don’t let your younger self be wiser than your present self: revisiting important lessons

Reading some of my college admissions essays reminded me of how damn good of a writer I was in high school, and it also reminded me of the lessons I’ve learned since then. Sadly, I’ve subsequently forgotten many of them, but here are a few that came to mind this morning as I finished the first 2 weeks of my senior year and finally have a pulse on what I can expect to be the hectic and more relaxing moments of my weeks.
  • Don’t do [x] because you CAN / have the opportunity and capacity to do so, do [x] because it matters to you.
  • Don’t scroll aimlessly through Facebook. STICK TO YOUR SCHEDULE AND LEAVE NO OPPORTUNITY to scroll aimlessly through Facebook to avoid work. You KNOW that scrolling is an impulse inThere’s a reason the Facebook app is hidden away in a nested folder, and your GRE vocab is front and center, so you can scroll through that when you’re bored and at least get something out of it 😉
  • An important part of learning from any experience is having the time to document your thoughts on it.
  • Get shit done, right away, but at the same time, don’t let small, unimportant tasks distract you from urgent, more difficult task. It’s so tempting to do small, unimportant tasks because they give you a small sense of gratification that ultimately makes you feel deceptively at peace when there is actually something more pressing looming in front of you.
  • Have a 1-1 conversation with every prof at the beginning of the semester before you need help and/or didn’t do well on a test. Speaking to them for the first time when you are stressed just makes you associate seeing that prof with stress. Remember, you don’t need an intellectual agenda to see a prof! Feeling more familiar with a prof makes you more invested into the class and feel less of a barrier to get help as SOON as you need it.
  • There are so many reasons that you could feel that you ‘hate’ something in the moment:
    • maybe you’re not aware of what you don’t understand,
    • maybe you happen to always in a bad mood when you happen to start studying for a particular class because the preceding activity is predictably frustrating
    • maybe you need to change your schedule so you can review previous notes for a class before going into class, or review the notes from that class after class ends.
    • Address those issues!!
  • Waking up 10 minutes earlier than you have to does wonders for mental health – don’t start your day in a frenzy!!
  • Don’t let important reflections go to waste by not living according to the truths you’ve realized about yourself and the world.
don’t let your younger self be wiser than your present self: revisiting important lessons
“When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. “This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar,” she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. “My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.”

It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions? How often had I sped past them as I learned of male achievement and men’s place in the history books? Then I read Rosalind Miles’s book “The Women’s History of the World” (recently republished as “Who Cooked the Last Supper?”) and I knew I needed to look again. History is full of fabulous females who have been systematically ignored, forgotten or simply written out of the records. They’re not all saints, they’re not all geniuses, but they do deserve remembering.”

– Sandi Toksvig, ‘Top 10 unsung heroines’

“extroverted” introvert

Last night, I asked my brother what he thinks others would be most surprised to learn about me, and I expected, he answered, “the fact that you’re actually an introvert.”

Because I’ve so often received this response, I decided to think through why my perceived/projected extroversion is actually a natural extension of my introversion (and other qualities and life experiences).

  1. Biological limitations: I think that one’s position on the introversion/extroversion spectrum is, in-part, biologically determined. After being with big groups for a bit, and before I’m intellectually tired, my body’s energy is depleting rapidly and begging me to be alone for a while. The biological threshold of stimulation required to exhaust me can be quite low, and so I try to make the very most of the moments when I actually have energy to be with people.
  2. Being used to jam-packed conversations: None of my best friends went to high school with me, so when I saw them, it was a race against time to catch up and ask each other lots of questions to help each other figure out the things we were going through. We’d all exhausted by the end and need to go take a nap or read a book on our own (lol) but those conversations were precious and needed in our friendships. (Maybe putting so much effort into these conversations is another reason I’m so exhausted after even individual conversations…haha)
  3. Control over the limited social interaction I can take before I pass out: I absolutely cannot stand small talk (which is something many introverts express and many extroverts don’t identify with), and also know exactly what particular types of conversations I enjoy and thrive in, so asking questions and directing the conversation are ways for me to steer the conversation in the ways that I want.
  4. Curiosity: People — their thoughts, experiences, quirks, and what they know — fascinate me, and there’s so much anyone can offer me to satiate my curiosity. More specifically, through looking at colleges and interviewing for jobs, I’ve come to realize HOW MUCH invaluable information one can learn through conversing with the right people and directing an informative conversation. I am very, very intentional with the decisions that I make, so committing to a college or a job was a very big deal that required a lot of thinking. And often, the only way I could get the answers I needed was by approaching college admissions officers and recruiters and having extensive, probing conversations with them. (Furthermore, there’s no better way to build a memorable/meaningful rapport with someone than by having a great conversation with him/her.)



“extroverted” introvert

human dignity

on the way home from work today, I stepped into the bus, scanned each row for an empty seat, and noticed that there were 3 larger individuals who each had no one sitting next to them. I was pretty tired and wanted to read, so I indicated to one of them, a woman, my intention to sit

she sheepishly shoved herself closer to the window, closing her body away from me as I carefully pinned my body to the inside of the outer armrest of the row of seats

I immediately wondered if I made her feel repulsive by trying not to touch her, that I was irritated by the fact that she was taking up her seat and a bit of my own too

I thought about whether she felt more anxious about now needing to be cognizant of not pressing into my space,

or whether she was relieved that I sat next to her and didn’t gauge her as someone so large that we couldn’t fit in the row together


human dignity — how could I have best honored hers?




human dignity

The Kuleshov Effect of Traveling

Movie-watching is far from a passive activity; movies are images in sequence that engage viewers in inferring causation between individual elements.

One of the most important principles in filmmaking is the Kuleshov effect. Filmmaker Lev Kuleshov once edited a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of man was alternated with various other shots, including a girl in a coffin, a bowl of soup, and a woman on a divan. Although the audience believed that the man’s expression was different each time, the footage of the man was the same each time.

Kuleshov used the experiment to indicate the effectiveness of film editing: not only did viewers impose their own emotional reactions onto this sequence of images, but they also imposed those reactions to the man in the footage. Today, I’d like to explain how this “Kuleshov effect” has not only manifested in the movies I watch, but also in my daily life. To do so, I’d like to tell you a story about flying from Stockholm to Budapest with a desperately stretched bladder.

With one final heave, I lug my stubborn luggage to the edge of the airstairs. As I trudged up the stairs to the plane, I started to regret chugging a liter of water at security. Getting through to Sweden’s Skavsta airport had been tough; my boarding pass proved that I had checked in a week in advance, but the airport computer systems couldn’t recognize my boarding pass, so I suffered the shaky wifi to redownload the WizzAir app in hopes that I’d find my updated boarding pass. When I finally had my boarding card in hand, I sprinted to the security line, pulled out my liter-bottle of water, and, seeing that the line was quite short and that I did not have time to finish drinking the water, I started dumping the remaining water into the trashcan. As soon as the first drops of water splashed into the trashcan, everyone in line turned to stare at me, this rude, ignorant, and tactless American. I was way too exhausted to figure out where I could properly dispose of my water, so to the horror of everyone (my bladder included), I chugged the entire liter. I stumbled through security victoriously, but felt dizzy and desperate to board the plane and use the lavatory ASAP.


Aboard the plane, with my bladder stretched to its limits, I had to face yet another set of challenges: finding my seat, freeing my arm of my luggage, and then maneuvering to the back of the plane to use the lavatory. To my relief, because I was one of the last to board the plane, everyone was already seated, and I was close to the back of the airplane. As I asked the couple in my row to help me shove my luggage into the overhead bin, I eyed the back of the plane. No line. Success was imminent.


I turned to the couple, who stood between me and the lavatory to help me put my luggage in the overhead cabin, and I quickly sputtered “thank you for helping me put up my luggage; I’m going to the lavatory really quickly so it’s up to you whether you want to sit down now or stay in the aisle so you don’t have to sit down and then get up again after 2 minutes.”


The woman was well-dressed, and her piercing blue eyes glared judgmentally at me as she slowly but curtly insisted — no, you can’t go there. Sit down.

As this unbudging barrier blocked my way to the lavatory, my bladder died a little more. I had no idea why this was such a big deal to her — why this inconvenience was such a big ask, why she didn’t even want to consider it. I concealed my frustration as I sat down facing my window, not wanting to make eye contact with the pretentious lady who would be the cause of my suffering throughout the flight. And given my pride, I would surely rather suffer a screaming bladder than to ask again to use the lavatory.


As my bladder literally seeped itself in anger, I tried to do work and sleep a little. However, all I could think about was the liter of water that begged to be released, and wasn’t released. Because of her.


Sometime during my half-hearted nap, I awoke because the couple was stirring and the man got up to use the lavatory. I immediately followed suit. But when I returned to my seat and scuffled back into my window seat, the well-dressed woman, whose piercing blue eyes once glared judgmentally at me, reached out her hand and said: “So sorry about earlier, my English no good, and this my first time on airplane, didn’t know somebody could be outside of their seat.”


“My English no good. First time on airplane. Didn’t know somebody could be outside their seat.” As I heard these words, my anger melted. She proceeded to chatter about how these plane tickets were a Christmas gift from her parents, about how she’s anxious to leave her darling children at home for the first time, about how she finally has an opportunity to wear her favorite coat… all while being completely oblivious to how paradigm-shifting this moment was for me. Still stunned about all the uncharitable and untenable qualities I had so briskly projected onto her, I smiled at this well-dressed woman, whose glimmering blue eyes expressed all the excitement I’ve ever seen about traveling.


If my experience of the flight was like a film, the shot of her refusing to let me go to the bathroom was now placed beside the shot in which I learned that it was her first time traveling. This new sequence of images completely changed my interpretation of her refusal: instead of interpreting her refusal as rude, I understood it to be an honest mistake; instead of attributing haughty impatience to her brief reply, I understood that it could much more generously and accurately be attributed to her nervousness in speaking English.


Travelling places you side by side with people whose life situations and perspectives you may never otherwise encounter. Travel thus helps you nurture empathy: it edits the film of your internal reactions to incorporate and be influenced by different ways of seeing the world.




The Kuleshov Effect of Traveling

why I’m still a Christian

While others’ struggles with faith have originated from their doubts about theology or the historicity of the Bible, my struggles with faith center around my efforts to understand why pursuing God should be of central importance in my life. Thus, the most important moments in my faith journey are moments when I realize something new about why God is worth pursuing. I’ve approached this question by asking two other questions:

How can an understanding of God’s love address personal suffering?


This answer to this question informs my approach to the second question:

What is truly unique about how the Christian faith motivates people to live the life I strive to live, which is a life full of integrity, kindness, and service?

Throughout my life, I’ve come to realize that my failure — to understand God’s deeply personal and limitless love — insidiously governs my reactions and actions, and that this failure results in self-imposed suffering which, without God, I cannot absolve myself.

I suffer because I rely on outward affirmation for inward validation and peace. My striving for others’ attention and approval leads me to engage in an exhausting and endless audition to be known, acknowledged, and deserving of others’ love. This striving stems from a belief that it is the intelligent and capable people around me whose opinions about me can create opportunities I believe to be integral to a meaningful, happy life. Thus, I absolutely fear being unseen and unappreciated, and often feel insurmountably jealous when people choose others over me. I experience this jealousy because I know that humans’ love is a zero-sum game: people are all limited in their time and capacity to love. When Person A spends time with Person B, A isn’t giving me the attention and affirmation that Person B is receiving. I also incorrectly project this onto my understanding of God’s love — I often resent seeing God “love” and “bless” others more than he “loves” and “blesses” me.

Not only does this striving for outward affirmation hurt myself, but it also strains my friendships with people whom I want to love dearly. I become jealous of the people who ARE acknowledged and well-liked, and refuse to wholeheartedly love my friends when I am consumed by my jealousy of them. And what’s worst is that I can’t stop myself from being jealous of people even though I know that my jealousy is destroying my relationships with them.

The suffering I’ve described results from two things: 1) my belief that others’ approval can provide for me emotionally and be the ultimate provider of meaningful opportunities to actualize my passions, and 2) my not internalizing the personal and limitless love offered by God.

So what have I learned about God’s love this year, and how has that changed my reliance on others’ approval?

God’s love is deeply personalized: 

  • When reading the Bible, I’ve received comfort and guidance that is very specific to how I receive love and affirmation. This has enabled me to trust that God knows my innermost thoughts and cares to speak to me in a way that helps me understand Him. Not only does God know my innermost thoughts, but he also most thoroughly knows my abilities, effort, and passions, and He desires for me to have opportunities to actualize them fully.
  • The realization that God’s love is personal helps to absolve me of my dependence on others to affirm me and provide for my future: I feel so much less anxiety knowing that my life is in the control of an all-knowing and all-powerful God, and is not solely dependent on the opinions of those around me.

God’s love is limitless

  • God’s love is NOT like humans’ love — his love for __ or __ or __ does not detract from his love for me. God loves me in the unique ways in which He knows I need to be loved, and this is absolves me of the anxiety and jealousy I suffer when I look around and see all the different ways in which God is blessing those around me. Furthermore, not only does it enable me to not resent God when he blesses others, but it also motivates me to participate in His work of extending His love towards everyone.

Before understanding God’s deeply personal and limitless love, I strived desperately towards other sources of affirmation and provision and found them to be insufficient. My belief in this love has begun to heal me from my oppressive obsession with others’ opinions of me and the jealousy that can arise from seeing others be more “loved” and more “blessed” than I am.

This healing has also informs how I tackle the next question: What is truly unique about the Christian faith in terms of its teachings and how it motivates people to live moral, admirable lives?

I think that most religions tackle the big questions in life: who are we? How do we relate to a higher being? What is a good life? Although many different religions can inspire similar actions and values, I think what is most distinct about Christianity, and what gives Christianity the most power in compelling one to live morally, is what Christianity claims to be the fundamental intrinsic motivation for those actions.

Christianity claims our complete inability to earn God’s favor, and that God’s love for us is not predicated upon our ability to do so. The more I understand about His omniscience — especially despite the parts of me that are so unlikable — the more I am absolutely floored by the fact that the one who sees the depths of my wrongdoing still chose, chooses, and will continue to choose to love me. I believe that Christian “rules” are not arbitrary restrictions but are manifestations of His love, and Christian “rules” are derived from His intimate understanding of our weaknesses and His desire to protect us and guide us to live maximally fulfilling lives.

Thus, God desires for our obedience to be a natural response to the love that he shows us. While other religions preach that one must continue behaving well to continually earn God’s favor, Christianity 1) centers around a God who wants to love us in all the ways we hope to be loved, and Christianity 2) hopes that our knowledge of Him compels an intrinsic desire to live a life full of integrity, kindness, and service, as enabled by his commands.

So, in conclusion, I am still a Christian because I’ve come to more fully realize two things:

1) God’s love powerfully addresses my personal suffering. Thus, I want and need to internalize it so deeply that it governs all my reactions and actions.

2) The Christian faith provides the most compelling motivation to live a morally upright life because it teaches that abiding by God’s commands is a natural response to God’s love, a love that I’ve only begun to understand, and will strive to better understand throughout the rest of my life.

why I’m still a Christian