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Summer 2020 Goals

4 min read, May ‘20

Hello friends, it’s that time of the year again! Obviously, COVID-19 has impacted everything. I’m grateful to be interning at Gatsby, which was remote and distributed to begin with. My original plan was to travel across the country while working, living in various cities in ~the American heartland~ for 2-3 weeks each. Instead, it looks like I’ll mostly in my bedroom, but hopefully I can get outside sometimes and change up my Zoom backgrounds!

I’m optimistic about ways to connect, work, and take care of ourselves and each other in this new world, though injustice and suffering remain rampant as ever. I’m also excited to be free from the grind of schoolwork for a few months. It’s all interesting, mostly valuable, and sometimes enjoyable, but I’ve found it difficult to think creatively, think really big (as Kanye said, MIT students are in a BOX), and reflect. I think the times ahead will allow me to discover/create the headspace I want to be in and start figuring out how to maintain it amid the pace of college.

I think and hope we can have wonderful summers this year. I don’t mean “getting ahead” and taking advantage of chaotic times... but wonderful in the sense of making the best of what we have, being content (which is not a sin, nor a synonym of “complacent”), and being healthy to be best of our control. Fully embracing the paradoxes of what I’ve just said, here’s some of what I’m hoping to do this summer:

Build a foundation for my mental health

My self-esteem and emotional independence have improved by leaps and bounds over the past year, and I try to have decent self-talk. However, some of my healthy habits have definitely regressed, and there are areas dominated by transient positive moods (“do I happen to feel good today?”)—luck, essentially—instead of a reliable, resilient foundation.

Specifically, I’d like to work on truly believing in my intrinsic self-worth. This is more than just avoiding negative behaviors (such as seeking external validation, or comparing myself to others)—it’s knowing with conviction why those behaviors are unnecessary.

I’m also thinking about getting one of those “work-life balance” things that Adults(TM) are always talking about! Much of the advice I hear is geared toward people for whom there’s a clear delineation between work (job) and life (everything that’s not job). There’s also the mindset of “if you’re doing what you love, work shouldn’t feel like work,” which I don’t believe is good advice for all cases.

It’s unclear which of my projects, hobbies, studies, jobs, and other things I spend my time on constitute the “work” side of “work-life balance,” but regardless, I think practices like roping off times of the day to do focused work (as opposed to being “always” working but only with 70% focus) would be helpful either way.

Actively keep in touch with friends (and make new ones)

I love having conversations with people, but without active an effort, it’s easy to let weeks go by without talking to some friends. By being more intentional about this, I think I’ll also be more thoughtful about the relationship as a whole, which is great all around. Practically, I think I’ll do this by setting up reminders and maybe jotting down what I last talked about with someone or their latest life updates.

Learn and make some stuff

In no particular order, and not an exhaustive list:

  • I want to grow as a writer. (Last summer, I said I wanted to “write more,” and I think this shift to focusing on growth is interesting.) Currently, my favorite genres are personal essays and explanatory writing. I want to delve deeper into these by reading examples, learning theory, and of course, practicing consistently and publicly. However, I also want to explore journalism, creative nonfiction, and whatever else might pique my interest.
  • I want to try filmmaking and/or making videos. I think being able to envision, produce, and market compelling video content is the new “strong oral and written communication skills” (which you should still have, of course). The medium is a springboard for and culmination of all sorts of audio and visual creative work, and the related platforms—YouTube, Tiktok, Instagram, even Twitch—are undoubtedly having their moment in society.
  • I want to learn a new programming language or two to expose myself to unfamiliar paradigms and re-experience the process of learning a new language (which I haven’t done in 3 years). I currently know JavaScript, Python, and R. I learned Java online in a month for the AP Computer Science exam, but I’ve since forgotten it all. I think I’ll learn Golang and a variation of C, but that’s definitely subject to change.
  • I want to study multivariable calculus so I can test out of this graduation requirement. I don’t think it’s a great use of my energy during the semester and I’ve already kind of learned it once. I’m not super stubborn on testing out, though. If I don’t end up taking or passing the exam, reviewing calculus will make taking the class easier.
  • I want to deepen my knowledge of Node.js, React, and JavaScript in general. This will happen on the job at my internship, but beyond that, I genuinely love web development—not in the sense that it’s a “superior” field or that everyone should learn it, but just personally. Being able to create on the web is universally empowering. Even if the nature of innovation in web development today sometimes sounds backwards or excessively convoluted for simple goals, it’s exciting to make making websites powerful, joyful, and modern.
  • I want to make art in various forms: visual, musical, computational, and physical/hardware-based. I think what makes something art is that it conveys or expresses something. I’ve been trying to make more things—anything—but I want to push myself to make things that have meaning and across different mediums. (After all, the medium, too, has its own message.)
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