22 In Review

Since I started university five years ago, I go home every year just a few days before Christmas, usually in time to celebrate my birthday. Today (I started writing this post on Dec. 20), I say goodbye to the 22 year old version of myself and hello to a new age. People tend to change gradually over time rather than in the course of one day, so this is not meant to say I am suddenly a completely new person. However, birthdays and turning of the calendar years tend to make people reflect on how they evolved in the past year and what to look for in the next. I hope to reflect on my life as a 22 year old young man and also on what I would like to see in the 23 year old version of myself.

(above: photo taken near the start of 22)

Perhaps the greatest change about me within the past year is I became more confident in my personal character. I just be myself and worry less about how others’ perception of me change as a result of what I say or do. I am more open to discuss sensitive and deeper issues with friends, about their and my behaviour, and what is right and what is wrong, for example, even though there is the risk of disagreement, misunderstanding, or alienation. As a result, I am able to have more meaningful and deeper conversations with more people than before, including both old and new friends. I am also not as afraid to hide my failures, such as getting no marks on an assignment for submitting it two minutes late or getting a terrible grade on a course that seems important for my area of study, when many think of me as a very good student. True friendships are hard to establish, and I sincerely hope that I can continue to be more open and earnest so I can find more common connections with people and make more true friends.

(above: coming back from the US during reading week)

In terms of major milestones in my life, after five years of school and internships, I finally received my bachelor’s degree in June. I still remember five years ago when my family sent me to university, me saying goodbye to them in the university plaza, and thinking in my head while watching their car driving away what my next five years living independently would be like. Although there are things I imagined about university life that turned out to be different from the ideal, I grew tremendously in these five years and I feel confident about myself in terms of facing the future. I feel thankful for the opportunities I had in meeting many wonderful people in these years who influenced me from my work ethics to my interests to my vision of what an ideal future is like. I’m also happy that in the end I was able to maintain a good enough average to graduate on the Dean’s Honour’s List for the math faculty.

(above: having dinner with my family at Niagara Falls after convocation; many turning points)

After traveling to seven countries in 2016, 2017 had high expectations. I ended up traveling to five different countries in 2017: Canada, US, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Japan, and South Korea. I would like to become a worldly person. Travel is both a way to escape the routine, everyday life and see a bigger world with alternative cultures and histories (人文历史) from my own. Out of all places I travelled to this year, Kyoto is my favourite.

(above: one of my favourite sights during my East Asia summer trip)

Next year, probably the most important thing for me will be to land a job after I graduate from my Master’s, and say goodbye to Waterloo after 6 years of calling this place home. I would like to work at a place with smart and motivated peers who can help me grow and solve problems that are either impactful or technically interesting or both. Ideally, it can be in the field of natural language processing, which is the larger area my Master’s thesis will be in, but I am also open to other areas such as working on some important infrastructure projects or other AI-applications. Other things I hope for the upcoming year include improving my grasp of mathematics important for my area such as linear algebra and statistics, read more novels and watch more movies, learn to better play the guitar, and make more deeper connections with people. I believe the key-ingredient to most of these things is simply better self-discipline (easy to say, hard to manage), but I am getting older and time is more critical so I hope this will keep motivate and remind me.

To 23, here I come.