Daring to Disobey

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Rules lately.

Specifically the societal rules we surround ourselves with every day that go by unchallenged – sometimes for good reasons, othertimes not so much..

I guess this is a long winded, overly pedantic way of me trying to rationalise and explain why I feel so bad for dropping a class, when by all objective measures it would be the best course of action for me to take.

I don’t NEED to max out my course load and take 6 classes (18 credits) in one semester, in fact, I KNOW I would burn myself out a few weeks later when taking into consideration my commitment as a peer tutor (in both English and Science), my role as a student blogger, my non-credit German classes, my new role as an Equal Opportunity Student Ambassador, hall activities etc…

The list keeps building, yet there are only a finite number of hours in a day.

And as Malthus pointed out (paraphrasing to make an contrived metaphor):

As populations (workload) increase exponentially, while resources (time) grows linearly if at all, eventually you will reach competition and eventually, collapse.

Yet it feels a bit… wrong to do so.

Like I have just given up when this is pretty much exactly what add-drop period is made for.

I’m not sure where this feeling comes from really.

I could go with the classic “Asian Parent” excuse, but that is just that, an excuse not a reason.

I guess it is the fear of being left behind. 

Everyday, you are surrounded by messages of supposed encouragement:

  • “Push Yourself!”
  • “Don’t let dreams just be dreams”
  • “Shoot for the stars!”
  • “XYZ famous person made it while living in a college dorm at [so and so] famous university, why can’t you?”

It all creates an atmosphere of “Is that all you CAN do?”, when the more pertinent question is “SHOULD I do more?”.

And, although it sounds much less inspirational…

Sometimes the answer is NO.

Sometimes the correct solution isn’t to keep on going with reckless abandon til you crash, it is to slow down a bit, perfect what you have, then SLOWLY ramp up the speed.

Right now my gut is telling me slow the F- down.

So I am daring to disobey what society often expects of university students, and taking the time I would spend in an extra class + tutorial + homework to sharpen my skills as a whole.

To look for opportunities outside of the classroom such as volunteer work

And above all, to just prove to myself that I am in control of my own destiny and which path I decide to take is mine, and mine alone, to make.

Because sometimes it is okay to buck the trend and do your own thing.

In the words of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken (emphasis mine):

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And besides, great scores in 5 classes > okay scores in 6, GPA wise. 😛

Thanks for reading!

-Rebecca


This post was based off of the Daily post prompt: Disobey (September 12)

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Day 11 – Why am I a Cuber? Aka life lessons some plastic and screws taught me

Hopefully this gets posted successfully.

I’ll edit and add in the fancy stuff like photos, tags and links later since I am trying to conserve the amount of data I use on my phone due to the wifi being down and can’t really do that stuff on the app. (See day 10 and the post about the app)
To the topic at hand, why am I a cuber and how did I get started?

So when I was in 3rd grade (Primary 4 for the British system people, mid 2000’s for future historians) there was a bit of a “Cubing revival” at our school. Everyone had one on the corner of their desk, even though only one guy in our class knew how to solve one.

And to fit in and be “cool” I got one as well (hint: didn’t work).

It was my first cube, Rubik’s branded one (how was I supposed to know better?) with karate guys on the white face of the cube (I did martial arts at the time).

I proceeded to scramble it… then tried to solve it without a guide or help. After all, how hard could it be? That kid in class does it all the time, starting with the cross, then working his way up. I totally got this! (I also may have had a tiny crush on the guy and wanted to one up him at his own game, so never asked… yup)

Eventually, (and predictably) I gave up.

And so, the scrambled cube stayed on my desk, then moved to the book shelf, slowly collecting dust, until one day in a quest to “clean” my room as quickly as possible, I threw everything that wasn’t necessary into a garbage bag and chucked it in the garage (since my mom would check closets :P)

It stayed there in that bag for years, watching me take out other items I needed, but never being chosen itself…

Until THAT summer, when I was about to pack up everything and fly thousands of miles away to a new country, a new home and… most daunting of all… a new school (DUN DUN DUUUUUUN!)

Being the “new kid” was a terrifying prospect for me. After all, in kindergarten and 6th grade (Year 7) Middle school, I was never alone in being the “awkward kid who had no idea what they were doing”. But now? That was about to change. I was going to be “that kid” now. *Gasp in horror*

So to prepare myself and make a good first impression, I googled “How to look intelligent”. I know, a bit self-righteous, but hey, I was 12.

On that list, next to being well read/speed reading (check) and knowing another language (sorta, kinda check?) was solving a Rubik’s cube. Since I had one, a free summer and the internet (more specifically google and youtube).

And while it didn’t exactly make me look smarter to my classmates, it was a conversation starter that helped me connect with others, and become friends with some amazing people.

After that one thing lead to another… and several cubes later, here I am today!
So what did life lessons learn (need to answer that click-baity title after all)?

Well for one, don’t be afraid to ask for help when learning or trying something new. You are going to suck at stuff when you first start, that is kinda the nature of starting something new. Trying to reinvent the wheel is not just a foolish endeavor, it is an exhausting and time consuming one as well.

Also, don’t just give up because something seems impossible or difficult, persevere through it! Feliks Zemdegs started in 2008. I picked up my first cube in end of 2006, early 2007… could’ve had a head-start on the guy, just sayin’ XP
But perhaps more philosophically

I think we as people all too often focus on the “How to’s” of the world: How to choose a major in university? How to be rich? How to choose become an Olympic athlete? Or in this case, How to solve a Rubik’s cube? We try to strip down goal or achievements to their bare essence, to tasks with clear “steps to success” with clearly defined numerical metrics of success: your GPA, your net worth, your medal count, your solving time etc.
But in doing so, we blatantly ignore the real human stories behind each personal endeavor to try, learn and improve.

We pretend that we live in a world where doing XYZ leads to success, as if we are characters in an MMORPG, with skill trees to complete and levels to gain. But that is just plain false!

To evoke Charlote Bronte’s Jane Eyre: We are not antomations – machines without feeling!

Thus, everyone has their own unique story to tell, their own way of viewing the world 

In the end, WHY do I solve the cube?

Why do I spend time out of my day to mess up the pattern on a plastic cube, just to fix it a few seconds later?

For me, it is impossible to pin point down, because the reasons are so varied and nuanced, that it is just easier to lay the entire story before you. 

  • A bit of pride plus a fear of the unknown? 
  • A constant reminder of self improvement?
  • Or it is just fun?
  • All of the above? 
  • Or I am pondering this question too much, who knows?

So remember: “How to” is the simple question to ask, but will give you a dry, cookie cutter answer. Instead, ask go out and ask yourself “Why?” to get a more personal perspective and the opportunity to learn something new!

Fellow cubers out there, what’s your cubing story? Non cubers, what are some lessons that unassuming things have taught you? Feel free to post below!

Stay curious and see you tomorrow with another post!

Rebecca

Day 8 – Filler post: Why is it so hard to get rid of textbooks in HK?

Because no one likes to here excuses about why the promised speed cubing post isn’t out yet, quick fire round of the excuses reasons why there is a filler post today:

  • The speed cubing post started to get longer and longer to the point where it really was better off if I split it up into different posts, which requires some editing
  • Posts with photos of things just take longer to do and I was out all day at Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden (yup, combined with the LBJ garden reference from the last post and your assumption that I am a massive biology geek is 100% accurate)
  • Considering it is 10:30pm right now, there would be no way I would finish it in time, and I’d rather not lose my streak on day 8, especially since I posted a few days ago about how easy it was so far

So instead, you are going to get a filler post of sorts, where I ponder something quite pointless in the hopes of giving “future me” enough time tomorrow to finish it up (or come up with another post on why I’ve delayed it again)

So on to the question…


Why is it so hard to get rid of used textbooks in Hong Kong compared to in the USA?

And I don’t mean that rhetorically either, I am genuinely curious about this, and if any of you have the answer or any theories, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

All the normal places you would think to sell textbooks turn out to be dead ends:

  • Websites like Slugbooks or Chegg are USA + Canada based only, and even if they weren’t you run into shipping cost problems
  • Amazon forces you to either sell on the Mainland China market (where the demand for English language textbooks is extremely low) or find a way to sell on the USA/Canada one (which while I get past some issues since I’m an American, customs, shipping time problems, and extremely negative opinions on things sold from Asia by some Amazon users make it not worth it). Oh and currency exchange issues as well
  • All second hand book stores I’ve checked explicitly ban textbooks (don’t blame them, otherwise there would be no room for anything else)
  • Public libraries won’t accept them (same issue as above)
  • The various other charities are want textbooks for younger kids, not the Year 12 & 13 books that make up most of the clutter in my room
  • No luck with my school’s second hand books facebook page either, everyone already seems to have bought their books new already

So right now I’m flogging them off on Carousell (the Asian equivalent of Cragslist but an app). Several weeks in so far, and still no bites, but we will see…

But I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s so difficult compared to the US.

(Or at least my experience spending a summer selling textbooks online or donating them to the numerous second hand books stores before moving to HK)

Tons of people are selling their books for half the cost of new books in perfect condition, yet no one is buying second hand books for some reason.

Is it just that Hong Kong has more of a throwaway culture compared to Austin?

I’m not so sure. While it is the argument often given time and time again by newspaper opinion pieces, to me it seems unconvincing, as the recent phenomenon of replacing rather than fixing isn’t exclusive to one place.

Perhaps new textbooks are cheaper here, thus there is less of an incentive to buy used?

Possibly, though again, since pretty much all of my textbooks are in English with a international curriculum, the cost should be more or less the same and a quick Amazon scan confirms that theory. While some are indeed cheaper (I’m guessing because the textbook industry here isn’t as powerful as it is in the US, though don’t quote me on that), its still a huge amount of savings buying used compared to buying new.

A question of storage space and convenience?

This is my leading theory, that expensive land prices mean that there is an incentive:

  • not to take up space with big bulky second hand textbooks that might never get sold/ get sold for far less than other books that could take up the same
  • to just order and have them shipped to the school then placed in a locker, where they never have to take up space at home (until the end of the school year where you fall into the same situation I’m in with a tiny room overflowing with textbooks and no way to get rid of them

Or maybe HKer’s just like new textbooks 😛

I mean you should see how carefully some people wrap their books in plastic and use only sticky notes that won’t mark the pages, being careful not to crease the cover…

then again is an equal amount of people who highlight, annotate, make up and dog ear pages to the point where the book is unrecognizable ala “Half Blood Prince Potions Book” (minus all the magic, then again chemistry might as well be potions considering how little of it I understand at times )

But yeah..

Makes you wonder why there are thousands of books about how to buy things in different places or organise them in your home, but no books on how to get rid of stuff in different cities… maybe increased consumerism is the right answer all along?

Who knows? All I can tell you is that my old textbooks have staged a coup d’etat and invaded large parts of my room, so if anyone has advice on how to fight back against the hoard , I’d love to here it!

Rebecca

 

Day 3- Completely Unproductive

Completely unproductive…

That just about describes my day.

Honestly I am not sure what I should be posting here…

 

I’ve got nothing.

 

I noticed that there is a Daily Prompt thing that WordPress has, but today’s one is… meh.. “Puncture”.

What am I supposed to do with that?

So instead, I’m using a random prompt generator to come up with questions and go rapid fire questions to meet the word count.

Ready? Set? Go!

 

What does getting old mean to you?

Odd question. But I guess to me, it means gaining more control over my spare time toward a meaningful goal or something I enjoy. Not sure what I will do after university, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out by then. (Fingers crossed!)

 

What are you looking forward to?

Getting my scores for my spring semester of university. I’m sure I did okay, but I really want to know so that I can start planning for exchange in y3.

 

Write a letter to yourself age 16

I’m going to skip this one for now, since it feels like a topic that requires much more then what I have now, plus more thinking and planning.

 

Who has changed your life, and how?

Now, I was going to write about family but that seems cliché. I feel as though I’m too young so far to comment on this… I guess at the moment, its a former math teacher’s saying “ Where there is a will, there is a way”

 

Describe your bedroom in detail.

Well in 10 words: messy, cluttered and too many projects started, too few finished

 

How does the weather affect your mood?

A bit counter intuitive, but I feel as though I am more cheerful when it rains than when it is sunny. Possibly because I’m from Texas and live in HK now, where blue skies and sun usually signals too hot to function outside for extended periods and sun burns. Rain on the other hand is super soothing at night and just much more relaxing.

 

Well that should be enough words. Maybe I’ll do another rapid fire questions post again since it was quite fun!

For future reference link HERE to prompt generator

Rebecca

Let’s talk about Politics, shall we?

Well that didn’t take long didn’t it? I was hoping for this blog to remain relatively neutral in terms of political things, but… well it is a bit hard to stay quiet about what is going on in the USA right now.

And since in it occurred to me that no one is reading this blog at the moment, and I have had several days now to collect my thoughts, I felt it was as good of time as any to voice my opinion on the matter.

So without further ado… Trump’s recent travel ban.

Note:This post will be mostly my present thoughts on the issue, rather than a nonbiased analysis of the exact wording of the order etc. Also this is based on the information from late January, early February.

If you are looking for an overview of what the ban exactly entails….here is a quick video overview about the whole kerfuffle by Vox News:


So onto my thoughts

While most of what I am about to say has been said before by people far more qualified than I (if one can even be said to be “qualified” to talk about issues concerning these sorts of things), I feel it still bears repeating.

Why?

Because of history.

Because even if this blog fails and no one except me sees this, even if my words get drowned out in the outcry surrounding the issue or even if Trump’s Travel Ban becomes nothing more than a minor factoid in the future when we look back on the 45th POTUS’s tenure…

I want to have my current thoughts on record.

Because if pouring through my old tattered diaries in the comfort of my own room or reading though primary historical accounts by people long ago have told me anything, it is the importance of knowing, not by personal recollections or fact interpretations, but through records written by someone who was there what happened.

Since this event, like POTUS’s inauguration was a “I am witnessing history in the making” moment.


In between my swearing to let off some steam and explanations to non-American friends about the severity of the ban (such as explaining Green Cards and the like) I typed out the following sentence on Whatsapp.

Idk anymore, like im angry, sad, confused, afraid and alarmed all at the same time

Which while not the most enlightening sentence to come out of my 18-year-old mouth,  I feel as though it sums up my thoughts quite well.

  • Angry –
    • This was primarily what I was feeling at the time. I was angry, not at Trump or his cabinet or even the people who voted for him per say (though there was a smidgen of that), more that I was angry with the whole idea of the racism and bigotry, that us as humans can sink low enough where we choose to discriminate against people due to their religion.
    • It was also at how we politicise people we don’t even know personally, that after the Quebec City shooting, we choose not to think about the families affected or those who died, but to go on a witch hunt, hoping that the shooter fits our “teams” ideology, to the point of even publishing false information portraying a witness as the shooter

 

  • Sad – 
    • Self explanatory. I have friends who are Muslim and the thought that Islamophobia has gotten to the point where executive orders are signed, where there are laws in place that expressly forbid them from traveling to or even visiting certain places that I could go to freely is really upsetting. That the order tore up families, prevented people from continuing their education and slammed the door in the face of people who had given everything to start a new life or flee persecution.
    • Listening to the news about children being separated from their mothers and detained for hours on end, it reminded me a bit of the Ahmed clock incident from a few years back (looking it up, it was from 2015, wow time travels fast) how something simple gets blown out of proportion because some people view Muslims as a “threat” or “others”.
    • I remember early last year, when the USA primaries had just gotten started, I asked one of my Muslim friends (the smartest guy in the whole year, no question) about where he was planning on going for Uni and being surprised when he only mentioned local schools, not any of the well known universities abroad in the USA or UK, before he explained how he felt it was unsafe for him abroad citing things such as Charlie Hebdo, Trumps rise in the primaries etc. And it just hit me that the freedom to choose a university without consideration to these factors was something I had taken for granted, that despite my scores being much lower than his, I had more options available to me.

 

  • Confused – 
    • Bit of back story, I was born in raised in the USA (specifically Texas) and as a child, one of the things we would do each and every morning in Elementary School was the Pledge of Allegiance to the USA and Texan Flag, followed by a minute of silence. Even though it has been nearly 8 years since I have said the words, I still remember them clearly. I grew up with civic classes where we learned about country and state symbols, with history lessons that taught me about the Bill of Rights and Constitution or learning about the various backgrounds of my fellow students from different cultures etc Just the whole idea of a melting pot where no mater where you come from or your background, you can be an American without giving up your cultural heritage
    • And while I have never been a “rah rah” patriot of the USA, I still consider myself an American and a Texan. It just confuses the hell out of me (though I’m sad to say that it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest) how people can claim to uphold these lofty ideals when these sorts of things happen. It makes me a bit confused as to what it means to be an “American” now if this is how we treat people. I’m just glad that the American tradition of protesting and helping others when the are down  is still alive and well with the airport protest people.

 

  • Afraid –
    • What’s next? Its been less than 2 weeks and already to POTUS has alienated the USA from many of our closest allies (Mexico and Canada come to mind, though strangely Theresa May seems oddly quiet about everything, probably due to Brexit forcing the UK to play nice with the US or something).
    • I am terrified of what the next 4 years will bring, given how flippant Trump is accomplishing his campaign goals without concern about anyone other than himself and his closest advisers. Also Steve Bannon… yeesh

 

  • Alarmed
    • Keeping this one short since the wall of text is a bit overwhelming, but this is related to the one above. It scares me how much power Trump has and what he is doing with it, especially since he gets a supreme court justice to nominate and a party majority in congress, basically giving him control over the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of government.

 

So if you have read this far, thanks for letting me rant and get my thoughts down. Hopefully future posts will be less “wall o’ text” and short enough to be readable without dragging on. As well as more editied. And about things that are less political. Yeah.

That’s all for now!

-Rebecca