Solving Senioritis

The annual disease that affects thousands of seniors every year is once again back in full force. Senioritis draws away attention as the graduating class slowly becomes glassy-eyed and unresponsive to learning in general. But what does it really mean for society to simply accept that one fourth of high school students can essentially goof off for half of a school year? Can we ever solve senioritis and make it into something positive?

I’m writing this in a bout of decreased motivation, otherwise known as just not feeling like myself. It is so easy to be drawn in by the allure of slacking and coasting, and I need to organize my thoughts to figure out how to best combat this feeling. No guarantees that anything I write will be backed by educational pedagogy, but at least this will help me think through things.

1) Senioritis is primarily a form of entitlement.

By the time a high school student reaches senior year, they have had three years to reflect on what it means to be the graduating class. For every spring prior, the underclassmen have heard of the famous slacking that seniors have. In general, they probably have heard of how little consequences come by and yearn to have the same things for themselves. In addition, many people seem to view second semester senior year as a reward for doing well in school for the previous three years. If they have checked off all the boxes as they should have, when March rolls around, they will be admitted to a college and have no true responsibilities remaining. So, by the time students become seniors, they believe that they not only would be able to drop their guard a bit, but that they should have the right to do whatever they want.

When we take such a view on senioritis, it’s clear that there is a problem with expectations. Students are put into a culture where senioritis is constantly joked about, even in freshmen year – everyone has had that one classmate who, first day of high school, claims that he is suffering from senioritis already. The culture in high school is a very rapid feedback loop, where the behaviors of the present seniors only reinforce the original myth of senioritis. Given the system, is it possible for a student to stay precisely as productive as they have for the past three years in senior year?

2) Senioritis assumes that learning is a chore, rather than a joy.

If we assume that senioritis is an escape from learning, and that senioritis has its roots as being something fun or enjoyable, then we must conclude that learning is what is wrong. And oh boy, do we get that reaction a whole lot. Seniors often come off as having a “I don’t give a fudge” attitude (which is clearly selfish in the lack of sharing chocolate confectionary) because they have found school to be useless. All of this points to a mentality that the telos, or end goal, of high school is to get into college. It’s very similar to being a lame duck in politics, as brilliantly written in this The Atlantic article. Everything is done, and it’s simply a waiting game to start the next stage of my life. What do you mean I still have to learn?

This mentality is dangerous for students to work in, because it simply discourages people from working hard and doing their best. It pressures students away from learning for the joy of learning, and towards learning as a chore.

3) Senioritis only exists in the minds of the senior.

Luckily, there is no physical symptom of senioritis, nor is there any physical causes. Instead, senioritis fully rests behind the motivation for a senior to go out there and actually learn something. For me, my problem is not with not having the motivation to learn, but instead, finding that the previous methods of learning were insufficient for real engagement in the topic. I’ve been trying to change up my regular habits in order to find a new normal, something that I can stay engaged in for a long time. There have been a couple patches of rough sailing, where I realize that my changes have been too radical or just not suitable for my time constraints, but in general, I have been more satisfied with myself. I’ve been able to read more and exercise more, two goals that I have had since the beginning of high school. And, I believe that I am still productive and engaged in class!

Even though this month is a time of both disappointment and joy for the graduating class of 2015, I want to encourage everyone to keep their heads up and look towards our future. Second semester senior year is not intended to be a tedious, “business as usual” doldrum as it seems to have become, but a time of intellectual excitement. It is when we seniors can truly take charge of our education and become better learners and better people.

[Review] The Greatest American Speeches

SpeechesBookI am a thinker. I am a writer, a scientist, a poet. I invent, propose, challenge, and contemplate. My weapons will never be from this physical body that is altogether far too weak, but instead, in the words that spew from my mouth and my fingers. Language is the only power that I hold in our world, where any person can attempt to persuade and beautify the world.

It is, therefore, quite odd to write a review for The Greatest American Speeches, a compilation of speeches throughout American history. How does one attempt to review the rhetoric of Lincoln’s famously short Gettysburg address, or of MLKs resounding dream? I shall not think it possible for me to attach judgment upon works that have changed history.

But these thinkers, like all thinkers before them, are always speaking with a purpose in mind. This book, unfolding from John Withrop’s acquittal of his post as Massachusetts’ Governor, to Rudy Giuliani’s testament of the tragedy in New York City, presents an evolution of speech. Not only does the syntax, structure, and rhetoric of the speakers change, so do the values and customs of their audience.  Tracing America’s history through these pivotal speeches, a modern audience finds truth and beauty in the many different arguments.

Yet, not every argument is beautiful from a modern perspective. Intermixed with calls for Women’s Rights and for true democratic change are speeches of fear and hate – McCarthy’s fear mongering of the Cold War and Nixon’s denial of Watergate can not and should not be marginalized for their message. Instead, this book embodies everything that language can do to a population. We can become inspired, excited, and motivated – or fearful, hateful, and despicable. Language is double-edged in all respects.

Studying the works of the greats of the past only presents the case for rightful and just arguments in the future. These eloquent presentations of the mind, drawing on inspirations from the entire civilization of thought, must be preserved and pushed forwards for our future. The only hope for peace is through discourse – even when it is discourse of horrific acts.

I am a thinker. We are all thinkers. Our nation are smart, intelligent thinkers. This world, every human being, has the capacity for intelligent thought and bright discourse. Let us draw upon our power as thinkers, and proceed forwards to make the world a better future.

[Backlink to Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1173078544]

Flick flick

Flick flick.

The LED lights flash for a moment before regaining their composure, reminding me of the storm. Working in the dead of the night helped me focus, but without any signal, it’s easy to tunnel vision into the screen in front of me.

Flick flick.

Hmm. Maybe I should check on that crummy wiring, the leftovers of a DIY install. Knew we should have gone with a professional electrician.

Flick flick, flick fli-BOOM

I visibly jump as the basement is plunged into darkness, and my laptop readjusts to having no AC power with a small chirp. “MOM, THE POWER IS OUT!” I shout, but my parents are asleep. Grabbing my phone, I thank Apple engineers for their flashlight and stumble upstairs into my bedroom.

Looking out the window, the entire world looks different. Behind a veil of rain, the sky seems brighter than ever before- and yet, more ominous. The common cornerstones of my cul-de-sac have vanished. The lamp at the corner, that was still a warm sodium glow in my freshmen year but has since been replaced with a reliable white LED, no longer illuminated the slinking shadow. My neighbors, whose small porch light was always on to welcome home the tired night shift family member I would sometimes catch opening the garage door past 3 am in my bouts of insomnia, had a dark doorway. Even the Christmas decorations on our porch, which have really been out there since two years ago but we never took down and just unplugged them but this year we didn’t even do that, were finally off. Everything was calm.

In my house, the familiar blue light of my iPhone docking station was dim. Instead of flashing a “TIME NOT SET” at me, it simply said… Nothing. I instinctively reach over for the touch sensitive lamp I bought with my mom at a garage sale a couple years back, but no matter how hard I hit it, it doesn’t spring to life. Everything was different.

A suddenly flash in the corner of my eye catches my attention, and I wheel around just in time to catch another bolt of lightening. Silently, it crashes through the murky darkness, jaggedly splitting the sky. The blue penstroke casts shadows on the familiar, momentarily stunning me with grace and beauty.

Even though I have lived here for the past four years, I have never seen this area plunged into darkness. With a sudden shift of perspective, everything was different. And then…

Flick flick. And the lights were back.

How much of the darkness would I remember? Is it possible, to recall an image of the silhouette and mysteries when light breaths through the landscape? Clearly, it wasn’t a dream- but why did the episode feel so hazy and helpless?

Plunging into darkness and then back into light, I saw how temperamental our world is. In the blink of an eye, everything we previously knew, gets turned upside down with a change in perspective. 2015 is a year where I know these radical changes will come to be, but… All I can do is brace myself for whatever shadows and mysteries pop up.

Flick flick. Where will the next lights shine?

One Direction

It’s the end of an era: I’m currently free from most obligations. That is, I’m free of most obligations that I’ve had since entering high school. For once, I do not have mandatory research reports, nor any college essays to write. There aren’t deadlines that I’m staring into, nor huge projects that I should be stressing over. Heck, even my previous byline: “Musings from the IB” no longer applies because of the glorious fact that I’m no longer in IB!

Freedom can be quite intoxicating. Suddenly, there are no external factors commanding me to go anywhere. Conversation with my parents has turned from “Have you completed the project due tomorrow?” to “Uh… is there anything fun to do in Seattle?” I can do with my life whatever I want!

But, freedom can be intoxicating.

These past few days have not been the most productive. I completed a puzzle, read some poetry, typical stuff. However, there was something new, something I haven’t encountered for a very long time: Boredom. I started to recall the horribly stiffling summers in middle school, where I would need to stay at remarkably dull summer camps given the lack of stay-at-home parents. Back then, I would have to invent ways just to pass the time and watch each second slowly, leisurely, saunter by.

With the duties of school and internship, these fits of boredom have been very lacking over the past four years. It seems as if every moment is filled with some urgent business to be taken care of, or at least something that I have been putting off. But now, the boredom returns. Or does it?

Boredom truly is a state of the mind. I’ve found that as soon as I decided to focus myself in one direction, it slowly fades into the background. By becoming absorbed into a task, I know that I will learn something useful, or at least have a good story to tell! As long as I’m able to find a topic that I’m interested in learning , I am happy.

Today, that joy is figuring out how my DSLR camera work. Yesterday, it was playing with github and learning how to use these bash shells. The day before, I was exploring a little bit of the kickstarter economy, and why things are related together. My daily directions don’t really seem connected, but they all push me forwards to do something and to learn something. I refuse to sit down, idly browsing through Epic Rap Battles or these horrifically addicting idle games. I will must learn.

 

oned

Here’s your bloody One Direction photo for those who came seeking it. Blehapowefh

 

20,541 Days Reaching For Space

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/12/5200-days-in-space/383510/

I rarely recommend articles, usually because I’m interested in things that most people are not into. For example, a Chinese spy ring, fixing complex governments through less rules and more ethics, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and public bathrooms. However, there is one topic that I’m more than happy to force upon my friends:

SPACEFor me, it’s always fascinating how much there is to explore in the upper reaches of our atmosphere, and how much potential there is for growth. There will always be another frontier, another problem to be solved. It’s where the greatest navigation is combined with super science and engineering. While reading through historical science documents and growths, I just can’t help but feel empowered by all that humanity has done, together.

It has been twenty thousand, five hundred and forty one days since President Eisenhower has signed the  National Aeronautics and Space Act  in 1958. 947 days until Alan Shephard became the first US citizen to reach space. 3941 days until Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. 5339 days until the first US space lab, Skynet, was put into orbit. 8229 days until the first flight of the Space Shuttle. 11528 days until the Hubble Space Telescope began bringing us pictures clear of atmospheric distortion. 14165 days until the first rover began exploring Mars. 15373 days until the first permanent crew boarded the International Space Station, beginning semi-permanent presence in space.  20519 days until Orion, the next generation of spacecraft, launched on top of Delta IV heavys.

Every single day, there are teams of scientists, engineers, mechanics, astronauts, trainers, and everyone else working to put us further out there, reaching the next destination. Sometimes, we forget about them; the extraordinary can seem ordinary when it happens so often. Yet, they are the ones pushing humanity into the future.

I leave you with a line from Walt Whitman, who lived through the final period of exploration on Earth.

Chant on—sail on—bear o’er the boundless blue, from me, to every shore,

This song for mariners and all their ships.

The Difference

I’ve heard that happiness can be defined as the difference between expectations and realities. For instance: You expect to get a C on an exam and instead earn an A-. Big smile on your face. You expect to be considered for a promotion, but is instead asked to work as subordinate for a coworker who you swear surfs Facebook every day. Not so great. Pretty clear cut principle, right?

If I want to maximize happiness according to this idea, it is pretty obvious what I should be doing. Because I can’t control the outcome every time, it is easier and more useful to just reduce my expectations about events or ideas. Therefore, instead of seeing my expectations not live up to the reality, I am pleasantly surprised by what results.

I’ve been considering this idea more over this past start of the school year than before, perhaps because of college admissions, perhaps because of high school. Over the summer, I had the wildest and best hopes for this school year. It would be my senior year, with interesting and exciting mathematics, psychology, design tech, and university courses! I would finally get away from the tedious nature of the IB, and get into something that I could really sink my teeth into.

But life doesn’t work in that way.

Start of the year, I find out that we have new teachers, new schedules, and a school that felt so different than before. Everything was familiar yet foreign at the same time, and I wasn’t sure entirely what to think. There were more tedious assignments than I had considered to be possible, and the atmosphere was nowhere near what I expected.

I was rather crushed for some time, realizing that I had fallen victim to ridiculously high expectations once again. If only I had come into high school expecting nothing….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Today, I attended a leadership conference regarding sportsmanship, but in the opening minutes, realized something entirely different. The speaker on the video was discussing about visions and mission statements, oddly synchronized with the Business Management curriculum I had been studying earlier. Gotta hand it to them – motivational speakers certainly do know how to deliver to an audience! One of his main points was that as a leader, your vision is the unseen hand that guides all of your actions. If you have that image in your mind, you can direct others to greatness.

And I was like….

Woah…..

Because this means that leaders not only have to be the most optimistic people in the group, they also have to be willing to suffer the biggest disappointments. Even if an event goes perfectly, there are always little minor issues that leaders would pick up on, that they would say could improve by next week. And when an event flops, the leaders are blamed for the issue, both from others and by themselves. The difference between reality and expectation is almost always negative, no matter what happens.

Does this mean that leaders are never happy?

For some time now, I had adopted the philosophy of “Expect the best, plan for the worst” to avoid major pitfalls. But what really had happened was “Expect a crappy situation, plan for a even worse situation”. Reflecting, I haven’t been a proper leader for some time now, in terms of attitude. It may have taken 3 years, but I finally understand the difference between leaders and everyone else. Leaders are brave enough to put crazy ideas out there, and pragmatic enough to see them realized. They are willing to suffer great personal injury, yet strong enough to continue authentically maintaining a positive outlook. Leaders want to build others up, and make a vision come true.

Thankfully, it’s not too late for me. No more forced smiles. No more hidden dejection. I’m going to be a positive force in this school, and in this community. I still have time remaining at Interlake, and I definitely expect to use all the resources I have to make it positive for everyone, starting with my own attitude!

 

 

Full Circle Now

The scattering of light is one of my favorite optical phenomena. Typically, the color of the sky is caused by Rayleigh scattering, where most of the long wavelengths of light are scattered out, leaving only he purples and blues. Due to the way that out eyes have developed, we are especially sensitive to yellows, making the sky it’s distinctive blue shade.
Sunset behind trees

Sunset at Mohave Point, 8/7/14

But, we don’t live in the world of a kindergartner’s painting, where the grass is all green, the sun a yellow ball, and the sky a scribbled blue crayon. Instead, there are nuances and depth to the sky- especially at the special times of sunrise and sunset. As the sun emerges from below the horizon, its light creeps through the atmosphere. The differing amounts of atmosphere that the light passes through determines the final wavelength of light perceived, creating an awe inspiring rainbow. More than just the colors, sunrise and sunsets have deep symbolic meanings- arousing powerful memories and emotions.

Sitting at Yaki Point this morning, on the Eastern side of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, I was fortunate enough to witness another sunrise. Seeing the sky slowly change from the star-speckled black to dim blue set the stage for the red and green lines to be seen. Soon, a yolk-yellow sun began to crack over Shiva Temple, and the cracks of the canyon were painted gorgeous hues of youthful yellows, brick reds, and vibrant purples. I gazed into the majesty of nature, and finally began to weep.

The last sunrise and sunset that I’ve seen was on one of the most emotional and heartbreaking days of my young life: the last night of SSP. My first all-nighter was filled with stories, memories, star-gazing, picture taking, raw ramen eating, song signing, half-drunk-on-no-sleep chats, last minute rock climbing, blankets, hugs, hugs, tears, tears, tears. It’s still a bit painful in my chest to talk about, because it was the last time that we 36 people were together for this program. Even in reunions and meet-ups in the future, we would be different people with different ideas in our heads. The ideas and concept of the SSP family was ending that night, and none of us wanted to let go.

In our last hours together, we smuggled blankets to The Rock and sat together in quiet muttered conversation. It was my first time observing that sunrise is not a spontaneous change, but a slow gradual melding of colors. Surrounded by true friends and watching the stars blink out, one by one, I was content. Through the past five and a half weeks, I’ve learned and discovered so much about myself, and I have found so many people who I could count on. I’ve discovered so many inside jokes and shared frustrations, as well as late night secrets and daytime joys. In short, I found home.

But it was all coming to a close. And that ending was in my mind as I observed the ending of our family trip as well. Through the past several blogs, I’ve been focusing on SSP experiences and the nature around me, but at the same time, I’ve been surrounded by family. My loving parents, who have supported and sponsored me every step of the way, as well as my slightly eccentric grandparents who love me so much. We have been on an incredible 10 day road trip across the southwest, seeing so many diverse sights and adventuring in the wonders of America. Yet, this trip was too concluding along with the end of my summer, the end of an experience.

As sad as goodbyes are, they bring in something equally inspiring- hope. Hope in that my scattered friends will always stay in touch. Hope in the application of our scientific knowledge to change the world. Hope in the days to come, hope in our shared future. As said by another SSPer from New Mexico,

“Yesterday, while everyone was bawling their eyes out, I started tearing up myself. Not because I was sad, but because our futures were so damn bright.”
~ Kevin Lee

Sunsets and sunrises represent a cycle of life. They promise that the world will continue to spin, and that life moves on. Nothing happens the same way twice- there are new adventures out there. One thing is for sure: these past weeks will be in my memory forever. I am changed. I will stay changed. And though it has been said posted, here is For Good again.

Today, I look out across the asphalt strip of Interstate 40. I look towards the fluffy cumulus clouds above, and the miles of untouched desert to my right. The world is my oyster, my textbook, my adventure, and now more than ever I am ready to carpe diem. I’ve come full circle on this journey, and nothing can stop me now.

He Dances

He dances.
She laughs.

 

She curtsies.
He beams.

 

He motions,
she accepts.

They twirl. We sing.

 

It slows, he reaches,

 

She leaves.
He sits.

 

She’s left.
He thinks.

 

She’s left.
He cries.

 

She’s gone.
He stands.

 

He waits.

 

He waits.

 

He dances.

Life in the Desert

Driving along Interstate 40 in the state of Arizona, it is very difficult to imagine how all the vegetation around you came to be. The road passes through a remarkably flat and open plain, yet I get the slight sense of claustrophobia as the mountains cup us in from all sides. There are no rivers to be seen, and the sky is a deep and penetrating blue, no cloud in the sky. As a balmy 85 degree wind blows past, it blows my mind to think that anything can not only survive in these conditions, but perhaps even prosper.

Mojave Desert

It’s the Mojave Desert!

Even in what I perceive to be remarkably harsh conditions, nature has found a niche of flora and fauna, somehow struggling against the sun. The trees here look healthy, albeit stunted, and there is wild grass along the roadside. This wildlife must have adapted over thousands of years in order to get to where it is today.

As I look out into where life prospers, I can’t help but be reminded of my friends from SSP. Like the baking sun and the harsh winds, the curriculum and stresses of SSP has shaped who all 36 of us are today, hopefully for the better. We have all had to adapt to this new environment of long lectures and tough problem sets, and somehow we came out of it, hopefully more knowledgable than ever before.

But not only have we adapted, I like to think that the bonds of friendship have been strengthened. None of us could have made it on our own; it was by collaboration and teamwork that we did an orbit determination, and it will be collaboration and teamwork that we will remember in the future.

On the horizon, where the mountain meets the sky, I’m startled to see clouds. Clouds arising from the earth- perhaps smoke? No, as we drive closer and closer, it’s not just one plume of smoke, it is column after column- one bonafide (or bonfire?) wildfire. I face the mountains in awe, as the colors of the fire – white at the tops of the columns, descending into gray haze before tinges of orange and red can barely be seen- wash over my face. Nature hath created, and nature hath destroyed.

 

A wildfire in the Grand Canyon!

A wild wildfire appeared!

 

But the fire reminds me of a telling story from Sequoia National Park. After the national park was created, rangers worked hard to prevent fires from breaking out, of both natural and artificial origins. Instead of helping the giants prosper, preventing fires caused the  forest to wither. No new seedlings took root, and dense brush overcrowded the ground. It was much later that scientists realized the benefits of fires to the forest ecosystem, how it kept the ground clear and allowed for seeds to emerge from pine cones. What seems destructive to humans, nature uses for its own purposes of growth.

The friendships I have made over the last five and a half weeks were tempered by fire and pain. They were bred out of common interests and common enemies- the problem sets, programming homework, observations, JAAAAAAAAAMES(jk)- and I hope that because of these, my friendships will survive when others may crumble. I believe that we will be reunited again, perhaps to face greater global problems and prove, once again, that life prospers under tough conditions.