Apology

June 8th, 2011 by ben Leave a reply »

I wanted to post during camp. I wanted to post lots and lots, describing every last minute detail and juicing every last drop of emotion, lest they drift away as memories do, eventually rendered forever incommunicable.

I’ve disappointed you, my dear reader, yes, but even more, I’ve disappointed myself. Oh dear. Here’s to an attempt to atone for two-and-a-half weeks of no posts.

It’s so hard to post after not posting. Because then you have to post something good enough to make up for not posting. And to write a good post, you spend a lot of time and thought, further prolonging your post debt.

Well, I’ll start by finishing. I spent an inordinate length of time brainstorming and revising ideas for my Math Team captain speech. Being as dumb as I was in my childhood (as again, everything that happened to me before yesterday occurred “in my childhood”), I focused on things that would actually (hear the cynicism kick in) help the team.

That’s weird, I’m not in the mood for cynicism right now. I was brimming with it just this afternoon. Cynicism really doesn’t help you win any friends, after all, so I’m careful to not let it out. When it spills, troublesome things happen. Awkward conversations and strained relationships. First hand experience from just last week. But just let me finish here.

Besides the typical bragging (I hate bragging… I really can’t respect myself for doing that) about leadership and math skills, I brought up as a big topic my idea to keep members from “flaking” — ditching meetings and not doing work. Reduced to a single sentence or two, the idea was that every two months, if a member was absent for more than three meetings then they would have to make up the missed meeting time at home, studying by themselves. At the end of every 2 month period, we would set a moderate cutoff on the team selection exam for these people. This way they would be heavily pressured to make up at least as much time as they missed; in reality, more. And if they didn’t care enough about Math Team to study, they would be kicked. No changes for people who attend regularly; they are in no danger of being kicked. Simple.

The other point was my computer skills, of course; I offered to create a website for Arcadia Math Team just as I had for Physics Team, posting our weekly meeting agendas, homework assignments, and math resources, and providing a central hub for the team’s communications and scheduling via forums and calendars.

The question I was offended by during the “interrogation” session after the speeches was from Erik Krogen. Would you still create this website for our team if you weren’t selected as captain? Are you really dedicated to our team or are you just doing this so you can call yourself captain?

Ms. King was on my side for this question but I’m still thinking about this. Fine. Still angry about this, I’ll admit. Are you really qualified to ask me this question? I’m staking my entire captainship on a bulletproof anti-flaking system that will (and did) cost me the entire cake. Nobody will vote for me, because they don’t want to be kicked off the team for flaking. That’s how people vote, after all. It’s real phony, but what isn’t. It’s not how good or dedicated they think people will be; it’s who gave them candy, who’s their friend, who will keep them on the team next year. Do you think I’m doing this just for the name? Do you really have the right to accuse me of flaking, myself?

The above is what I should have said. Minus the emotional and angry tone. I suck at being emotional and angry off the page. Some people can do it and be effective, successfully intimidating people. My mom can do that. I can’t — I just sound wimpy and people laugh or bully me. At the very least, nobody takes me seriously and listens to what I have to say. That’s why I try to keep myself calm. May peace prevail in the world.

James totally deserves the captainship. I was rooting for him all the way. He was my only friend as a freshman in Math Team, and although we haven’t talked much lately, I remember walking down to Le Roy with him after every Math Team meeting. Now, allow me to be cynical about David Liu. Kind of a different sort of cynicism. Cynicism plus, what, admiration? He is amazing; in a class of his own, for being able to incite such excitement, enjoyment, and camaraderie radially around him. It’s even stronger than electromagnetism, whose force decreases by an inverse square law — I’m sure his powers are proportional to the first power inverse. (That was my attempt at the lame physics joke you were probably partially expecting of me today.)

Meh, let’s drop the topic.

I’ve had an issue with whether or not to be completely honest on my blog about things that would offend others. Something to contemplate. I like the motto of thinking twice before talking. Unfortunately I never seem to think twice when I open my mouth like an idiot and demonstrate the fool I am, and I always seem to think too much and eventually decide to keep my mouth shut when people take advantage of me and push work onto my shoulder for not talking and complaining and expressing my opinion.

The optimist in me (it’s somewhere inside all of us, I swear) tells me to just keep swimming, or something. Just try not to drown, and you’ll turn out all right eventually. Eventually. I think.

I’ve talked a bit about not letting cynicism spill out; keeping myself calm and not getting emotional or angry in front of people; keeping my goddamn unwarranted honesty to myself.

Jeng has been giving me a lot of work. Now before I present anything, I will tell you that I was wrong, and Jeng was absolutely right. First, some background on why I’m so mad about Jeng’s work.

It was only a few days before I left for Maryland. I had Vincent’s material from the previous year’s camp, which put me at a huge advantage (as I now know) in terms of making the traveling team. Basically all of the traveling members this year are returners. The camp is simply too difficult to do well in on the first try. There are so many new concepts to get used to. The second camp is basically the same, including the material, so knowing the material beforehand put people at a huge advantage. I had the material from a previous year. I could have had that huge advantage.

What I didn’t have, however, was time to study this material. Unlike those who were homeschooled or go to private school (which I wish my parents had done — let me homeschool myself), I had to make up all the work I was “missing.” Because I seriously learn stuff from this. Sarcasm. On a tangent, I also have to deal with annoying things like attendance, tardy sweeps, and mandatory homework in the first place. These things are made to deal with the problem students, the people who aren’t able to learn quickly and on their own and need school faculty to dish out punishments for not showing up and homework to force them to care and spend time. How much better my life would be if I had dropped out of middle school.

I’ll talk about the stupidity of public school as a part of my eventual post about US Physics Team and the camp.

I had this… unpleasant conversation with Jeng. It stemmed from an email I typed to her at the airport, at Baltimore Washington International while waiting for the other members’ flights to come in. I had done a boatload of work for her class, fearful for my English grade which tottered at a dangerous 92%. We had a group project, short stories written by women. Group projects in normal English… are impossible unless you do all the work. If there is one achieving person (notice how I didn’t even write “overachieving”)…

It’s not that I don’t respect non-achieving people. You don’t need good grades. You don’t need college, heck. My buddies at Methodist are the most optimistic, upbeat dudes ever. I love that job, and I have my first training session with somebody next Thursday. I’ll do my best to seem way cool.

Anyways… she noticed I did all the work for that group project. Worried, unlike some English teachers who don’t care at all, she sent me a friendly email asking about the project.

Alright, there I am in the airport, with what, five hours on my hands to commune with my netbook. (Now that I think of it, I should have spent this time chatting with the other members — they are all so exceptionally fantastic I wish I could have made more friendships than I did.) Alas, stupidity struck, and I listed the contents of my mind regarding her class and her work. Stuff like, this work is stupid, I don’t learn anything, there’s no helping my doing all the work for the project.

Well, I thought it was politely phrased and that she would appreciate getting to know my internal thoughts. After all, I really liked her. At the time I thought she was the teacher who knew me the best. When I got the email, I was extremely happy that she cared so much. I wanted her to know what I thought about the project, and while I’m at that, about the homework she gave, and the essay I had to do, all by my departure date.

Again, I am pissed that she gave me all that work, because otherwise I would have intensely studied Vincent’s material and had a greatly enhanced chance of going to Thailand. I am fairly confident that, on the semifinal exam, I was in the top 5. That’s why I got so emotional when I was talking with her after I got back, perhaps, in hindsight. Actually, I probably wasn’t thinking about that. I was mad that she “pretended” to care in her email to me but now is being my enemy. It was more of a semantics thing during the actual argument, I think, of whether or not she cared about me.

Moral of the story: Don’t goddamn spill out your innermost thoughts to some random stranger who you think cares about you. Nobody wants to hear your freaking honesty. Nobody really cares about your life story. If it comes to it, even, just lie, just lie and be done with it. Say “oh yes, I totally love your class, and your homework has helped me learn so much!” and make your teacher smile. See? There. You’ve made the world a better place.

My mom promised me she would deal with it. She promised she would deal with Jeng and my English grade and all my work. She told me to not worry about anything at camp, that she would take care of everything, and that I could just focus on what was in front of my eyes. That’s why it caught me by surprise when I got back and nothing had been resolved.

After the argument between me and Jeng, in which I almost cried (I did actually cry when dealing with Lee, and that was the most recent time), my whole end-of-school period has been not quite going so well.

Steven was elected the other Physics Team captain while I was in Maryland. For some reason, Glen is also tagging along in all the “meetings,” and it seems like he and Steven (they are very good friends) are deciding everything regarding the team now. I don’t mean to be a jerk or anything, but what exactly is Glen trying to do? Why are they ignoring me? They called me to a meeting at lunch today, and we basically did not do anything. Besides decide upon two or three more meeting dates during the summer. That we can spend doing the same thing: nothing. Seriously. Physics Team does not need to meet during the summer. Do you two really want to make me walk out to some obscure Starbucks in the middle of the day to stare at you guys for a few hours before walking all the way back?

I am pissed that they decided to run the team. Without me. I don’t want to meet during the summer. We don’t need to meet. Honestly, and here’s me being arrogant, I don’t think we need either of them. None of them have any physics achievements, really, although I can’t complain about that looking at Math Team captains and ASB people. Okay, I realize I’m now just dissing people left and right. At the very least, I don’t see why Glen is acting like he’s the third captain. Or, rather, that he’s the first captain, and I’m just some bystander.

Armed with these thoughts, I called Vincent. He’s very social, very different from me and all, but I suppose he’s still the person best suited for me to call my mentor.

I think that the advice you get isn’t important. When you ask for advice, the important thing is the act of receiving the advice. The act of giving the advice… is what’s significant.

Vincent told me to draw up my own plans. Instead of messing with Steven, I could draw up my own, and let him have some input. And I didn’t need to care about Glen, said Vincent, as I could override him. It’s unsatisfying advice, really. My plan for the summer is to do nothing. Just check up on the hopefuls every week or so. That’s all they need. And it just bothers me that Glen is there. So the advice is kind of moot.

But it made me happy to receive advice from Vincent.

James asked me whether or not I would still create the website for Math Team during the meeting today. He wasn’t here during the questioning session (we were interrogated separately — solitary confinement) so I don’t blame him. Do I sound like a selfish bastard for saying no? I’d probably give him the feeling that I was running for captain just for the line on my college app. Not that he or David or any of the other candidates weren’t guilty of the same.

It’s so phony.

I’ll end with a line that I liked to repeat to myself sometimes, a while back. It resurfaced this week.

A little bit of courage is the real magic.

Related Posts:

Advertisement

2 comments

  1. k says:

    Yeah, I was thinking that no one is going to want to vote for someone who’s plan involves the possiblity of them being kicked off the team…and yeah, that’s how elections work unfortuantely, both in school and in real life.

    As for Jeng, yeah, I guess sometimes you can’t really be totally honest, especially when the other party is responsible for something like your school grade…

    And I guess that also relates to the rest of the post, with the way the college app process is, pretty much everything is phony, or even if it’s not, it has to be interpreted that way, with everyone trying to guess the others’ motives, and trying to advance their own. Blah.

  2. Benji says:

    Blah indeed.
    I just realize that I intended to include an apology to Jeng in this post, but in the end I didn’t really explain anything concrete about the argument and how I was wrong. Meh.

Leave a Reply