I have been thinking a lot about a question that writer Michelle Kuo posed: “How much does interior change — the work of reading and writing, the self-respect and self-knowledge that they can create — matter?”

I looked back on my journal and pulled out some of my favorite essays (in no particular order or arrangement) that are available free of charge on the Internet. These beautiful words have shaped how I see the world and I hope you will also find them interesting.

The Opposite of Loneliness

Short summary/reflection/quote:

“We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.

For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.” ~Marina Keegan

Paper Tigers, or What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?

  • Author: Wesley Yang
  • Source: New York Magazine
  • Short summary/reflection/quote: Brutally honest critique of the hyper-competitive Asian American mentality. You will probably find a lot of the opinions controversial and that’s why this is worth the read.

Applying Sideways

Short summary/reflection/quote:

“Whenever I speak to students or their families, be it on travel or during a campus information session, without fail I am asked the same question…How do I get in to MIT? And here is what I tell them:

Apply sideways.

  • Do well in school. Take tough classes. Interrogate your beliefs and presumptions. Pursue knowledge with dogged precision. Because it is better to be educated and intelligent than not.
  • Be nice. This cannot be overstated. Don’t be wanton or careless or cruel. Treat those around you with kindness. Help people. Contribute to your community.
  • Pursue your passion. Find what you love, and do it. Maybe it’s a sport. Maybe it’s an instrument. Maybe it’s research. Maybe it’s being a leader in your community. Math. Baking. Napping. Hopscotch. Whatever it is, spend time on it. Immerse yourself in it. Enjoy it.

If you do these three things, you will be applying sideways to MIT.” ~Chris Peterson

Even artichokes have doubts

Short summary/reflection/quote:

“If this year is anything like the last 10, around 25 percent of employed Yale graduates will enter the consulting or finance industry*. This is a big deal. This is a huge deal. This is so many people! This is one-fourth of our people! Regardless of what you think or with whom you’re interviewing, we ought to be pausing for a second to ask why.” ~Marina Keegan

How to Disobey Your Tiger Parents, in 14 Easy Steps

Short summary/reflection/quote: An alternative title would be, How to communicate with well-meaning but over-anxious parents, in 14 hard-to-apply steps. This essay has so much heart and anyone can relate to it.

The Moral Bucket List

Short summary/reflection/quote:

“About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light…When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character. A few years ago I realized that I wanted to be a bit more like those people. I realized that if I wanted to do that I was going to have to work harder to save my own soul…I was going to have to be better at balancing my life.” ~David Brooks


Short summary/reflection/quote:

“After I qualified as a doctor in 1960, I removed myself abruptly from England and what family and community I had there, and went to the New World, where I knew nobody…I craved some deeper connection — “meaning” — in my life, and it was the absence of this, I think, that drew me into near-suicidal addiction to amphetamines in the 1960s.

Recovery started, slowly, as I found meaningful work in New York, in a chronic care hospital in the Bronx (the “Mount Carmel” I wrote about in “Awakenings”). I was fascinated by my patients there, cared for them deeply, and felt something of a mission to tell their stories — stories of situations virtually unknown, almost unimaginable, to the general public and, indeed, to many of my colleagues. I had discovered my vocation, and this I pursued doggedly, single-mindedly, with little encouragement from my colleagues. Almost unconsciously, I became a storyteller at a time when medical narrative was almost extinct. This did not dissuade me, for I felt my roots lay in the great neurological case histories of the 19th century (and I was encouraged here by the great Russian neuropsychologist A. R. Luria). It was a lonely but deeply satisfying, almost monkish existence that I was to lead for many years.” ~Oliver Sacks