Monday, July 18, 2011

Into the Inferno

In a few short hours I will be on my way to one of the greatest journeys of my life.

Both my parents and I have been preparing for this journey ever since I was selected as one of the "chosen few" to venture out into the world and to the castle known as Yale to begin one of the hardest classes we will ever take. We had to absorb almost 4000 pages of reading, pack our belongings, and say goodbye to our friends and family for 3 weeks. Out of all of these preparations I did I thought that throughout this whole time the reading was the hardest thing to do, however after doing some reflection, I've realized that that isn't so.

All reading really required was that I put myself down in one spot, turn on my Kindle and read away. This was a relatively easy task that just consumed most of my days. Nothing truly arduous about it, in fact most of the reading was actually quite interesting. The books: Cyrus the Great, Genghis Khan, Never Eat Alone, and The Peloponnesian War were all interesting in their lessons. A whole new respect of the Mongul culture was thrust into my mind as I read about Genghis Khans life, Keith Ferrazzi's constant lesson of "network, network, and when you're done keep networking" echoes throughout my actions now, and perhaps most important of all I learned the qualities of great leaders such as Cyrus the Great.

I've always felt that physical obstacles, were never as hard to bypass as emotional ones. Friends & family have been there since Day 1 of my life. I've always had them to fall back on and to count on in the darkest hours. However I'm not going to have them during this trip. This harsh reality hit me this very day, as I was cruising Pinole with some of my best and oldest pals. We talked about my upcoming voyage, went around town, and basically just had fun. An overwhelming sense of nostalgia soon arose in the pit of my stomach. All of those fun memories I've shared with my friends, felt like it's all slipping away.

I don't want to leave behind all my loved ones for 3 weeks, but I know that I'll have to sooner or later. Here's another lesson from the ILC that I just learned. Whether by will or force you will have to separate bonds between yourself and the most important people in your life, either forever or for a set amount of time. This is the first time that I'm going to be without these people in my life for this long and I'm learning to use this experience as practice for when the big bullet comes. I'm a high school senior now, graduation is just around the corner. High school feels like a blur, and this blur is on the home stretch. It saddens me deeply to think about that now, but I take comfort in the fact that I can practice making new connections, and applying the skills I've learned throughout my reading in the upcoming weeks.

People have constantly been telling me that the Yale Ivy Scholars Program is the toughest class of them all. I've heard it said that I will have 12 hour work days, class almost every day of the week, and demanding tasks put before me that I will have to overcome. I've tacked many obstacles before in my life, but none as monstrous as this one before me now. However I've done my reading, I've done my packing, and I've even said goodbye to the ones I care about the most. I feel like I'm ready to take this beast by the horns. I'm ready to step into the inferno. Yale, here I come.

Embrace the Incoming Tide

I envision a wave.

Two months ago, that was just a faint line of foam in the distance. Now, it has picked up adrenaline - thundering towards us at a monstrous height. I am the amateur surfer - not too far from land but far enough that there was no turning back now - staring at this intimidating friend or foe, unaware what to anticipate. Tomorrow the tide will come - will I, as they would say, "hang ten", or wipe out? "Only time will tell" responds this overly-used cliche.
  1. Making Sacrifices: I can honestly say that in terms of leisure, this was not the summer for it. I had family from Hong Kong that stayed at my home for awhile; lots of recently-graduated high school seniors with lots of time to kill; and numerous hints by my father to take week off to have a family vacation. That could have been my summer but letting myself get carried away with the temptations of recreational activities would only make me regret my decision in the long run. 3,807 pages of reading do not read itself - especially between the timeline of mid-May to the very present mid-July. This was the heaviest reading assignment to date, and while some of the books were admittedly dry, I am glad that, for the most part, they were actually really intriguing texts. Plus, it does feel good to say that you are able to complete such a feat and have the evidence to back it up.
  2. Focus: The excitement I have for this upcoming trip is currently neutral (After all, if I was to get any sleep tonight, I best not go to bed restless and incredulously anxious). However, this is not to say that I am not very happy to finally be one day closer to departure. I worked hard all summer long to juggle all this reading alongside my other commitments. With bittersweet hesitation I turned down so many other possibilities - a journalism program at Princeton, art classes at the Academy of Art University SF, and/or a focused vacation dedicated strictly to studying for the ACT. I made my mind up that the YISP was my ultimate prize and I shut my mind off from drifting off to other things I could always pursue some other time. In short, whenever I caught myself taking too long of a break from reading, or worse yet - procrastinating - I remind myself: "are you really going to just give all this up, after all this work and time?"
  3. Learning from Experience: If there was anything I wanted to make sure I definitely get right for the Yale ISP program, it was packing. I got by just fine at Cornell last year with my slightly under-packed belongings, but I wanted to make sure that, for Yale, everything that I couldn't simply purchase at, say, a Walmart, was stored safely in my orange luggage case. Since the dress code for the the YISP program is a bit distinct - with business casual for the first part of class - a lot of thought had to be put into assembling my list of clothes to pack (I am beyond overjoyed that I started packing five days before - doing a little each day). I made sure to bring another lens and attachable strobe for my Olympus E-P1 camera. I made sure NOT to bring a mirror that I may just candidly stow in my suitcase and expect nothing more than shatter glass shards upon arrival (thankfully, the awful superstition did not carry through since I did have a very pleasant time at Cornell). Lastly, I made sure to be painstakingly detailed with my packing. I knew I simply could not deal with myself if I discovered that just one thing was left back at home after all this quadruple-checking.
  4. A Friendly Reminder About Health: If you're like me, capable of having all the work before you take over every aspect of your waking moment, than please do your body a very good favor and take this not stressed-enough advice. Your health is so important. "There's no use in being intelligent and hardworking if you do not even have the energy to carry out all your expectations and items on your agenda", my parents would tell me. I learned this lesson the hard way this previous year and I'm glad I now take greater precautions. An unexpected thyroid infection in May - causes still unknown by doctors - was my wake-up call to make recovery the first priority in my agenda under such circumstances. Finishing your work is important but not so much when you can barely stand from weakness or fatigue. That is why, for this program - the summit to my great climb up this summer mountain - I must make sure to avoid any rash undertakings that could get me horribly ill again. Because, as far as I know from recent experience, a one-month detour from your physical and mental best is a horrible, horrible road trip.
  5. Counting your Blessings: Before I sign off for the evening, I must express, not only my gratitude to all the individuals responsible for my attendance to this program, but also recognize just how fortunate my academic upbringing has been for someone like me. My passion to be well-rounded and pursue great education was instilled in me because I was fortunate enough to have certain teachers in my life growing up that believed in me. I am also very lucky to have supportive parents - maybe not financially or as often physically. They never attend Open House or Back-to-School Night because they cannot make time for it when they head off to work. They stopped helping me in math when I entered middle school because of time and lack of confidence to teach me. However, they continue to support my various interests. Although they love it when I get good grades, they tell me constantly that, they love it more that I get good grades but also personally enjoy what it is I'm doing. Many students in this school district alone do not have the lucky balance of supportive teachers and parents. For many, it's either a broken see-saw or, sadly but very real, no support from parents nor teachers. Friends may make a difference but having just one older individual express an earnest appreciation for who you are and trust in your capabilities can mean the world to a little kid growing up. I mean, if you really think about it, just imagine if every single child out there in the world had at least one adult they can truly trust and look up to. With so many young faces driven by inspiration and less self-doubt, there is less room on a sound path to venture off from. Therefore, I look back at my childhood often to remind myself just how fortunate I am. Had I not had Ms. Willis tell me how much she appreciated my writing to grant me a partial scholarship for a writing camp, or Mr. Stelle remark at how much he appreciated my complete assignments and time spent on them, there's no telling what kind of scholar I'd be today. Lastly, to the many people responsible for helping Matt, Tom, and I board our flight tomorrow for Philadelphia and later Yale University, I give a very heartfelt and sincere "thank you" once again. I never though this once Cornellian would get a second chance to further her academic interests but she's very excited to greet this upcoming tide - "hang ten" or not.
Good night Bay Area; I will miss you (partially) this upcoming two weeks and a half.