking something positive more times than I can count. In fact, the fear that I would hate how much my writing has worsened since the last time I wrote a blog post almost stopped me from writing this one. I’ve discovered one thing that always, always help me overcome this fear. First, that “you always have to start somewhere.” This especially applies when you’ve gotten worse at something you were once good at. After I tore my hamstring last January, it’s taken all the way since now to start working out and running frequently again. I realize that I want to be able to run 10 miles without worrying about getting a heart attack, but so easily forget how much work it takes to get there. When I am confronted with this reality (e.g. coming back from a three mile run completely destroyed), instead of letting the thought that I haven’t even got to a third of the distance I used to be able to run, I realize the certainty that one step must follow the other; I must be able to run 3.5 miles before I can run 5 miles, before I can run 8 miles, before I can run 10 miles, and so on. The chain cannot begin without the first step – hence “you always have to start somewhere.” It’s so liberating to relieve myself of the pressure that the fear of failure puts on me to “succeed.”
  • Beating myself up over the idiotic comment I just made is a symptom of social anxiety. It affects many of us. The mental antidote: No one cares about what you just said. What I mean is this – what you just said is literally 1/1,000,000 of everyone else’s day, and by the time they sleep, they’ll have forgotten about it. It’s hard to fully embrace, but next time someone says something awkward or stupid, make a reminder of it. Remind yourself of this in one week. And you’ll realize how little you care. It’s not the errant, infrequent comments that we can so easily beat ourselves up over. It’s how we treat others and how we made others feel, overall, that people will remember. If your heart is in the right place, then its 99% certain that no one will care about the one time you made a joke no one laughed at.
  • It’s repugnant when people say: “Hurrdurr just failed that test, whoohoo!” It’s one thing to own up to failure, and another to parade it around like a badge of honor. There’s this culture rampant in our generation that glorifies showing indifference to complicated, deep issues and rebelling against the oppressive system of education. It’s mistaken for confidence, but it’s actually apathy towards doing work to improve yourself. It’s the same culture that says “You try too hard” when you worked hard for an A on a test, or calls you nerdy for posing a meaningful philosophical question in a non-academic setting. I’ve encountered it far too often, and every time someone tweets something like “Preparedness level for SAT: buying calculator right now” on the morning of the exam and gets 45 likes on it, it affirms the normalcy of this mentality and perpetuates mediocrity.
  • Increasing your vocabulary: being able to name something is being able to interact with it and have a voice about it. I’m just going to use an example. “Sonder” is the realization that every one of the hundreds of thousands of people you’ve met or passed by since you were born leads a life as complicated and meaningful to them as yours is to you. It’s something that’s hard to grasp without a name. The closest you’ll get is “that feeling when…” but without a name, its easily forgotten. A name for something gives it a handle. It’s just like in a computer programming – objects and variables are given a name instead of being represented by their numerical memory location. The name gives meaning. I especially like this example because it’s not even a real English word. It was coined by John Koenig, the creator of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, in which he explicitly states that all his definitions are made up. And yet, though what this word describes is essentially empathy, describing and naming this feeling allowed it go viral on the Internet. There’s another benefit to extended vocabulary too. I haven’t taken enough cognitive science to confirm this, but I’m almost certain that creativity is the ability of how many of the connections you can make to the subject in question that are relevant. The more things you can describe, the more solutions you can come up for a problem (whether that problem is attempting to describe something, coming up with a joke, or a math problem). Every new word you know is another node a connection can be formed from… I’m realizing this is pretty incoherent (I need to expand my vocabulary???), but I hope you get the idea.

Rising Memories

I was invited to speak tonight for the Rising Seniors Workshop. It’s a Mission SOS event held yearly in C-120 to help current juniors become acquainted with the college application process. The organizers have been improving the event year after year. This year, in addition to the counselor (Mrs. Rotter), registrar (Ms. Faust), teacher (Ms. Geers), and student speakers (Jonathan Lu, Richard Liang, and Andy Lai), the organizers added the student panel, which I was a part of.  

My first reaction to being asked to be a part of this was not being able to understand why I was chosen. While I don’t think what I’d say is utterly useless, there are people who are far better qualified. I’m not going to that prestigious of a college and I can be pretty incoherent in expressing myself sometimes. Moreover, the way I went about my application process for colleges was filled with self-doubt, sleeplessness, and procrastination. I didn’t feel like I deserved to give advice to all of the juniors, a lot of whom would probably do this way better than I would without my input anyways.

But I was flattered (I’m easily flattered, which I’m working on eliminating from myself) and I told myself I would at least be able to tell them to avoid making the same mistakes I did. In general, I don’t think any experience associated with failure has any value unless a) you take it upon yourself to avoid the same mistakes and b) guide those who will soon be experiencing the same things you did. But what made me hesistate was that I was afraid. My memories of the application process are… potent. After I submitted my last app, I shut those past two months all away in a locked corner of my brain; I didn’t even want to think about the impending rejections, horrible essays, and sleepless, wasted nights. I felt like if I did it over again I could have done it two or three times better. So until today I’ve avoided thinking about it, storing those memories in a place that they wouldn’t hurt me. And by hurt me I mean that feeling you get when you remember doing the most embarrassing, contrived thing you did from a year ago and cringing inside so hard that you get temporary mental scoliosis. Besides, I already have too many of those (second semester of junior year, anyone?). 

Strangely enough, after everyone gave their talk and we spoke on the panel, and I began answering individual questions from juniors and parents, I realized there was a big difference in what I thought I’d feel and what I was feeling: I didn’t feel ashamed with my college experience. I was enjoying telling others where I screwed up and where they could work on no screwing up.  My bad experience had value  to others. I was able to help other people through this because my experience was screwed up. In a way, messing up big time had more value to everyone than breezing through it all without an error. 

I guess there’s a magic about publicly proclaiming the things one is embarrassed about that makes them not so embarrassing anymore. I honestly felt something like Raskolnikov, freshly confessed, walking out of C-120 and MSJ, Some deeply buried but enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. 

The Significance of 567,993,600 seconds

It’s unreal. Eighteen years? Eighteen years? All day I’ve been cracking jokes about having to register for the draft, register for voting, being able to sign my own waivers, but only to help me accept this fact that I am now an adult. An adult with imminent adult responsibilities.

In my eyes, a successful adult is one who has a steady job and a steady family, a healthy body and healthy mind, and is responsible, mature, and strives to make a difference in the world. He or she is impenetrable by negative influences and stressful emergencies, he or she is a rock-solid foundation young children can say with absolute confidence that they believe in and rely on.

I guess my disbelief at turning eighteen is partially fueled by this subconscious thought of the dividing line of eighteen that separates childhood and adulthood. But all privileges, mentalities, and social norms aside, today is quite meaningless. The earth has gone ’round the sun 18.00 times and, more significantly to the people who came up with the Gregorian calendar in the first place, the crops are at the same stage of the cropping and planting stages they were 18 minus x years ago. It’s just a frame of reference. We could just as easily have measured birthdays by the lunar calendar, a different frame of reference equally valid, by which I would have passed my 18th birthday months ago. There is no special inherent significance to it unless turning eighteen triggers the development of some secret ability or extrasensory power that is the best kept secret in all of human history. I can confirm I so far have gained neither newfound power nor information pertaining to it should it exist (or do I?), so the assertion that turning eighteen has no inherent significance still stands for now.

Now while turning eighteen is a meaningless thing in of itself, we can consider the consequences of turning eighteen and determine its significance. Putting aside momentarily all debate concerning whether external forces such as the legal system or society should be putting significance on turning eighteen, we can consider those privileges, mentalities, and social norms. One thing is for sure. I’m going to have to start becoming more independent from my parents and more responsible for actions that were previously shielded by the state of being a minor. If I am convicted of a felony, I’m not going to juvi, I’m going to state jail. When the next public election is held, I will have a say in it. If the army decides to institute a draft, I might have to fight in a war. I will soon be heading off to college. I will soon be paying my taxes and bills, and I’ll start having to learn how to budget money. Therefore, learning the ways of a model adult, regardless of whether those ways should be a part of being an adult, will be worthwhile investment. Truthfully , I don’t feel like an adult now.

I can still remember the utter innocence of childhood, looking upon the years that I have just entered as just a point on a horizon many years away, a thing of least significant and importance because of the vast and seemingly infinite distance between us. That this point on the horizon has arrived so quickly astounds me every time I’ve thought of it today… 

The point is this dividing line of childhood and adulthood does not come packaged with as set of abilities (maturity, responsibility, doing taxes, secret powers, etc.). Like I’ve previously, subconsciously thought, there is no “BOOM!” and you’re a model adult; I am still the same person I was when I wasn’t an official adult yesterday. I am not entitled to anything simply because of my age. I am not any different simply because of my age. To become a successful adult, It will take continuous growth and the same amount of effort I was putting in before to grow and change and learn to become who I want to be.

So while the turning eighteen part is not any less or more significant than any other age, it is significant in that societal and social pressures will affect the eighteen year old person positively or negatively. Therefore, it’s important to 1) be aware of it 2) not fall into its traps and 3) learn how to deal with them.

Because I’ve learned and thought about this topic, and learned that I’m still in the process of learning and growing, my birthday this wasn’t as big of a deal to me as it was in previous years. I have to continue to strive for the best because me turning eighteen doesn’t entitle me to anything. I’ve got to stay humble. 

Not the deepest analysis, but I’m tired and this is the first time posting here in a while and it’s my birthday so I’m satisfied. Thank you to all who wished me well beyond the simple happy birthday today; your comments were the most meaningful. Until next time!

Transformation

Seven hours of sleep a day, homework finished before the day it’s due, being on top of college apps, actively learning in each class, rebounding from a slump in my cross country season, being more up-to-date with the news, and feeling more alive. I experienced all of this last week because of one change.

I stopped wasting time on the internet.

Last week I challenged myself to abstain from doing anything on the internet that is not providing a benefit to me directly. I didn’t completely trust myself to follow through with it on my own, so I made a that post about it, holding myself accountable to anyone who reads this, and downloaded K9 web protection software. I blocked myself from Reddit, 9gag, CNet, Tumblr, etc. Boy, it worked wonders.

My normal day before this challenge consisted of coming home from cross country at around 5pm and, because I didn’t get enough sleep and bombed the workouts, feeling horrible. I’d flip open my laptop to escape my misery and browse through reddit without bothering to change out of my clothes. Before I knew it, it’d be 7pm, when I’d force myself to shower, change, eat dinner. Then I’d go back to the internet. It was rare for me to begin my homework before 9pm, and even during my “homework time,” I’d sporadically drift back to wasting time again and again. This behavior usually pushed my sleep time to 1 or 2am daily. I ended up pushing much homework to the school day the next day, taking time away from my learning in class. When I did try to focus, I couldn’t because I was exhausted from sleep deprivation. Then I’d do horrible at cross country practice because my muscles weren’t rested properly. Then I felt useless for not being able to finish my work. Then I’d drown myself in the internet when I get back from school, and the self-destructive cycle would repeat.

But with the computer distractions out of the way, I began growing. I came home from a refreshing cross country practice I felt great about because I had slept well the night before. I’d immediately make a list of things to do based on what I had written down in my planner during the day. I’d finish each task off in quick succession, whether it be reading a chapter in The Iliad or finishing a prelab writeup for Physics C. Every time I had the urge to find interesting threads on Reddit or mindlessly scroll through Tumblr blogs, I’d remember the challenge I made to you guys and mentally resist the urges.  The times when that failed, K9 was there to save me. When it happened on my phone, I’d open up Flipboard and browse through the news, boring myself back into doing work ( I was well versed in news this week). With this new lifestyle, I was on the bed by 11:30 or earlier every nightl. Then during the following school day, I was able to actively participate in class and finish homework at school because I had slept so well. The internal momentum and energy helped perpetuate the next cycle, and the cycle would repeat.

I learned a lot about myself during this challenge. First, that the best way for me to finish a large list of tasks is to always start with the easy ones first. My motivation builds up like momentum; small at first, then as I get more and more positive feelings from finishing tasks, it grows and grows and before I know it, I have enough power to work through tasks whose size would initially scare me into procrastination. Second, how badly I was and probably still am addicted to the internet and how much this addiction is hurting me. Simply observing the magnitude of the change in my lifestyle and how I felt about it showed me how much of my potential was being thrown away into this black hole. This is mostly what is motivating me to embark on this challenge again (Read on for that part). Third, that it’s hardest to contain my desire to waste time nearing the weekend, and, to go along with that, that it’s easiest to overcome it in the time period right after I make a post about the challenge. So, from here on out, I’ll try to post every Thursday or Friday night instead of pushing this off until Sunday as I did this time. Lastly, for the first time in a long time, I firmly believe I have the opportunity and power to turn my life around. It’s a great feeling.

Okay, to be honest, I wasn’t a demon-turned-angel overnight. Despite my best efforts, here and there I’d get sucked into YouTube, the only time-wasting site I didn’t block (mostly because I listen to music a lot there and it helps me finish work). Also, I relapsed big time on Thursday night and majority of yesterday. Yet despite these failures,  this endeavor is without a doubt a resounding success.

This is life-changing for me. I’m doing this again again, but I’m upping the ante. First off, I’m extending the challenge time. From today until my birthday in December (not giving exact date due to privacy reasons), I’m not going to waste time on the internet. I have a couple reasons for extending it so long when I’m so new to this. Wouldn’t it be better to slowly increase my challenge times, ie two weeks, then one month, then two months, then four months? Not in my case, and here’s why: I noticed that as time went on, it became easier and easier to say no to the internet, instead of getting harder and harder. I adapted and fully accepted this lifestyle faster than I thought I would, meaning that if I can get into the rhythm of a good work ethic, I can keep it up for a long period of time. Second: slowly increasing my challenge time would allow me to relapse too frequently, causing the awesome feeling of being productive, the only feeling that drives this whole show, to lose its value. No, I need to ride this wave of positivity all the way to its end. Also, my goal is to finish college apps as a birthday present to myself, so not relapsing until then would help a lot.

I’m documenting this here mostly because I get a better perspective on this whole process and am able to hold myself accountable to you guys. But with this much success, I also hope to inspire someone else who may be struggling with the same addiction. Internet addiction is so easy to overcome compared to drugs, sex, alcohol, or gaming because the time-wasting activities on the Internet gives you pleasure so brief, fleeting, and ultimately depressing. Simply working hard and getting pleasure from that is so much more rewarding.

I hope I’m not making this a way bigger deal than it is, but it feels big to me. Like I said, it’s helping me turn my life in a new direction.

Anyhoo, I’ll be here every Thursday or Friday updating progress on this challenge and hopefully making posts about other things I’ve been meaning to talk about (I have an ever growing list of post ideas on my phone 😀 ).

Let Round 2 begin.

Overcoming Personal Problems

First:

I have a pretty big problem: it’s very, very hard for me to muster enough motivation to write college essays. I end up pushing them past personal deadlines or just BSing them, usually because the thought of writing something that will directly influence the major next steps in my life is too much to bear. But right after spilling out my thoughts in my last post, I was able to churn out a good draft of one of my college essays. Writing about what I wanted to write about somehow opened the door to the rest of my writing power and potential.

So if writing here leads to getting some work done, I’m all in. From here on out, I’ll post at least once a week, if not for the sake of practicing my writing, then at least to produce some quality college essays in the inspirational period afterwards.

Problem: College essay writer’s block.

Solution: Post more!

Second:
Last week, I deactivated my Facebook and deleted my Instagram app to  stop wasting so much time on social media sites. It worked and didn’t work. I didn’t spend time on social media anymore, but instead, I filled that time with more pointless Internet browsing such as 9gag and Yahoo News. And Reddit. I discovered the site two days ago. That day, I started reading this and this, both of which contained various pathways to other threads and before I knew it, five hours had elapsed. The shock of wasting so much time just looking at a screen and essentially indulging in periods of mindlessness hit me hard. I hated the idea of being mindless. I decided to attack this bad habit.

So, I have challenged myself to abstain from pointless screen time for one week. This means no games, no internet surfing, no wasting time on my laptop or phone. Instead, I will do one of the following:

  1. Read the Iliad (APENG).
  2. Read Breakfast of Champions (APENG outside reading).
  3. Play the piano.
  4. Begin a short workout or stretching session.

Hopefully, at the end of one week, I’ll understand how much more I can accomplish with less screen time and establish a better sense of self control on in the Internet in the future. This is my first time trying this, so let’s see how it turns out! I’ll go over how things went in next week’s post. The challenge starts as soon as I publish this post.

Problem: Interwebz sucking my time!

Solution: One-week-no-interwebz-sucking-my-time challenge!

Hopefully, by attacking my personal obstacles publicly, as I’m doing now, I’ll be more motivated to overcome them because I have accountability to both myself and whomever reads this blog. So thank you if you’re reading this!

Well, my time here is up. Let the challenge begin!

Life Log

Image

Harharharhar.

Wow, it’s been almost three months since my last post. d(thingshappening)/d(time) only seems to be increasing as I get older. Argh. Calculus.

So much has happened. I’ll do my best to enumerate…

When I made my last post on July 5th, I was in the midst of my first couple days at RISE, or the Research Internship in Science and Engineering, the seven-week research program I attended at Boston University during summer. It was my first long-term experience away from my parents, and in many ways, it was wonderful. Wonderful because of the friends I made. Wonderful because of the independence I developed. Wonderful because of all the Suits, Parks and Rec, True Blood, and various movie marathons. Wonderful because of the food. Wonderful because of all of the different things I learned in being exposed to advanced electrical engineering, public speaking, an intellectual, outspoken, active Muslim community, and people from all around the world. I think my last post reflected some of my experiences in the latter.

There were some negative aspects to the experience as well. The weather for about half of the program was horribly humid and muggy, which, in addition to me being sweatier-than-average, made the acclimatization process…novel. Some nights, it was impossible to sleep without two fans: one at full power blowing directly into my face from a foot away, and the other oscillating, also at full power, to cover the rest of my body. In some of the last weeks of the program, I began to grow a bit homesick, but not in the I-miss-my-brother-and-mother-and-friends-and-home-gut-wrench-overbearing-sadness way, more like in the-stability-and-routine-of-the-home-life-would-be-nice-right-now way. I especially missed Yusuf, my youngest brother, which came as surprise to me. I had entered the program believing I would be homesick for absolutely zero seconds.

I entered the program believing I would check in and walk into my dorm with the happiness of adventure and freedom, the type of happiness that manifests itself days before the object of the happiness comes to pass. I expected the type of happiness of a inmate being released after a lifetime of jail duty. Finally! No one to bug me when to sleep, do prayers, eat food, no one to constantly be checking on me and being a police officer. I was going to be me. I was going to grow, unrestrained and FREE! I was going to rise up (ha) to the the top of the program, defy my professor’s expectations, enter my project in Siemens and STS, and WIN… my potential was limitless.

To a large extent, these expectations were not met. I did not end up submitting my project to Siemens, nor did I defy anyone’s expectations. My parents still called me  every day and got worried and stressed when I wasn’t able to call back. After about a week of acclimatizing, things began to settle into a routine monotony occasionally broken by the purchase of something new, a dinner treat with my roommates, or a field trip somewhere, like the beach. Or a talent show.

For me, that may have been the best night of the entire program. I performed a rap about the program with Andrei Isichenko, a fellow unicyclist and floormate I met there who also happened to be a beatboxer. I attempted to write a transcript of the performance from memory below. You can find video footage of it on Arnav Gautam’s Facebook wall. You would have been able to find it on mine had I not deactivated my account three days ago. You should watch the video, but if you cannot, read on (SPOILER):

(Andrei begins beatboxing)

(Pointing at Andrei) To my right we have Dr. Dre, also known as Andrei
(pointing at myself) and I’m DJ Yoloswagtastic MacBook Air, also known as Aamir

(I pause; Andrei continues to beatbox)

What’s this weird looking Indian guy doing on the stage
with a beard wearing crocs like some pretentious weirdo
he can’t even rhyme his lines got big bags under his eyes
what is he sleep deprived god let him meet an early demise

Well I’ll tell you. I’m a rapper. I like to keep it dapper
young cash money heroes cars girls screw the coppers
I-I mean, when they break the law. Oh also I like girls
see that one with the crop top (I point over the audience), yeah I’d tap her

with my finger and say hi, cuz, I’m a really nice guy
tell her and her friends I went to RISE and leave with three of them by my side
(cue exaggerated eyebrow movements and suggestive lilt to my voice)
go back to my place and discuss the arms race
and other political issues facing the nation today

like how Obama hasn’t closed down Guantanamo Bay

I forget the rest. But that was the general gist of it. It was the first time I had performed a rap live on stage or tried to write a humorous rap. I’m happy to report that Andrei and I concluded our performance to thunderous applause and lots of “you were the best performance” afterwards. That was probably the best night of the program.

This post feels unfinished, but I’ve got to head to bed. I have to write a report of my time at RISE for my professor for my letter of rec, so maybe I’ll publish that here when it’s done. There’s also much more to be said about my life since I’ve come back but that too shall have to wait. I’m glad I wrote this. I’ve forgotten the catharsis of confession and recollection.

Until next time.

Snippets

“So what’s your research about?”

“It’s about these things called memory resistors, they-”

“Dude that is like, SO, cool. That’s really, really interesting.”

*******

“Wbu? How’s your internship going?”

“Haha work is pretty entertaining. One of the guys here dated a girl that all the Indian girls from your high school know and he’s so freaked out its hilarious. And both of them want me to set them up with girls so it’s just an amusing work environment.”

“What about the actual work itself?”

“It’s all data analysis through this website so it’s pretty interesting.”

*******

“So back where you lived, in Iran, how do people say hello? ”

Salom.”

“Wait, isn’t that Arabic? Iran’s national language is Farsi, right?”

“Yes, but the colloquial language is different. To be formal, we would say ‘d’rood,’ which is Farsi.”

“That’s pretty cool. So how do you say good-bye?”

“We say ‘khuda-hafiz.'”

“But that’s Urdu! You’re telling me that you use Urdu and Arabic for your two most commonly used phrases?”

“Yes *laughs*. To be formal, we would say ‘badh’rood.'”

“And how do you say thank you?”

“To be formal, we say ‘mamnoon.’ But really, the formal language is not used anymore. Nowadays, we say ‘merci.'”

A Hurricane

He turns his face away, quickly. Show no weakness. Show no weakness. Show no weakness. He walks away, stomping his feet loudly to radiate anger and passion. He wants everyone to know he is Angry. That he is angry, he is indignant, and rightly so. That he is his own man. But his forced body language belies the brewing storm that has already begun to rip away at the levees, the weak, measly levees that have already been broken down and built up three, four, five times. From a distance, the cloth patches, nailed-in wooden boards, and super glue stand out against the cityscape, masking the once-strong, once-gleaming, now-rotting titanium structure beneath.

 No, it’s okay, It’s okay – you can fix this. This is just temporary. Stand strong. Then, she is out of sight, and quickly, inevitably, the façade shatters – Stand strong- GODDAMNIT – AAGH –  and he cannot sharpen the blur that begins to form at the corners of his vision, cannot quell the rising waters, an old friend, an old enemy.

The levee breaks, and through an added, fluid lens, he looks over his shoulder, trying to catch a glimpse of whom he once considered his soul mate, his Tumblr, his confidant and partner against the world – but she is gone, swept away in the Deluge.

Happiness and and Felicitous Mistakes

Today was the last day of Multicultural Week, which meant we had shortened periods (30 mins!) to make room for the Multicultural Assembly, a huge Homecoming-like-minus-the-skits performance which features dances and acts from different cultures. Among many others, there was a Chinese traditional dance, a Tahitian dance, American-style hip-hop, Hawaiian choir?-like song, a cover of “Resistance” by Muse played on a drum and four cellos (my personal favorite), and of course the traditional Senior Bhangra. After the performances, the flags of all the countries are brought out and shown around the gym by flag-bearers. I bore Kenya today with Hannah, Sonia, and Sid in both the first and second assembly. Sadly, I somehow forgot to take a picture. Oh wells.

Sometime during the second assembly or right after it, I saw on of my friends with his girlfriend and I remembered something I learned/heard a while ago: People are attracted to other happy people. I also remembered that two people could be in the same circumstances, same situation, but still be completely opposite in terms of happiness. It’s all about the mentality. Happiness is not something that can be given to you. You don’t become a happy person because of good grades or prestigious admissions or great writing skills or any thing. Happiness is a mentality.

Happiness is a choice. 

Wow. I have the power to be happy. I have the power to be content. It blew me away.

I didn’t make a conscious decision or choice, but something inside me tweaked a tiny bit and said “Okay, today, I’m going to choose to be happy, just to try it out and see.” It was queer little thing my body was telling me, but naturally, I wholeheartedly concurred.

The effect was immediate and assuaging. My worries dropped away, and I could suddenly think clearly. It wasn’t drastic or even epiphanic. It felt more incremental and gradual, almost like one of those games where you try to find the difference between two similar pictures. Cursorily, everything was the same. Something somewhere tweaked and changed and I really, really enjoyed my day from that point onwards.

I had signed up for the Berkeley Overnight Stay Program tonight, so I rushed home, picked up my pre-packed bag, and headed to BART. My good friend Vaishaal Shankar, now a sophomore at Berkeley, picked me up and drove me to where the Overnight Stay Program was supposedly going to start. When we arrived at the destination, there was no one there. I checked my phone. We were right on time. Something was wrong.

Vaishaal called a friend from Tau Beta Phi, the Berkeley frat that was organizing the Overnight Stay Program, to ask what was going on. It turns out that the damn thing starts tomorrow in the evening, not today.

D’oh!

My first reaction was agh, dumb me! But curiously, it was quickly suppressed and replaced by “Well, came all this way. Might as well make the most of it”. See the difference? I chose to be a happy person today. Yesterday, I might have let something as trivial as this bother me the rest of today.

So, Vaishaal took me, Paroma (his girlfriend) and Daniel (one of his roommates) out to the Cheeseboard Factory for my first taste of Berkeley food. This place is unique in that it sells only one type of pizza a day, always vegetarian, sold in slices or whole pizza. Nothing else. The only choice the customer has is how many slices he gets. You’d think this doesn’t work.  People have a diverse array of preferences in pizza, Most people like meat on their pizza. Their approach doesn’t make business sense.But the line stretching halfway around the block for the pizza begged to differ.

The great thing about this place is that since there aren’t “orders,” there’s no waiting time in between ordering the number of slices and picking up your pizza. The pizza is continuously made and sold to the customer as it comes out of the oven. Vaishaal, Peroma, Daniel and I got into the line, about 100 yards from the entrance. I took my first bite of corn and pesto pizza just 10 minutes later.

Oh yeah, that was the other cool thing. The demand for the pizza far exceeded the safe capacity of seating within the pizza place. People were sitting outside in outdoor seating, curbs, the side of the restaurant, and even the grassy areas of the freakin’ street divider. People were literally eating in the middle of the street. What was this craziness? I loved it. I convinced the group to eat our pizza there, too.

With cars rushing on both sides of us, we began talking about the state of Mission (they were all Mission grads), prom, allergies, anything. Conversation with them was never tense or awkward because they thought of themselves as higher than me. They respected my juniority, and I respected their seniority. Moreover, I found myself cracking jokes, telling stories, talking about myself, responding to their stories, etc. in a way that I haven’t in a long time. I thought back to the choice I made earlier on that day. Dinner was very enjoyable.

By the time our pizza-filled bellies made our way back to Vaishaal’s car, we were talking naturally. Vaishaal was nice enough to drop me off at the BART station, and I thanked him and promised him I’d see him tomorrow. Good vibes, good people.

I got onto the BART and something curious and felicitous happened. As our BART left for Fremont, one of the boys standing next to me asked “Will this train take me near Oakland Stadium?” I replied yes, it will. and then another guy asked us where we were from, and soon enough we were all talking.

Then the second guy asked suddenly out of the blue, “Hey, what’s your guys’ zodiac?” Personally, I think the whole zodiac thing is a pile of alpaca crap, but I do know my sign for reference purposes. It turns out the first guy has the same zodiac sign as me. Not only that, he has the same birthday as me! Not only that, he does cross country and track too

By the time he gets off at the Coliseum exit, we’ve exchanged most of our basic information. It was overall a pretty cool experience.

Between the time he gets off and I get off, I plug my headphones in and ruminate a bit. I think back on my day. I would have never enjoyed this time with Vaishaal’s friends, had my first (of hopefully many) great Berkeley food experiences, and just so happened to meet a random senior from SoCal who has the same birthday and sports interests in me. Maybe some mistakes were meant to be made.

I broaden the scope of that statement a bit. Maybe I screwed up that math test so I’d be motivated to work extra hard (read: learn the curriculum really well) for the rest of the semester. Maybe I tore my hamstring so that I’d have more time to study for AP’s and get my upper body buff. Maybe I was meant to lose elections so that I would go through a depression that would motivate me to learn and realize all this positive discourse about happiness. Maybe suffering is necessary for bliss.

The trains stopped and the conductor announced the Fremont station, breaking me out of my reverie. On the escalator down, a pudgy, tall, bearded Indian guy tapped my shoulder from behind and said,
“Hey, remember me! I worked out next to you yesterday at Snap FItness!” He introduced himself as Milan before quickly hurrying on his way. My dad picked me up and we went to Snap Fitness afterwards for a bit of late-night working out. I met Eswar there. Today was the first day I went to the gym without a rest day since my last workout session.

All in all, a spiritually soothing and mentally relaxing afternoon and evening. I’m looking forward to actually sleeping overnight at Berkeley tomorrow.

If I could sum up today in one phrase, it’d be: You make your own luck.

On Relationships

There are a lot of good people in this world. Some of them will become good friends with you.

And some of them will become best friends with you. But I’ve realized that these relationship terms: acquaintance, friend, best friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, homie, dawg, minion, whatever; they can never truly describe a real-world relationship.  Types of relationships aren’t even a spectrum. Every relationship is just…. different.

Let me explain.

Sometimes, “homies” can refer to mutual friends in a group, or it could be your best guy friend. “Friend” could be someone who’s good friends with you but just not best friends with you, or it could be someone in your math class who you happen to sit next to and talk to everyday but never interact with outside of that situation. The boundary between a “friend” and an “acquaintance” is hazy. Is an acquaintance just someone you’ve met before, or is it someone who you talk to but not a lot just not enough to be a friend but enough to be more than a stranger? And when it comes to “best friends,” especially with the opposite gender, it gets really fuddled. With some best friends, you’re going to have to hang out with them often or risk drifting apart. With others, you can pick up where you left off 2 years ago and hang out as if you saw them just yesterday. Some best friends you can be emotional with. Some best friends you can’t. Some best friends are slightly more than friends. You kinda love some best friends. There are some best friends you’ll fight with a lot, and some best friends where you’ll never have a single hitch.

See what I mean? Believing in a blanket term to describe the infinite variety of relationships is inaccurate, ignorant, and sometimes detrimental.

I say detrimental because we sometimes expect certain things out of our relationships based on the “category” we put them into. For example, if you consider someone to be your “best friend,” you might expect birthday gifts from them, a general willingness to always talk to you about your problems, trust, etc. You’re going to expect these things because that’s what “best friends,” a category you’ve grouped your relationship with this person in, are supposed  to do. But it doesn’t always work that way. No one is perfect. Maybe this best friend are a blast to talk to and will always give you birthday gifts, but are just not good with serious talks or getting back to you on time. Maybe they forget every once in a while to check up on you. But we have to accept things as they are. Don’t try to change other people. We have our deficiencies and our strengths, and we can’t always be the ideal, because, simply put, we’re human beings. And if you get angry and pissed or just uncomfortable with your “best friends” not living up to an ideal you’ve thought up in your brain.. you’re going to have a bad time. 

So what I’m trying to tell you and tell me is to stop categorizing relationships based on stereotypes. Expect and exhibit certain behaviors and actions based on what you know about that person and what experiences you’ve gone through together, not on what best friends in movies or in pop culture or another best friend pair you know acts like or what you think you should be acting like . Each relationship is different. The less you try to engineer a relationship to meet a certain ideal, the happier and more natural you both will be. Deeply speaking, do what feels right, not what you think should feel right.

And I think this whole concept of us just not being able compare your friends on a scale and saying “Yup. He’s a better friend than him. She’s closer to me than that girl is.” because of how each relationship is just different, can be interpreted in many different ways. When people are asked about their favorite song, they usually don’t have an immediate, definite answer. Different songs evoke different feelings and emotions and came into your life at different times in different ways. You can say “these are all great songs” but for many, it’ll be nigh impossible to say which song is their absolute FAVORITE. Same goes for food. Or cars. Or movies Or clothing. Or anything.

Sometimes there will be something you will consider your absolute favorite or the absolute best, but that’s only because there’s clearly no competition in that area. Sometimes you will have an absolute, undisputed, best friend, and that’s totally cool. Maybe they’re you’re only friend. But I’ve found this to be far rarer than a bunch of different items or people that fit a general category. Picking a favorite usually isn’t a straightforward task.

And that’s just from your perspective. This applies to everyone else in relation to you as well. This concept is why you shouldn’t feel bad if you’re one of a couple of someone’s best friend, and not their only best friend. I guarantee that the person holds you in high regard and that he or she does consider you close to them. It’s just that, saying one is better than the other is inaccurate. In that friend’s mind, you all could fit the definition of a best friend, but are just different in certain aspects. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Relationships are just different.

So that’s all I have to say. This whole train of thought sprung up from today when I hung out with Kenny today.I realized that I’ve known him for three years now and we get to talk perhaps once every two weeks or so. But I still consider him closer than some other good friends who I talk to on a daily basis. 

All right, time’s up. I’ve got to start on my work for today. Until next time!