pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

Okay, strictly speaking it's not quite true that "life will be just fine". The Darwin Awards stories quickly put an end to that fantasy. Still, beyond a certain point, worry becomes counterproductive, and it's okay for me to trust my future self to do the best he can with the best I can give him.

This perspective might've helped me over the past year. Then again, while I already knew it on some level, believing it was always difficult. So maybe what I should do is add more data to the pool, for my future self and for those who come after me. Here are some of my regrets (is that the right word?), and the ensuing state of mind as well as I can reconstruct it from the outside...

And now I struggle to weave many threads into a coherent story... )
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

Sophomore year, I co-taught AP music theory for ESP's Delve program. I owe a lot to a much more competent coteacher and just-in-time formal instruction for anything I managed to achieve there.

That said, I had some problems. I struggled to get our two students to engage with the material (while one engaged his fingernail painfully with a folding desk). My more competent coteacher was in senior year and thus perpetually tired. My own energy felt like it was draining every Saturday when my parents brought my sister to Boston for NEC youth orchestra and I had to say, no, I wasn't going home because I had Delve the next day. By around February, I'd decided that I wouldn't teach again for Delve the next year.

At the end of April, when the next year's Delve directors were being nominated, at first it looked like there would be only one candidate. Having taught for the program, I voiced my concern:

  • me: Delve is a long program, and I think it'd be really hard to do it alone. Do you have a co-director in mind?
  • candidate: Not at the moment...
  • ESP chair: Hey, Andrew, I nominate you for Delve.
  • me: ...

Well, I got some encouragement from my friends. I rationalized that my sister would be coming here for college next year, so I'd feel less guilty about not going home on the weekends. Oh, and the original candidate had already been proven to be a much more competent director than I expected I could be, so I had backup.

I want to say I should have seen this coming, but it just doesn't seem reasonable... )
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

Hey, artists! Has anybody ever told you to "learn the rules before you break them"?

I think this is extremely poisonous advice.

As a young artist, it hurts to hear that your work has no value until you spend years learning the right way to do it. The implication that you should refrain from even trying until then is nothing but discouragement.

I've been there, heard that advice, and stubbornly blown it off. I'm pretty happy with the result.

How I finally learned the rules... )

If I may take a moment to preach to younger artists, I'll say this: go ahead and be adventurous. The rules are really helpful, but if you're serious, you'll inevitably learn them sometime, somehow. Until then, experimenting isn't going to do you harm and may even teach you something. (Don't worry about wasting ideas while you experiment; you'll get plenty of ideas in your life, and you can always come back to something you really like.)

EDIT 2010-07-23 00:00 - Content reordered for better flow.

pteromys: Wishing fluffies (ship)

Yesterday my freshman advisor asked me whether I intended to go on to grad school. Now, "intend" is an interesting way to say it—it's better than the more commonly used "plan". The problem with "plan" is that it connotes control of the future and knowledge of what to expect. Given the uncertainty of the future and the often vague nature of ambition, I'd say "plan" isn't the most accurate word to use.

Anyway, in addition to academics, ESP, and loving this place, I had quite a few other ambitions, many of them unfulfilled. Oh, well. That's what summer is for, right?

For once my summer is almost totally blank. (Sadly, that also means no Mathcamp. My sister's going, though, and there's a small chance that I'll end up visiting.) It's a little scary with no job and no research program, especially when everybody else seems to have at least one of the two. Even though I've felt the need of an empty summer for a while now, I remain worried that it'll make me look lazy.

Considering it a different way, I feel excited; I haven't had this much unscheduled summer in years. It has therefore quickly lost its blankness as I've eagerly planned—no, "fantasized" is a better word—where my time will be spent:

  • Going to ARML as a coach (coaches' minion, more accurately)
  • Finishing "Stella Nova" and resuming other musical projects
  • Revisiting some math problems I haven't touched since Mathcamp
  • Fluffies
  • Preparing new classes for ESP
  • Reviving Melon Island
  • Learning OpenGL

Three months from now we'll be able to compare this fantasy to reality. Happy summer, everyone!

pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

With the conclusion of final exams (and therefore of the school year) comes a rush of emotions—happy memories, regrets, and some less easily categorized thoughts. Now, before the arrival of grades colors my feelings, I should take a moment to do that thing I do at the end of every school year.

Academically, I still seem to be afloat, even if not always satisfied with my work. I unfortunately still haven't overcome my fear of writing big, fat papers, but maybe I made some progress in that direction.

Outside of academics, almost everything (alas, music included) went on hold for ESP. See, going to Splash four years in a row gradually gave me the idea that one day I'd teach for it. Little did I know that I'd also end up teaching for half its other programs and starting to become one of its webmasters! I'm not totally satsified with my contributions (no surprise), but... it's been a real adventure, and I'm proud of what I've managed to do so far.

It's certainly been a different experience than I had in high school, and somehow it feels like I've enjoyed it a lot more. Much of it must be due to the exciting environment—this place and these people. As for the rest, perhaps I have myself to thank. At the beginning of the year I hoped that I would always love this place, and awareness of that hope somehow stayed with me all the while—even as I struggled through quantities of work on the same order of magnitude as what I faced in high school. Maybe that perspective was all I really needed.

pteromys: Wishing fluffies (ship)

I am about to leave for an orchestra concert tour in Europe, followed by Mathcamp (again). So that you're not all left in the dark about the past few months, I've attempted to summarize the year below. Other perspectives will follow if I can remember to post them.

This year began with college applications dominating our thoughts to the point of being an obsession. A hostile, divisive atmosphere of competition developed. We were competing against each other for places at the nation's best universities. We were competing for the right to boast about being admitted to an Ivy League school. We sorted and classified ourselves by the schools to which we intended to apply, and this became a measure of a student's worth. Going for early action or early decision earned extra points by this metric.

continues... )
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (toad)

There were a few things I didn't like about this year, chiefly that I had huge troubles keeping up with everything I wanted to do. Maybe I'm just really bad at managing my time. For instance, in spring, when I should have been outside marveling at buds and flowers and leaves and such, I was paying no attention to the life outside, but instead spending my time cooped up indoors writing essays and history papers, cramming for AP exams, and then botching final projects.

My music fell far short of my expected timelines this year. I've finished one piece, halted four, and canceled one, and the two with which I'm still working are about half a year behind schedule. At least I can say that one of these two is nearly done.

Lists of stuff )
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (ship)

So today was my last day as a Junior in high school. I'm ecstatic that it's over. Now it's time to get back to music, art, video games, astronomy, and whatever else I had been planning to do before all this homework.

As usual, I have summer assignments:

  • Two books to read (English)
  • A report to type on lab procedures and then some problems to work out (Chemistry)
  • Eight large pictures to paint or draw (Art)
It's the homework for art that has me scared silly. I mean, ow. That's a lot of stuff. Better start soon.

Yesterday was the last exam day, and I didn't actually have to go to school because I didn't have any exams left. I went anyway, for reasons not entirely clear to myself. By the end of the day, I was glad that I had attended, since I ran into people who (as I only realized once I talked to them) weren't coming today. So, I had a chance to say proper goodbyes and everything, which was nice. Saying my goodbyes was probably the most important part of these past two days.

Yeah, I know, even though I'll be e-mailing lots of these people all summer and seeing them again in the autumn, parting words are still a nice formality to observe.

I decided today that my farewell to my retiring French teacher would not be an Elvisfish1 drawn on his markerboard. I got really close to it, though. I was about to pick up the marker when I realized that I wouldn't have a chance to see his response. So instead I found his desk in the department office, and we chatted aimlessly for a few minutes.

Footnotes
  1. The Elvisfish is something of an inside joke. April Fools' is known as "Poisson d'avril" to the French. So every year, for this event, this teacher passes around little slips of paper with drawings of fish for us to slip into unsuspecting classmates' bags and stuff. Two years ago, I came up with the idea for Elvisfish while doodling on the back of one of these slips of paper, and I started giving drawings to some of my friends who were taking French. Last year, when this teacher left the room to get something at the beginning of class, I ran up to the markerboard, drew a huge Elvisfish (in green), and returned to my seat. He noticed a few minutes after he returned, and even though nobody told him, he clearly knew who had done it.
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