High School Reflections

There’s so much stuff swimming through my head right now. So much things that I want to cover, so much things I feel like I need to share.

It’s so hard to stay focused. It kinda feels like I’m sitting in some sort of office chair with a therapist, and I just don’t know where to start. When it does come out, it justs comes out in outbursts and waves, all jibbered and mashed up.

I guess I’ll start with high school given that I graduated this year and that I just read ethan cheng’s reflections again and want to offer my own perspective.

I come from the same school and a similar background. In my early years of school, I pretty much blew through the elementary and middle school curriculum with relative ease. Even during periods of boredom and depression, my grades never severely dropped to the extent to which I had reason to be significantly worried.

When I took the SHSAT and barely made the cutoff to get into Stuyvesant, I was joyed because my parents were joyed. I got to spend the summer relatively happy because they were happy.

I remember attending the Stuy orientation and looking around at the kids in my homeroom, just thinking just by appearance, that these people would be easy to cream (look what that got you middle school judgemental me).

I came from relatively small schools with relatively low commute times, so going to a sink or swim environment at 6am in the morning was a total gamechanger (I’m pretty sure I have some degree of SAD).

The feeling I got most from Stuy was frustration. After the grind began to settle in, my willpower slowly started to diminish.

There always seemed to be one or two problem classes. If I fixed it up, it would be at the expense of another one or two classes. It got so ridiculous that I even created a metaphor for it: an insurmountable tidal flood and a dike. Whenever I plugged one hole, the pressure would just find somewhere else.

I shouldn’t pretend that I’m not at fault here though. As much time as I invested in school, I also spent way too much time catching up on baseball. I started devoting my weekends to hackathons and ctfs in sophomore year. I spent junior year invested in politics. If I made the choice to study up, be more organized, and fall into some sort of routinized daily structure, I could’ve been like the others.

I feel like I’m coming across as some sort of incessant whiner– after all, I’m at Binghamton University, which has a 42% acceptance rate (the college process conditioned me to automatically memorize acceptance rates guys rip). My uni is selective, has good research programs, and provides things like free student ambulances. It kinda feels like I’m being some sort of salty elitist, who hasn’t experienced true hardship yet.

That may very well be true. But consider this.

enters into segue about spending their whole life and wanting this like a stereotypical Asian, only to get rejected

That’s a joke. Maybe only partly a joke.

It was junior year when I had basically kinda given up on this whole school thing. The thing that caused this? Email spam. I threw out the idea of getting and applying to any ivy league universities, given the rate that they were encouraging me to apply. It was kinda obvious that I wasn’t going to get in, with my grades and background and such, and that I was merely a tool to increase their selectivity statistic. I really doubled down on personal projects and just building stuff, in anticipation of getting a job somewhere in CS, rather than focusing on a university.

But of course, on college acceptance day, when everybody was wearing their shirts and updating their facebook status pages, I kinda felt cornered and ashamed. Once again, this is entirely on me. But the feeling of peer pressure to follow this model of sacrificing your life, health, and in some cases, morality, (unless you were a genius, which is indeed completely valid) just felt so overwhelming.

Marina Keegan has a less well known piece (Even Artichokes Have Doubts) about Ivy League Universities and consulting. The Atlantic has a piece (Why Do So Many Ivy League Grads Go To Wall Street?) on the connection between these universities and Wall Street. In both cases, these people, whatever major they’re in, and whatever skills they have, are effectively peer pressured into industries they never cared about or would never think they’d be in four years ago.

That’s kinda how I felt in that moment. 4 years ago, I’m sure that the classmates that I left behind (the Stuy rejects) nonetheless, felt something similar.

Kafka has an interesting parable involving doors that I feel is somewhat tangentially related to all of this. Life is just full of waiting rooms, with doors, and for most people, you’re just waiting for that door to open to enter the next waiting room.

This was intended as a metaphor for bureaucracy, but I think it can apply here too.

I feel like this really is the case for that track that I originally aspired to, and most of my classmates are still on. I’m sure that many of them will still have full satisfying lives in some fashion or format. I’m not trying to blanket them or discredit them in any way. I’m not salty (ok, I still am, but that isn’t the point of this). I just feel like there’s just something inherently wrong with being so smart, having so much potential, only to waste? (not sure if that’s the right term; to be specific, this only applies to the non-genius people) it by caving into social pressure, and doing something they never had any intention of doing.