As 2013 draws to a close, it is worth looking back at the ups and downs this year held for all of us. This curtain call marks the end of Part One of My Life – the end of my days in government school (no more uniforms!), the fact that I’m finally able to drive, and in so many ways, December has made me feel a lot like a proper adult.
Twenty-thirteen has been good to me. Save for the minor “existential crises” that I put myself into again and again…but I think that I’ve emerged wiser every time.
I finally got gold in both the APMO and the AMC, and reclaimed my First Place title in the OMK. I should note that I practically did no math this year relative to previous years…I still didn’t manage to go higher than a bronze at the IMO in Colombia, but a medal is just a medal, and frankly, I’ve quite gotten over the gold chase.
That is not to say that I’ve lost my drive! It just really hit me that there are a lot of important things besides just blindly doing problems all day. For example, this year I had the opportunity to give a lecture at my good friend’s high school in Penang. This was a way cooler experience than winning stuff, and I’ve just realized that I really like teaching to an audience. I’ve become a lot more confident when teaching, and I prepare a lot better nowadays.
I’ve given quite a few talks at IMO camp: one as recently as a few weeks ago, on the fundamentals of geometry to the new batch of juniors, and one during the final IMO camp for the 2013 cycle, on harmonic division. I especially enjoyed the latter, and I talked with the feeling that I was teaching something really mind-blowing. ah this gets me a bit nostalgic.
I learned C++ this year and got the hang of it…fast enough to bring me to the IOI Team Selection Test (TST) this year, where I placed 4th, a respectable position. :)
I always tell people that I learned it by myself, but that’s not entirely true: I found it really hard, relying solely on online resources, and by January I still hadn’t understood the point of iostream. However, when some friends demonstrated it during IMO camp in January, I immediately got it. It was a true light bulb moment, and I rapidly progressed through the syntax and started learning algorithms.
I’m also starting to learn Python, HTML and CSS all at once, and from a C++ standpoint, Python is basically a language for dummies. No more type declarations, no more worries about overflow, no more input/output nightmares. I was introduced to HTML and CSS last week with an awesome lecture – basically also my introduction to the world of web development, which is a whole new ball game altogether. I’m definitely going to do more stuff in this direction.
I finally took my ATCL! At long last! I’ve been hesitating so long about giving it a try that I somehow managed to delay it three years after I took my Grade 8. I took my exam on 13 Dec, with results still pending – I screwed up royally on my favorite piece by Brahms, which is probably enough to guarantee a fail, but I still have hope.
There are a lot of people who say that graded exams and diplomas are a waste of both time and money. I disagree. At least for myself, preparing for ATCL really pushed me to think about music beyond the notes and markings on the score. When I restarted lessons at the beginning of the year, I was playing horribly – which wasn’t to say that I didn’t know my notes (I did), but my tone was too ‘hard’, my chords not ‘warm’ enough, my phrases not ‘closed’ enough.
This year I dealt a lot with abstract terms like these. I struggled a lot initially, and after 12 years of music education, I still didn’t understand why my music was different from the beautiful playing I always hear on recordings. So I began to learn…after a few months, I started really getting into my playing. Music is not one-dimensional, and the emotive part of it is very true and very real. You can make the piano as an extension of yourself, both mentally and physically.
It has also made me more adept at waxing lyrical about music in abstract terms like these! This was basically a very long-winded way to say that I truly rediscovered my love for music this year, and I can now say that I will never stop playing.
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So this brings us to the ‘great divide': leaving home.
Through programming competitions, I came to know one of the higher-ups in this company, and I eventually hinted at an internship in one of my emails…which was thankfully noted!
From January till March, I will be taking up an internship at Jobstreet.com, a website for job-seekers to search through online listings. I will be working at Jobstreet headquarters near the Bukit Bintang area in KL. Accommodation is (hopefully) settled, and I already have my own @jobstreet.com email address! I’m going to be participating in the research group on job matching, which will involve programming and some algorithmic knowledge.
The main motivation for the internship, personally, is that I’m quite tired of studying all the time. SPM drained me out emotionally, and I don’t want to dive right back into the monotonous routine of eat, memorize, sleep, rinse, repeat. Time to get some real world skills: learning to network, refine my coding abilities, dressing and speaking well.
Plus, I visited the offices last weekend during the MCO camp! I was quite pleased to learn that the dress code was casual, and that a monorail station is smack right outside the building. KLCC and Pavilion is just a few stops away. Convenience ftw.
After March, I am planning to further my studies through the A-level program at Sunway College, KL. The choice of Sunway is mainly due to the partial scholarship I received in Sunway’s math competition earlier this year. The intake is on 31 March – by then, SPM results will be out, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for good news, hopefully leading to a full scholarship somewhere?
All is tentative, but what is certain is that I’m stepping into quite a different life now, godspeed, and good luck to myself!