Day: March 17, 2014

Traditionally Backwards

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Like many Californians, I’ve embraced the wealth of diversity we enjoy in our state. Proof of this, I’ve taken in school: Spanish (HS) and Chinese (college for 1.5 years). Originally, my friend wanted me to tag along with him on a trip to China, unfortunately both of our schedules fell through at that time. So, I decided to jump continents, and took Japanese as well, I took just one course. And well, I lamented at seeing that one guy who either had a designated clean Tuesday-Thursday shirt, a cartoon like wardrobe with the same 100 same shirts, or he was just a had hygiene of based defense strategy — if it were the latter explanation, it was a damned good turret defense. But, wouldn’t you know it, without being tossed in a “fight or flight” mode, i.e.without mandatory usage you’re apt to forget a language, even your mother tongue can get rusty. And let’s face it, language courses leave much to be desiredin general. Though, at the time when I dropped the class I really wondered if I wasn’t as cocksure, after all I had already started processing my first passport (money), and even started making contact with people in Japan to make randevu points because I decided to travel abroad alone for a month. Why Japan? Because, I’ve heard that very few people speak conversational English, so I’d be on my own; and I wanted that time alone with others.

So, what’s the best way to learn a language anything? Jump in and pinch your noes! 

I learned this strategy from my mother. She used to drive me crazy, she’d always throw something away to coax herself into buying a better replacement. I thought it quite backwards (it can be frustrating to not have pot holders because we should buy another), but I suppose with age I can see the wisdom in it now — if you’re comfortable things will likely never change. What do you reckon my mom did when I was too afraid to jump in the pool (with flotation devices, don’t worry social services)? She tossed me in, I guess I’ve unconsciously adapted that philosophy into my way of life:

  • I purchased tickets to a foreign country, leaving myself six months to learn the language on my own before going off into a foreign land. It worked out, made great friends while out there. Several strangers invited me to their houses, I had a proper Idiot Abroad experience. Later, I got a job where I had to speak Japanese for work, and I still speak it daily with my inner network. (自分で世界を変えよう)
  • I wanted to become a better writer, so I applied to a job as a professional writer. My old editor is now affiliated with a NPR affiliate, and was probably one of my best bosses and teachers. Having to write to make a company money, and to eat, is a good way to become a better writer. But, if I didn’t spend this time “backwards” I wouldn’t of had the muster to write a Personal Statement and follow up with quality primary and secondary essays. Actually, when I took the MCAT the essay was still available, I never practiced essays at any time of my MCAT practice, but having a job about writing got me a formidable essay score.
  • I took the Organic Chemistry series (and Biochemistry for that matter) to prove to myself that I could do well in classes that were considered challenging, it was enough of a perk that I would get a minor in Human Physiology at the same time. Later, though I wasn’t one premed or a chemistry major I tutored them both in Organic and Biochemistry. It was about this time that I thought, maybe I’m qualified to apply to medical school. Upon retrospect, I see this as nothing more than me just throwing myself into the pool.
  • Signed up for the MCAT without actually being certain what the acronym stood for (sorry for ending the sentence with “for” my grammar friends). I pulled my offers from grad school, stopped potential PhD applications, bought some books and set a bar for myself. I suppose that was a large motivation for me not using a prep course, I could of scraped together my milk money, but I really wanted it to be an assessment of me and the material on the test, not so much my ability to “game” the test. This was somewhat of a silly, if not stupid bar to set, but neither the less that was my bar. I did hop over that bar.
  • Oh, my school selections were backwards too. I didn’t stratify schools by their US News Rankings, nor did I know which school was actually reputable besides the obvious ones. I just sat down, and looked at a ton of mission statements and websites, and used my feel-o-meter about each program, and how much it matched me. So, when I arrived at each school it felt like I was interviewing them, and not vice versa (because I had no problem delivering tough questions right back to my interviewers about my potential future home). If I had done things the proper way, I would of likely of been too intimidated with the prestige of the programs I had applied to, and I wouldn’t of had as a successful/joyous acceptance tally.

Well, it looks like my mom was pretty solid on thermodynamics because the arrow of time refers merely to increasing entropy, there’s nothing that says in the rules that are violated by “now” me depending on “future” me to make sense of all the crazy craziness that’ll surely come because of my “dive right in” philosophy, well as long as I do so with a flotation device.