Doing Less and Doing More
May 27, 2019 • matt • ~ 11 minute read • 1396 words
Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve really sat down and written something. As per usual, it’s because I’m busy - but it’s not the same kind of busy that I was in high school.
In some ways, I’m a lot less busy - or at the very least, a lot less involved. I have three non-school related things on my plate: two clubs (BEAM & ACM Teach LA), and a job (more on that later).
On the surface, this is clearly less work than the smorgasburg of things I did at UCC. Doing less was one of the bigger things that I committed myself to when I first came here, and I think I’ve mostly succeeded. I’ve talked about this topic on end, but I truly think that stretching myself thin lead to me working poorly and not enjoying my extracurriculars. Not doing that here means that I have more fun doing what I do, and the output of what I do (extracurricular or otherwise) is better.
I also just do less. I’m not in any leadership roles, I’m not coordinating some big event (well, almost), and I don’t have any long trips or events (well, almost). The clubs that I am in (two education outreach clubs, though I play different roles in each) are interesting but not hyper-demanding. I definitely miss working on bigger picture stuff, but I also enjoy this lull in responsibility - it’s given me time to do other things with my life, and also reflect on how I was as a leader. Next year, I’m getting back into the swing of things, so I won’t enjoy this benefit for long, but it’s certainly been great.
Also, I don’t spend as much time playing video games. Surprisngly (or maybe not), that has actually freed up a lot of time for me: I guess I just didn’t realize how much time I spent gaming, reading patch notes, or watching stuff on Twitch. I haven’t stopped by no means - I play a bit of Smash with my friends and just beat Breath of the Wild - but it really just isn’t part of my life any more. It’s also changed the kind of person I am and the types of social interactions I made, but maybe that’s something for another day.
But, it’s me, and I apparently hate having free time. So, I’ve allocated this new free time completely elsewhere - but with mostly positive results.
Firstly, I’m spending more time in school, and am doing significantly better than high school. Now I need to be careful here - that’s not necessarily a correlation (maybe the teachers here are better, work is easier, etc.) - but I’m pretty sure it’s contributed to the upswing in my GPA. At UCC, I’d learn just enough about the material to do my homework, but this often meant that I missed out on the core fundamentals, especially in HL Math. Here, I think I have a solid understanding of every course I’ve taken so far (except maybe Physics, yikes), and have been doing pretty well because of that.
I also now have a job. I work at the UCLA MakerSpace, which is a medium-sized room chock full of cool tools (3D printers, a laser cutter, heat press for t-shirt making, etc.). I teach classes on how to use the machines, and generally just help people who come in. I really enjoy the job - I love seeing people get excited over making super cool things - but it’s also quite draining. It’s about ~10 hours a week out of my schedule, which is a pretty sizeable chunk of time. So far, it hasn’t cut into my study time yet, but it has stopped me from doing other things that I’ve wanted to do. More on that later.
As a quick tidbit, I’m way more fit. I’ve talked about this before, but I now go to the gym, play IM sports, and, you know, not slouch in front of a computer ALL the time. It’s great!
I’ve also just spent more time doing fun things for myself and to hang out with friends. In high school, it was very hard to find time to hang out with friends, especially with the constant burnout. Here, there’s been a lot less of that - and more of going to the beach, seeing movies, and just having a nice night in. A large part of that utility does come from living so close with everybody, but it also is a luxury of having more time; it’s easier to make time when you have more of it.
Something that I’ve mostly done a good job with is spending more time developing myself. I’m not hunkering down and going through ML tutorials or learning discrete math myself (which, to be honest, is something that I should probably do), but I’m doing more learning for the sake of learning. I make it a habit to watch 3Blue1Brown whenever I can (by far my favourite YouTube channel rn), and I’ll find myself going down Wikipedia rabbit holes every now and then on a topic that just piques my interest.
Some things have definitely changed, either for the better or for the worse.
For starters, I quit debate at UCLA. Largely, debate is a huge time sucker - outside of practices and weekly tournaments, you need to spend hours devouring literature and debate content - but I also don’t think it was an amazing fit for me, and it was different from the debate that I loved in high school. To be fair, I don’t think I put the same level of committment into university debate as I did in high school, but if I did, it would’ve really left me spent.
Almost directly resulting from that is a comparative lack of current affairs knowledge. I think I’m still more informed than the average person, but I’ve definitely slowed down in some respects. I’m behind on the Economist, I don’t read the New York Times any more, and I’m definitely not reading news from conservative outlets to “balance my opinions” any more. Part of that is circumstantial - I read a lot on my commute, and now I don’t have a commute - but I also think that it’s because I don’t have the menace of debate hanging over me. I’m a little unhappy that I’m not as kept up as I used to be, but I don’t think I lose any sleep over it.
What I do lose sleep over is my general lack of reading. I’m not happy to report that I haven’t read a single book for fun since the start of the calendar year. Granted, I spend a lot of time on the Economist - but there’s more to life than reading depressing news about the entire world. I chalk this up to a lack of pure alone time - without a commute, and without the remote-ness of my childhood home, I spend very little time all by myself. I do think that alone time is important, especially after exhausting social interactions - but I’m not entirely sure how I’d fit that into my schedule.
Next year, my ambitions are mostly … not grand. I’m getting more involved in everything I do, which is natural, and I’m taking harder classes, which is natural. By itself, I think I can mostly juggle that - I’ve been getting a bit burnt out lately, but with some rejigging, it’s definitely doable.
I do also want to join a lab though, and that’s a bit of spice that I’m unsure of how to handle. Maybe something to think about later.
For now, I’m mostly just concerned with getting through these last few weeks, doing well on finals, and spending quality time with friends before they all head home for the summer. Then, it’s internship szn - and I’ll have some (hopefully) exciting thoughts on that soon too.
Till next time!
Meta: this was a short post. I’m not sure if I’ll stick to briefer bursts of content, or go for my traditional way-too-long form content. I feel like there’s not much detail here, and I dislike that, but it’s also more readable and significantly easier for me to write. We’ll see.