My Father

Written in eighth grade, randomly stumbled upon recently:

“I could’ve been someone,” my dad says. “The next Einstein or Newton, I could have made the next Google.” I believe him, and I tell him this.

He grew up in a small, poor town in China, but nevertheless got into the best university in the whole country at the age of 16. For four years of his high school life, he did nothing else but study, study so that he could get into the best university, so that he could get the best-paying job, so that he could have a good rest of his life. His hard work paid off though- he brought his whole family to America. If he had stayed in China, I wouldn’t even be alive, due to the law which restricts having more than one child.

My dad is the life of parties, the one who always is in the center of the spotlight. He’s the motor of the family, the backbone of his workplace. He comes up with the strangest ideas, like bicycling to work, or digging a hole to make a jacuzzi in the sand. When I have questions in math, I know who I should talk to. He’s always there, as sure as the next tick of a clock, as steady as the beat of a butterfly’s wings.

Sometimes I feel bad, like somehow I know that if he didn’t settle down and have a family, if he hadn’t spent so much time and energy into making the family function, then he could have been someone big.

But then I realize that maybe devoting one’s life to something that seems small, like raising a family and watching children grow up, can sometimes be better than being someone big.

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On Leadership

True leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a good leader. I used to think that a good leader was just someone who could complete a task without being excessively cruel or arrogant — someone who was respected through their actions.

This past couple of years, I’ve learned that leading a team through a task is a lot more complicated than doing the task itself. The task must be broken down, each piece delegated to a specific person or group of people, and then integrated together. For larger projects, this process must be repeated until the final task is completed. Most importantly, I learned that leadership is about understanding people.

Leadership isn’t just managing or leading by example, and it’s more than competence in completing tasks. It’s not doing things on your own — the whole point of leadership is to get people inspired and to help them become significant in determining the outcome of the project. It’s having a vision and knowing how to execute it. It’s being both reactive and proactive, and being one or more steps ahead of others in order to guide them in the right direction. It’s listening to and respecting all voices, but having the courage to make the final decision. A good leader is someone who doesn’t lead for the sake of leading, but with the passion for serving the team and cause.

This year, I want to focus on learning how to become the best leader of my ability. I want to lead with more charisma, assertiveness, and awareness. These qualities don’t come naturally, but I know I can do it.

On Worrying

One of the hardest yet most rewarding lessons I’ve learned is to only invest energy into things I can or have the potential to change.

When I was small, my family called me the “little grandma” because I loved to worry. Worrying and processing the world around me gave me a sense of control — if I had more knowledge of the world around me, I felt safer in moving towards my goals. For most of my life, my tendency to tread lightly has served me well and it’s become a large part of who I am.

But this past couple of years, there have been moments when my thoughts would consume me. I would think about something and not be able to let it go, playing it over and over in my head until it became a part of my existence. Worrying was a way to cope with external changes, but I realized that this constant churning was too draining. What used to give me a sense of control started to control me.

On another, external note: there are a lot messed up things in this world. People and animals get tortured and die every second. There’s so much pain in this world, but worrying about them doesn’t change a thing. It’s okay and even necessary to feel deeply about these injustices once in a while, but we also have to remember that there’s a delicate balance between being selfish and protecting our own mental health and wellbeing. Sometimes being “selfish” and apathetic in the short-term gives us more power to fix things in the future.

I can’t change other people. I can’t move mountains by thinking. But I can take action. I can embrace uncertainty, find comfort in not knowing, and trust in those around me. Life is long enough that these worries will be insignificant in the context of my existence, but it’s also short enough that I need to seize and make the best use of every minute.

On Our Limitations

We cannot imagine blistering cold in a desert of heat. We cannot imagine joy when we despair. We are limited to the moment and to our present states, and anyone who believes otherwise is simply delusional.

Our knowledge and understanding of the world is an infinitely small fraction of what there truly is. We think we know more than we do, and we form opinions on topics that we don’t even understand. Most of all, we seek meaning in a world where there is no inherent meaning. The world isn’t happy, sad, good, or bad. The world just is.

Despite, or even because of our limitations and our contradictions, I view humans as fascinating creatures. We are a product of evolution mixed with probability, and all of our basic needs have helped us survive as a species. All of the love, hate, longing, and despair we experience in our daily lives has evolved to keep us alive.

I often wonder — if there is a God, would the God be objective or subjective (or neither)? How could a being ever be completely objective? And how would it even be possible for God to be subjective, as thoughts contain subjectivity, and subjectivism is derived from feelings which are, in turn, derived from evolution? Did / does God evolve? And if God is “perfect,” does that mean he isn’t subjective, since perfection cannot be subjective? (Or can it? What even is perfection, and does it even exist?) Questions upon questions whirl in my head — not one discussed in Church, not one with a concrete answer (but that’s a different rant).

Sometimes I wish I could separate myself from my body and experiences to rid myself of these limitations (but would I still be “me,” without my body and experiences?). I want to take in the whole world at once, to feel everything yet nothing; and know everything, yet not know that I know anything. I want to strip my emotions from my thoughts, and to strip my thoughts from my consciousness — to become a higher conscious, perhaps. I don’t even want emotions or thoughts. I just want to know, to simply be.

I just finished reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, and in many ways, I could see myself in Siddhartha’s younger, less enlightened days. He thought (like I think) that we are all like ants, like children, always seeking but never finding. At the end of the novel, Siddhartha becomes Enlightened because he is at peace. He does this by using love and interconnectivity as a blanket answer to all of his questions. But to me, the book was too simple. Love is just an overrated emotion, not an answer to life’s biggest questions. Maybe I didn’t really understand the book — I’ll probably reread it when I’m less stressed out!

Sorry if this post didn’t make much sense. Honestly, it didn’t make much sense to me either. Also, sorry if it sounds overly pessimistic because that’s not my intention. I intend to interpret the world in a “real” way — not pessimistic or optimistic, but objective. But due to my limitations, I don’t think I can ever begin to understand the world objectively because subjectivity skews everything.

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.” — Sylvia Plath

In Defense of Melancholy

I look back on my childhood as a time of constant bliss. I remember asking my dad, “Why am I so happy all of the time?” There was just nothing to be sad about — I had love and support from my sister, my parents, my grandparents. I spun stories with my friends and lived my life in books, drinking knowledge. I had school, where I felt free to learn and grow. Life was so kind and I loved everything and everyone around me.

When I started to feel melancholy in middle school, I realized that seeming happy and carefree is directly linked to how much people like you. To a small extent, I molded my personality and even my thoughts to fit this realization.

Now, I no longer care to repress these periods of melancholiness when I feel the weight of the world. Nothing triggers it, and I still love life — but in a more deliberate, deeper way. I’ve become darker, more sensitive and empathetic. Feeling melancholy isn’t sadness in its entirety; it’s seeing the subtle shades of sadness interlocked with the joys in life. It’s seeing past the facade of bright lights and acknowledging the suffering beneath the smiles of those around us.

This feeling of melancholy has allowed me to reach in the inner parts of who I am and has helped me achieve a sense of peace. I have come to terms with the meaningless of our existence and the fragility of life, and through this acceptance, I have found a beautiful new appreciation of the world around me.

On Dehumanization and Idolization

Doing APUSH notes got me thinking a lot about dehumanization. We do it so often in the course of history, and it’s a large reason why people commit genocides, racist acts, and other atrocities. The more I thought about dehumanization, the more I realized that I do it on an opposite extreme in the form of idolization. My idealistic tendencies cause me to envision certain people as perfect beings, forgetting that people are hardly ever all good or all bad, they’re just everything at once. I also often make snap judgments of people (much like how Elizabeth Bennet does in Pride and Prejudice) and base my whole perception of them on a few data points.

Over the years, I’ve learned that celebrities, sociopaths, lovers, parents — whoever — are not all that different. We all have stories that deserve to be heard and respected, and we shouldn’t put people on pedestals or treat them as subhumans just because it’s easier to do so. Instead, we must strive to see the similarities in the depths of our characteristics while valuing our differences.