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Nice to see you all again :) 

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Reflections upon reflections 

NB to the NB: I’m not sure why this post was never published, but I am still proud of my writing from such a while ago, even if it is a bit too melodramatic… Hope you enjoy!

NB: A backlogged post from reflections prior to entering college. Written with a strong tone of Pirsig and an aftertaste of coffee. Enjoy.

Crystalline smooth surfaces have me staring at my face, even as I seek to gaze below the surface of the tranquil pond. The quiet of dawn, the inner peace found through nature, surrounds and calms me through and through. These past two weeks, I have been reflecting upon my past high school life, seeking to divine what the future has in store. But tonight, with the Perseids lighting up the sky, I reflect with peace and serenity.

Seattleites sure love talking about the weather, but it’s not hard to see why. The abruptness of a summer storm with dark beauty in its thundering clouds, sweeps over the region and raises petrichor from the ground. As the hail beats the dry caked ground, I look up in vain at the morose skies. Every astronomical event has been ruined by the glum Seattle atmosphere, every blood moon and meteor sighting. Now, just days away till I leave for a new haven, the clouds would block me out once more for the Perseids, a spectacular meteor shower made all-the-more better with the new moon. No matter. I would stay through the darkness, praying to catch a glimpse regardless of what I see right now.

Around 11, I get a message from David. “Hey did the meteor shower end?” he asks, just as I’m about to settle for a quick nap. “Not yet- hasn’t even started haha” I type back, hoping that he would be able to stay up and see these shooting stars. In a few more lines, my eyes widen. David is at Mount Rainier tonight, which is not only the most magnificently round dumpling in the Washington forests, but also the best dark sky area in the Pacific Northwest. Although jealous, I quickly guide him to the location of a star party at the Sunrise Visitor Center, hoping that he could get to witness this amazing experience. After all, that’s all I can do for all of my friends. All of us at Interlake have been together for such a long time that I have nothing but goodwill for each one of them as they journey forwards. I believe that Interlake doesn’t have the cutthroat competition that may be found in other top notch schools because we are all so intertwined in the stories that we have and the goals in our future. Now, as we scatter like dust upon the wind, I can no longer hold on to their comfort. But. I can always rely on them to surprise and cheer me up, in thousands of minute ways in the future.

I nap, trying to desperately charge my own batteries, but as 2 am swings by, I leap outwards. armed with sky charts and blankets, the inky black skies seem to invite me outwards with a gentle rustle and nip. The gloomy clouds have begun to clear up to become a truly beautiful night, the rare combination of new moon and clear skies. Perhaps the best that Seattle can ever get to. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, I drag out my telescope onto the driveway along with the armchair and hot tea. Might as well bring out the big guns! But as I lug the giant polished mirror, too awkward for a single person, I struggle and think of the difficulties ahead. In a few short days, I will be on my own, without any loving parent to assist me. As I painfully piece together the assembly in the dark, I think of how there have always been gentle hands guiding me in the past. And as I discover, to my great dismay, that I am now missing a small but crucial adaptor, I am reminded of the care that mom and dad always had when things didn’t succeed. I sigh, and slowly disassemble and lug each part back. This will just be a calm observational night, no fancy pictures.

I kick back into my lawn chair, strategically placed to block out streetlights with the. It is 2:45, and I calm myself down in a half meditative way. Sky watching is a whole lot like fishing- you never really know where the next meteor will come from, so all you can do is to get a feel for it. You sit and stare and try not to strain your eyes in any particular direction, because you know that while the center of your eyes are good for color detection, it’s the sides that are important now for bright streaks. Sitting still and not falling asleep in the dark, I elect for a period of silence.

Truly, I had done so much reflecting over the past summer. From family in China to friends in the US, every exchange is markedly predictable. Am I ready? Am I excited? And yet, even after answering these personal questions nearly by rote, I’m still not sure where my heart resides. There is just a small hiccup, where my perceptions of the world just mismatches with its reality. And so, quiet reflection has brought up those emotions bubbling to the surface once more. They rise and set continuously, of confusion and adrenaline, of anxiety and peace. Before long, I realize that they are all two faces of the same coin. Or are they the same face of two coins? Does it matter?

Slowly, lazily drifting, a speck of light moves across my field of vision, bringing me out of my stupor. It’s far too fast for any plane or star, but several magnitudes slower than any shooting star. I watch it with amazement as this dot represents a miracle in engineering. Humans have sent so many satellites into orbit that Low Earth Orbit is as crowded as I-405, but I am reminded of the first satellite. As Spurnik slowly pinged across the world, families looked up in amazement, as a bit of humanity, a bit of us, has joined the heavens above. The satellite- I think it’s the ISS judging from its speed and size- moves with purpose but deliberation. Each part of the behemoth structure knows what must be done to further humanity’s probes into the unknown. I can only hope that I can follow such an example. Would I be able to have that kind of nonstop attitude, even as the fire dies down? Could I be a consistently hardworking student? Most importantly, could I do good (not well)?

Without warning, a flash catches my eye. The first meteor of the night- a baby, lasting just a second. While small, the intensity startles me. In usual stargazing sessions, one never gets these beautiful streaks. This is because it’s only after midnight that the majority of meteors are visible, as the earth finally faces in the right direction. This was worth the wait.

Soon, another. And another. And yet another. They fall, not as plentiful as rain, but just sparse enough to make each one a treasure of its own. Each one has a different characteristic- some streak across the span of several constellations, while others are more like an Iridium flare than a comet. If only we could view our own lives as short as a shooting star- but in the grand scale, we occupy a far shorter fraction of time. Looking up, I see that there is no shooting star that is markedly better than another. Each brings a different type of joy, a different type of sweetness. But every one of them shines bright. Oh, so bright.

As my natural eyes wander from constellation, I also have a digital eye watching, ready to capture. 3 am and I stir from the chair, ready to set it up for some star trails. Because as the Earth turns, the fixed stars stand still, calmly pointing humanity forwards. Yet, we have the audacity to believe that we are fixed and they move. In a star trail, a time lapse is taken over the course of hours, and frame by frame, an outline emerges. It is a view that can only be gained with the progression of time. A capture of both time and space in one single compiled photo. It is beautiful. Some things cannot be seen in the moment; they take time to build and build, each step infinitesimally small but ultimately creating an incredible product. It’s been said that true genius is recognize potential in a seed, but I believe it is true wisdom to patiently nurture that seed into a great tree. Nothing can beat time- to heal, to mature, to grow.

All will come in due time.

The hour hand ticks past four, and a rustle emerges from the house. A bushy head of hair pops out the front door, squinting in the darkness. My dad, with his superb sleep schedule that better fits small islands in the Atlantic Ocean than Seattle, wakes up and checks on me. In another 10 minutes, he is bundled up too, coming out to this rare and beautiful night to gaze with me. We sit in silence, with interspersed oos and ahs as streaks pass by. There is no need for talk; enough is said in the silence. This is the man who has raised me, seen me through the good and the bad. No need for small talk here.

What more is to be said to someone who had heard it all? Leaving friends is sad; leaving family is impossible. No matter how much bickering will ever exist, their blood runs through my veins, hot and heavy. Wherever I go, their influence carried me along, making me think harder, push farther, and love deeper. My first teachers, counselors, and friends, my family is always here for me. And now I must leave them.

We stay up far later than we should, late enough to see the rising of a deep winter constellation in mid Fall. Orion rises from the East, chasing after those mystical creatures, on the eternal chase of the gods. His jeweled belt was the first I ever recognized, as a young and impressionable kid in Knoxville. That first memory, of finally looking up and just seeing it’s shape, has always stayed with me. There is not a sensation more powerful than the first time you feel the infinite vastness of the universe before your eyes, and here it comes again. This mythos had carried me far beyond my imagination. I give chase after their secrets, and in return, they provide infinite more questions to ponder.

But the rise of Orion is simultaneous with the rise of a star far better known. It is 5AM, and our sun starts to make its way up. There is much time before the orb of light and life peaks above the horizon, but already, it’s effects can be seen. The dimmest stars of Perseus and Auriga fade, so slowly that I doubt the integrity of my own eyes at first. But there is no stopping it. We do not doubt the rise of the sun for two reasons: it has risen a million times before, and that out science has shown the existence of a ball of fire that our little rock slowly revolves and rotates around. My educational training will bring me to more explanations of the latter variety, but I take solace in the former. This is how it has been done for millennia; this is how it will be done for millennia more.

The bleaching of the sky wipes the stars out one by one, slowly at first, then all at once until only the brightest remain. The night has ended with the might of the sun, but that’s alright too. A new day brings different challenges, not better or worse. Just different. There will always be another dusk to return to the memories of the night; there will always be another dawn to bring back light. Is my departure the sunset of one journey, or the sunrise of another? But that’s just semantics. My heart is at peace- and that is enough.

Just as I head in, one more flash surprises me. An ambitious shooting star has raced against the sun, and won. It was the longest streak I had seen all night- brilliant and proud, the meteor refuses to go quietly into the night. It will be seen; it will be!

This night etches itself into my memory with the sharpness of an Exacto knife. It cuts in with emotion and reality, commanding me to live life. All my reflections are in the skies above; all the heavens are mirrored in my thoughts. As long as there are stars in the sky and wonder in my heart, I will be fine.

I will live.
I will love.
I will reflect.

 

The Story of my Blog

2 million minutes have passed since the first post on this blog, marking a truly huge part of my own life. Over the last four years, I have grown so much in my personal life, and perhaps now – before I move on to the next chapter – I should examine everything that I have already done.

Blogging was an adventure for me from the start, when I was first finding my way around the internet in the mid 2000s. As a young child foolishly clicking through the 18+ agreements needed to create Facebooks, Bloggers, Gmail Beta accounts, the whole world suddenly seemed to get so much larger. Moving into an arena where I could see the writings of an astonishing variety of people inspired me to keep posting, even with nobody to really read through them. It was the excitement of learning how to touch-type and putting my writings into a forum where people could potentially(!) see them that drove me to keep writing.

I’ve since forgotten the address of my first, long-dead blog, and even my second and third experimental failures. Time after time, with different software and different hosts and even, briefly, different styles of fiction, I was unable to find the niche that could drive me forwards. In frustrating times, when it felt like I had nobody to talk to, I would try to turn towards writing down my thoughts, but found myself paralyzed by fear that some enemy would dredge that up and mock me. But, behind layers and layers of passwords, security, and anonymity, I finally started my shaky foray into the world of the blog.

Those early posts had the zeitgeist of a standard diary made digital. Inspired by Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Diary of Anne Frank, and to a much lesser extent, even Robinson Crusoe, I wanted to remember everything that I did. I would jot down the daily events of my life, add a bit of snarky commentary here and there, all peppered with profuse apologies of not posting enough. Looking back through those early days, I see a boy who was bored with the world around him and found writing as an escape from his own mind. The move from Knoxville to Seattle may not have truly been that much of a change in my social development, but for the first time, I was aware of how few people I knew and could talk to. For the first time, I yearned to have an audience.

The second semester of my 8th grade year was truly a transitional period for me, as I sought out new friends and new conversations to have. Trapped in a small apartment building away from the bustle of Factoria, I found and strengthened my voice by talking to myself. I became self-aware of my language, trying to inject self-referential and self-deprecating humor wherever I could. And then, static.

Jumping into the Gifted Class at Interlake was like drinking from a fire hose and for the first time in memory, I was busy interacting with people all the time. I finally saw Facebook as not a place to idly say “Chunyang is playoo” for vague reasons, but as a place to talk with my newfound friends. I was finding a place to fit in, and during that time, I didn’t need to chat with myself; I could chat with everyone around me. It was a glorious recognition of how I’ve changed since middle school and how I would continue to grow in the future.

But eventually, I would need to return to my own citadel of thoughts for quiet reflection. I rediscovered my WordPress blog in the end of 2012 and took towards writing with a new and unmatched passion. Over that summer and subsequent year, I started blogging in earnest from my phone, laptop, school computer, or any other device I could get my hands on. Some may say it was to impress a girl; some may say it was an outlet for IB stress. Regardless, my sophomore year blog started me on so many different paths of life, pushing myself to express ideas in ways that others could understand and relate to. It was because of my blog that I found out about Student Voice, and it was my blog that got me really looking into various types of poetic expressions. I’m proud of this era of my blog because I became unafraid of posting my thoughts to the world. Gone were the days of passwords and secrecy!

And so, my blog evolved to be my companion, a friend that I would talk to and plan out long drafts of my views. By writing often, I started to shape my believes and truly dissected why I believed what I did. It was the fun endeavor that was unique to myself, that not many others in my class seriously took on. I enjoyed dwelling in those thoughts between my other activities, like a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of constant emails or messages.

This past year, I’ve considerably marked down my blogging efforts, which seemed strange to me for a while. As I lay down to sleep, it would nag at my head – why does this senior, who clearly has much more time than an IB student, somehow have less time to blog and write? Today, I realize that the purpose of my blog was never because of when I had more time, but when I needed to reflect more or less. These days, many of the conversations that I would previously have with my blog, I have with my trusted friends and parents. I have the luxury of getting more involved into what I want to learn at all hours of the day, filling up any remaining free time with self-led research or readings.

To be perfectly honest, I have never been happier in my life.

And so, as my class looks to the future of college life, I also look towards the future of the story of my blog. I don’t know where my writing endeavors will take me in the future – if I will become more technical, focusing on specific issues or causes, or if I default back to a documentation of life in New Haven. Even the title of this blog must once again change – no longer would I live in Seattle. Does this mean I must abandon this blog for a new domain? It would be quite a shame now – this blog has become such a large part of my high school life, and to relegate it as only archival significance seems quite sad. But whatever may happen, I know that the story of my blog is only a small chapter of my life as a whole. The world will be moving forwards, and it is up to me to keep racing ahead.

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!