One Event from Each Year of My Life

I’m going to turn eighteen in a couple of months. That’s usually considered a milestone age in the modern world, so I guess I’ll reflect and try to recall something that happened in my life each year.

By the way, if the year-numbering is strange to you, uh…just think that the first day of the first month of year zero is 23 August 1995.

-1: Well gee. I don’t think I remember much from when I was this young. The events for years -1 and 0 are according to parents. Somewhere in -1.2, I was found to have eczema that was often exacerbated by my myriad of food allergies. As my skin frequently broke to the point of infection danger, the doctor prescribed lots of antibiotics, and ensured my parents that within months I will no longer have eczema. Three months later, the doctor ensured that I’d outgrow it by age 1. And then by age 3. Darn. I still have eczema.

0: I was ridiculously interested in numbers. I also really didn’t like to sleep. Both of these have never changed. And I guess both of these don’t really count as events.

1: On 1.2XE (01 Feb 1997), I looked at the family calendar, and complained to Dad, “Where’s the last day of February?”

2: I have absolutely no idea what happened this year.

3: On the way to Yosemite, my mom decided to listen to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. She accidentally hit the repeat button. Evidently when she realized that it was repeating she was afraid I would be bored, and so switched to another disc, but I said “but Mom, it’s beautiful.”

4: My parents first introduced me to the concept of death, and that people eventually stopped living. Naturally, my first response is that I was terrified, and I wondered why people didn’t try to live forever.

5: My first piano lesson was on 5.5NO. About two months later, the piano teacher started telling me to use the metronome. A few weeks later, she decided to increment a metronome marking she wrote on one of my pieces, did not happen to have a metronome at hand, and said, “let’s see, the next one up from 126, that should be 134.” I corrected her and said that the next increment would be 132. For some reason, she was surprised, actually went to try to dig out her metronome, and tested me on what the numbers adjacent to certain markings on the metronome are. She just wouldn’t believe it and asked me if I could recite the entire sequence, so I recited all the numbers, from 40 to 208. She asked me why I spent the time to memorize the entire sequence and I told her that I hardly memorized anything, I just noted that the numbers on the metronome follow quite a few patterns, like how for any number less than 108, twice the number is also on the metronome, so in reality I hardly memorized anything.

6: I began developing an absurd fear of flashing red lights. It took about four years to wear off.

7: In and around these years, I was hounded by nightmares of getting trapped in elevators and getting attacked by light bulbs, frequently after turning them off. They certainly impacted me as for quite a few years my heart always pounded in elevator rides and even today some of the weird habits I have when turning lights on and off haven’t worn off.

8: On 8.4ZO, I somehow got 1st place at a chess tournament, completely unexpected and definitely lucky, as in one of the games I was losing in an endgame but my opponent made a blunder. For some reason, that made my Dad think I’m a chess genius (?), and starting making me spend hours each day studying chess over the next few years. At first I enjoyed chess, but his pressure made me despise chess more and more, especially with his repeated complaints at my slow progress. Seriously, anything would have been slow compared to that random 1st place.

9: On 9.2GO, I suddenly realized that living forever would horribly suck. But then, I thought about it and concluded that dying on a certain scale horribly sucked about as much, but probably less. In any case, I was definitely grateful that dying existed, as it was much better than the alternative. But was life a lose-lose? Over the next few days, I suddenly received a barrage of these mental attacks of questions about the world, like the above, whether the world I’m in is actually real or if it’s a very long dream, or if objects actually don’t continuously exist but cease to exist when I stop looking at them and reappear when I look in that direction again. Only the last question I mentioned here I was able to convincingly answer myself quickly. A few weeks later, I decided that even though I don’t see the back of my neck, it exists because I could poke it and feel it. For some reason, quite a few years passed before I realized that by doing so I’ve actually only generalized the problem from that of eyesight to that of any sense. Funny.

10: Afraid that I would (or maybe had already) make (/made) a birthday wish I would regret, I decided that I had to make sure that birthday wishes don’t actually tend to become true. To test, I made the birthday wish that for at least one person in the room, the next audible word they speak to me will start with the letter “o.” The wish did not come true. I was relieved.

11: Due to spending too much time at day and night worrying about philosophical issues, keeping up with Dad’s demanding chess quotas, and getting mad after convincing myself that I was absolutely wrong for listening to my second-grade teacher who told us that Harry Potter, video games, etc. were evil and should not be touched, I was about as far in academics in seventh grade as I was in fourth grade. Although I skipped a grade ahead in math, I found myself near the bottom of the class. Working a way back up ensued.

12: Chess came to a horridly bitter end. My, was I thankful that at least it was an end. Also, I finally gave myself a convincing solution to the dilemma of death versus eternity when thinking about irrational numbers. Due to huge misfortunes in chess and in other parts of real life, I developed a fear of the number 17. I remember I once had a dream that I was little and building sandcastles at the beach and after I built the 17th I saw a huge wave coming in the distance, but while others were fleeing I was convinced it was bad to leave them in a group of 17 and built an 18th one at the risk of drowning. The wave did indeed plunge me under…into waking up. In a few years, I ceased all superstition.

13 (freshman year of high school): In by far the happiest year of my life so far, I took huge leaps in piano and I made National Ocean Sciences Bowl. Although I’ve never liked reading, my English teacher somehow made it temporarily enjoyable to me. I especially liked Lord of the Flies. A. Ko introduced me to artofproblemsolving.com, where I got introduced to the math competition world. At that time, MATHCOUNTS level was very hard for me, so I simply only did that on FTW, only finding out later that I’m past-age for it. Well, with only studying MATHCOUNTS stuff I achieved a 6 on the AIME, so I was happy.

14: I discovered power metal. It was almost therapeutically convalescing of my emotional troubles, and I loved it. I also went to SUMaC. I loved it. I lived.

15: After a debacle in calculus class, I started realizing the parents ruined everything. At one point I liked chess, until my dad made it painful. At one point I really liked math, but after my dad started telling me that I should get better at it on top of my self-motivation, I didn’t enjoy it as much. I still enjoy it though. Also, playing piano was much more enjoyable before my mom with her absolutely void of musical knowledge started criticizing my piano playing. Eventually, I came to conclude that what I hated most was how parents seem to want to take credit for everything. It always seemed like they wanted to express that my work was mostly theirs. Of course, I wanted to get better at math and music, but I always felt that someday my parents would talk about how proud they were that I was able to follow their advice to greatness. I really just wanted to prove that I am mostly motivated by me, but it seemed hard to find something that they won’t butt into. I finally figured that since both of them have always been absolutely disapproving of computer games, I would start playing minesweeper. Of course, that came with the problem that I could only do it when I’m sure they wouldn’t be able to find me doing it, for example when they were outside. But the thing was, no matter how good I get at minesweeper, they won’t ever be able to take any credit for it. In chess, in math, and in music, their comments were useless and detrimental but they’ll make every argument that they helped. In minesweeper, they won’t be able to take any credit because they never even said anything because they didn’t even know about it. That made me happy and that kept me motivated.

16: College apps was ridiculously painful. They should seriously fix the system.

So I simply concluded that I suck at talking about myself. I won’t do this again for a long while.

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