Category Archives: Weekly Post

Farewell to Summer

As of about an hour ago, fall has officially begun. The equinox feels as good a time as any to reflect on my summer, as well as provide a cognitive break point and encourage myself to treat fall differently.

Normally, I reflect like this approximately once a month, reviewing my previous month, getting a handle on the big picture of my upcoming schedule, and setting some personal goals. I don’t write them for an audience, but my plans aren’t really secret — I often tell Grace or other friends like my community group what I’m thinking. In a certain sense, though, God is my audience, and I’ve certainly felt waves of conviction and resolve while reflecting, similar to those I’ve felt in church or reading through the Bible.

Naturally, though, my choice to make this reflection public before writing it will likely inflect my writing in various ways, some of which I might not even be aware of. I already feel a need to edit my language to be more precise; when writing for myself, I feel a bit more free to follow ideas as they come rather than retrace my steps to write more precisely. Anyways, here goes.

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Five More Things Millennials Need to Kill

I’m a millennial, and I like to read about what’s unique about my generation, even if it’s just a lazy analysis of market trends that might as well be noise. But the one consistent thing I keep reading is that Millennials are Killing Everything. At least, that’s what the Miami Herald says, offering 27 examples. Business Insider claims that ‘Psychologically Scarred’ Millennials are killing countless industries, but I can count, and they only have 19 in their list. Even BuzzFeed seems to mock their own style of headline: Here Are 28 Things Millennials Are Killing In Cold Blood. Not to be outdone, Mashable offers 70 things millennials have killed.

Since this seems to be our generational superpower (apparently always alongside avocado toast), I have a few more things that I’d like to see us use it on.

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Disillusionment with Authority is the Coming of Age Story of Our Time

As I wrap up my time in math grad school and start to look beyond, I’ve been reflecting on what led me to study math in the first place. It was the topic that captivated my mind, that I was the most proficient at, and which made me thirst to learn more. But that it even presented itself as an option for a career to me at all is one aspect I’d never really considered.

Only after I got to grad school did I realize that I had an image in my mind of academia that was rather different from what I found. I had imagined that everyone in academia was motivated by the desire to solve the big problems that the world faces, and they simply aimed at different time horizons for their solutions. There’s an underlying talk of work that is “20 years away”, “10 years away”, and academics rightly pride themselves in the fact that they have the freedom to think on those scales where businesses would shy away.

But what I found was that a large number of academics — and this isn’t even restricted to the math department — don’t even think in terms of providing solutions. Instead, there’s commonly a self-referential focus, an inward turn to do things to impress other academics, writing papers and building theory with only fellow academics in mind.

Part of my story, which I’ve touched on in many recent blog posts, is therefore one of disillusionment with this type of academic authority. Some of it comes from rising to the highest ranks and seeing what life is like at “the top” of whatever status hierarchy you find yourself in. In high school, I remember being somewhat disillusioned by my experience at a science summer camp in Australia that our Science Bowl team had won as a prize for winning the national competition. “This is it?” I remember wondering. “This is what I was striving after all of this time?”

I’ve gone through a similar type of evolution at MIT. To be clear, this isn’t the only mental malady one can experience at a place like MIT, or even the most common. I hear a lot about the impostor syndrome, where we think that we don’t belong in an institution because we’re not good enough. But such students still often believe in the fundamental goodness or effectiveness of their school, and only wish they could live up to it. The disillusionment I’m talking about is when they no longer believe that the institutions and authorities they’ve looked up to are actually praiseworthy anymore.

Disillusionment like this is surprisingly common today.

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Five Years at City on a Hill Church

Five years ago tomorrow, I first visited City on a Hill Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. Affectionately known as “CoaH” (koh-uh) by those of us who call it our spiritual home, it’s been my favorite part of living in the Boston area.

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What happened to the dream?

I finally got to see La La Land with my church community group this week. I appreciated its down-to-earth, intentionally banal depiction of Hollywood as well as the subtle poking fun at LA traffic and lack of seasons (a flash mob dance number during a traffic jam opens the movie, in “WINTER”).

The palm tree is part of the joke.

Everyone in the movie is striving to make it in the entertainment industry somehow. And it’s the depiction of this striving that forms the main tension in the movie and my deepest thoughts after it ended.

Boston has a similar feel, with seemingly everyone striving to achieve academic or entrepreneurial success. Well, that’s not entirely true — I’ve certainly met many, particularly in church, whose efforts also included a healthy dose of family and community. But if you spend enough time on campus and casual social gatherings, the first topic that often comes up is what you work on, or what you’ll be doing after you graduate, and you can come away with the same sort of impression that it’s why everyone came here.

But it wasn’t the cities that the movie made me think about the most, it was myself. What has happened to my dreams?

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