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.
  • Do your readings. At least skim them. Learned helplessness, which sooo easily creeps up on you when you get used to the idea of always feeling slightly behind in following discussions during class, is SO hard to overcome. Even if you skim your readings, try to come up with at least one question or comment you can bring up in class. Verbalizing something in class discussions REALLY helps you remember it, especially if 1) you can build your idea off of someone else’s idea, and 2) if you get immediate, direct feedback about it from your prof and classmates and are forced to re-explain or defend your idea on the spot.
  • Put mentor sessions in your calendar as soon as they’re scheduled, and do whatever you can to overcome any laziness or reluctance to go to them (I schedule meals in the dining hall closest to my upcoming mentor session just to
  • If you’re not done with homework, going to mentor session will surround you with other people who are doing work, which 1) hopefully spurs you out of your procrastination and 2) gives you many GREAT opportunities to verbalize your half-formed ideas with other people and iron out kinks in your understanding of a concept or learn new ways to solve a problem. Even if you’re done with homework, you could still go to check answers or explain a solution to someone else. Also, the sense of community that I’ve often developed in mentor sessions has really helped me realize that I am NEVER the only one struggling on an assignment, and it makes completing problem sets much more fun.
  • 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

Reminiscing on 4 Years at Stanford: Letter to Roommate

Can confirm this was pretty accurate 🙂

Dear Roommate,

The next four years will be our journey of getting to know each other, as we spend literally every moment of the day together. One question I must ask: do you like peaches? Because I love them! You may agree that not only are they delish, but they’re also very healthy, with lots of fibers to clean your digestive system, plenty of vitamin A to improve night vision, and water essential to living!

Why am I talking about peaches? Well, the peach is nature’s work, and nature is not perfect all the time. You never know how the peach will taste until you take the first bite. Even with the first bite, the next bites are drastically different and unique. A general idea of the peach from touch and smell is not enough to determine the succulence of the peach until you actually taste it. Similarly, you can watch me from afar and make small talk with me, but you’ll be quite surprised by your second, third, and even fourth impressions of me. On the outside, I appear timid and passive; in reality, I’m not afraid to raise my voice. I’m in love with my violin, but if you’re annoyed at my practicing at 1 o’clock in the morning—like when you take that sour bite—I’ll respect your need for sleep and stop. I myself am a really deep sleeper who rustles in her blanket, but if at dawn you whisper to me that you want to go running on campus, I will be out of my bed and changed in no time; you’ll be as surprised as when juice from the seemingly dry peach starts to run down your chin. Surely, these will be the sudden jerks and turns in your otherwise smooth journey of getting to know me, like a peach tasting sweet in the first bite but bitter in the second. In order to get a better sense of the peach’s taste, continue to “take a bite or two” into my character. Like peach fuzz, I will take every effort to make you feel homely and embrace our companionship. I look forward to an adventurous four years.


Da Eun Kim

Reminiscing on 4 Years at Stanford: Letter to Roommate