full circle

This week I’ve been in a programming class. Introduction to web application development in Visual Studio 2010 was the title of the course. Sounds kind of dull, but actually I really enjoyed it. I’ve always kind of had a love hate relationship with programming classes and with school in general. I learned at a pretty early age how to do well enough in school without working that hard. My dad always told me this: “You inherited my brain, so if you just studied a bit harder, you’ll do well in school.” I guess my dad was pretty smart when he was young. Actually he’s pretty smart now, which I respect a lot, but he didn’t have much opportunity for higher education. Because he couldn’t afford college, he went to the merchant marine academy. He worked hard and actually became chief engineer of a large shipping vessel at a young age. And so he got to visit many countries for free, and by the time he was about my age he had traveled most of the world. I kind of envy him for that opportunity. I’m just beginning to explore the world now.

Anyways, I took what he said to mean I could be lazy and do just as well as everyone else by only studying a little bit. What he probably meant was that I should study a lot and be one of those super achievers. So we were always kinda annoyed at each other. He was annoyed because in his eyes I was always goofing off, either playing video games or chatting online (remember ICQ and AIM?). I was annoyed because in my eyes I was doing fine. I got mostly A’s and a few B’s, and only one C in all of high school. One stupid C. But I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Because of my experiences with my dad, I’ve decided that if I ever have a son, I’m going to tell him three things very early on. First I’ll tell him that his dad is an idiot. Second is that idiocy is hereditary. So third would be that he would have to work five times as hard as anybody else if he wanted to succeed in life. Of course then if his brain were wired similar to my brain, he would come to the conclusion that working five times as hard at studying is not worth it, and he’d find an easy job that didn’t involve studying. But then I suppose I’d be secretly proud of him for making that cost benefit analysis on his own, but on the surface I’d probably be yelling at him to study just like my dad did. Full circle.

So anyways, I got one C in high school. Ironically it was in computer programming, which is kind of what I do for a living now. That C in that computer programming class caused me a lot of grief. I enrolled in the class thinking I’d enjoy it. You’d expect a class called “computer programming” to actually do at least a bit of computer programming, but actually the class was just a glorified typing and word processing class. I decided that the class was not worth my time, but by then it was too late to drop. So I just stopped going to class. I still remember that I ended up with 29 absences that semester, but since the teacher didn’t take roll every single day, I’m sure there were more.

Of course I got a lot of grief when my parents saw my report card. Like usual my dad yelled at me to study harder. My mom was even worse. For some reason she always came to the most ridiculous conclusions. I went shopping with her once, and I was looking at some toys, and she came to the conclusion that I had gotten a girl pregnant. I dunno how she could come to that conclusion, because another time she saw that I hadn’t brought home a girl in a while, so she came to the conclusion that I must be gay. Ridiculous. So when she saw that I had gotten a C in one of my classes, she concluded that I either must be doing drugs, or that I had joined the local street gang.

There was no way that I could convince typical asian parents that a class was a waste of time, so to appease my parents I think I actually studied. Or maybe I pretended to study. I don’t remember, but I do remember that I did actually have textbooks open for an extended period of time. And by then it was time to start thinking about college, so I actually did make a concerted effort. I took the SATs and by the second time I had gotten 1400 (out of 1600 at the time) on my own, which at the time I thought was pretty decent. But of course anything short of a perfect 1600 is not good enough for any asian parent, so they enrolled me in a prep course which brought me up to 1450. All that money for a measly 50 points. I thought it was a total waste. They thought so too. So I got a lot of grief for not getting a perfect score.

That C in computer science came back to haunt me. I knew that I wouldn’t get into a top tier school in CS with a C in CS, so I applied to Berkeley as a forestry major and to UCLA as an english literature major. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I went to those schools. I think if I went to Berkeley I’d be a park ranger or something by now. I don’t think I’d mind that. If I went to UCLA I’d probably write more, which I don’t think I’d mind either. But I ended up at Davis in CS, which was OK too.

So to make the rest of the story short, I went to UC Davis. I found many interesting classes but also many not so interesting classes that I found to be a waste of time. And by then I had no qualms about skipping out of classes that I found were a waste. So my GPA at Davis was pretty bad. But I learned a lot and cracked open the books from time to time and now I’m working as a web application developer. And for now, I really enjoy my job. Even when I’m in a programming class for a week. This class wasn’t a waste of my time. Having my boss sit next to me the whole time made it easier for me to come to that conclusion.

Sometimes I think about the past and start regretting the way I’ve lived. As I grow older I find myself thinking more and more about the “what ifs.” Which I guess is logical. As you get older, you’ve lived through more situations, so there are more what if scenarios to think about. And a lot of times when we start playing back our lives we come to the conclusion that there could have been so much more. If I truly had worked harder as a kid, I would definitely be a lot more successful financially. But that does not necessarily mean that I would be happier. So I guess it’s best to just look at the past in a good light. It’s fun to think about the past and play back those scenarios in your head, but we shouldn’t worry too much about those wasted opportunities.

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