Reflections Upon 2012
As a way to assess how well I spent 2012 and to make 2013 a strong year, I’m going to go through very briefly things I learned this year, things I appreciated, goals I accomplished, etc. This is for my benefit, but maybe you’ll pick up some things along the way too.
What went well
I met a lot of fantastic people this year and also improved my relationship with people I knew since before 2012. I shared some incredible experiences with people I never would have expected to know back in January last year. I really wish I could list them all here, but I don’t want to accidentally exclude anyone, so I won’t. However, if you think you are one of those people, thank you! You made my 2012 infinitely better, and I hope I did the same for you.
Goal: Despite meeting a lot of great new people, I grew apart from some people I was close with last year or even in the first half of 2012. I want to try and hang out with those people more in 2013. I also want to keep meeting new people.
I learned a lot in 2012—perhaps not as much as I wanted to, but a satisfactory amount. During the first half of the year, I mainly used the programming language Scheme while taking a introductory computer science class at Yale, but outside of that, I didn’t do as much programming as I would have liked.
This past fall, however, brought huge changes. I picked up LESS, a language built off CSS, and Git, version control software, while working for the Yale Daily News, learned more about PHP and SQL through self-studying in my free time, and have begun to read about C and Python. I also began using LaTeX for a few class assignments and have started relying on Vim for text editing.
I dove into a melange of various computer and web technologies this year, and while that gave me a broader perspective on the variety of tools out there, it prevented me from really mastering a specific language.
I’m going to go over some problems the Epicurean had last year, but this section is about what went well. We launched a website this past summer. Our writer interest increased over three-fold, and the editors this year, for the most part, are much closer and enthusiastic about the magazine than last year. This is an exciting time of growth for the Epicurean. We are also looking to work with Yale Dining more closely this upcoming semester, thanks for Recipes Editor Lucas.
What didn’t go as well as planned
Balancing Classwork & Life
A funny thing happened these past three semesters. I went from taking four classes for a grade during freshmen year fall to taking four classes for a grade and one for credit (no-grade) during freshmen year spring to taking five and a half classes for a grade this past semester. Along with the increasing workload, my grades took a slight dip. It wasn’t an end-of-the-world dip luckily, but the trend was clear. For example, the ratio of A’s to A-‘s might have steadily decreased from the first to third semester.
This isn’t that big of an issue, but I definitely feel like I could get more out of classes if I spent more time working on them, which would consequently raise my grades. Luckily for me, I only need to take four classes for a grade per semester from here on out if I want to double major in computer science and economics. That leaves no leeway if I do in fact double major but tons of leeway if I scrap econ and just go with computer science as a major. I’m hoping to make each class count, and as always, I will look towards choosing classes that I actually find interesting.
Goal: Do well on four classes per semester.
My personal finance (stating it that way makes it seem like I actually have money) has taken quite a beating this year. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least $320 that I lost which could otherwise have been avoided.
For starters, the Yale Epicurean has always struggled with its finances, which led to bunch of us editors shelling out to print the Spring 2012 issue. I contributed $200 while a few others contributes amounts of $200 or $100. Theoretically, I should get paid back in the future, but as of now, I still haven’t been paid back.
The reasons for the Epicurean’s struggling finances are that print advertising doesn’t cut it anymore, and for the first half of last year, we worked with an expensive printer. I proposed switching to a new printer called Knepper Press, and their rates are much lower. Even so, we’re still getting back on our feet.
Goal: Bring the Epicurean budget into a surplus, so that the editors can get paid back and we will be on more solid financial ground.
Besides having spent a lot of money in France this past summer—on food, transportation, and gifts for relatives, which by the way I don’t consider “lost” money but money well-spent—I received a traffic ticket while biking in Paris. I’m not going to go into the details, but there were multiple ways I could have gotten out of that incident with my $120 intact. Alas, that was not the case, and I spent a sweltering afternoon in Paris navigating bureaucracy to pay the ticket. In total, I spent around $1,100 in Paris. A lot of that was on incredibly delicious yet painstakingly expensive truffled cashews, but they sure were delicious. Bought at La Grande Épicerie on rue de Sèvres, the truffled cashews had the most elegant, aromatic, savory flavors and were roasted to perfection. If only I could get my hands on the recipe…
Goal: On an unrelated note, learn to to evaluate securities (stocks) so that I can make smart 2-6 week investments.
What went both ways
This year, I interviewed for a few programs and internships/jobs. Prior to 2012 I never really had much interviewing experience, and in my opinion, I still don’t. Here are some lessons I learned, however.
- Always prepare. By this, I mean, know why you want whatever position you’re interviewing for. Have a compelling story, and be able to tell it with passion. Don’t think you can just think up answers on the spot.
- Try and find one unique aspect that makes you a great fit for the position or program that no one else has. When I interviewed for my Yale Summer Session program, I outlined why learning French and experiencing Paris would be perfect for my work in food blogging and photography. No one else in the class had a food blog dating back to 2009 or had a passion for photography.
- Make sure you’re arguing why you would be good for the firm, company, or program, not the reverse. If I was the interviewer, I would want to pick someone benefits me and the organization I am working for, not someone who would only benefit himself or herself by joining the organization.
- Review your previous experiences and find stories that would answer questions that ask you about challenges you’ve faced or disagreements you’ve had. These behavioral-type questions will show up in practically all interviews, and saying “I’ve never had a disagreement with a coworker” won’t cut it. You’ll want to display some appealing characteristic through these stories—leadership, compromise, initiative, etc.
So last fall, I decided I wanted to gain weight—not just any weight, but lean body mass, a.k.a. muscle. I did, from last September through April 2012. Unfortunately, I took a haphazard approach and consequently gained a lot of fat. I ended up peaking at about 145 lbs after spring break last year—April. As a point of comparison, I was 130 lbs before college, so in 8 months, I gained 15 lbs. Theoretically, one should be able to pull this off with very little fat gain by gaining weight very consistently. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully committed to a controlled weight gain and instead oscillated between times of fast and sloppy weight gain and times of no weight gain or even a slight loss.
Regardless, I decided to start over by cutting fat during the summer. The picture of sous-vide chicken breast, quinoa, and broccoli above shows one of the typical meals I would eat during the summer: lot’s of lean protein, vegetables, and some complex carbs. After about 3 months, I got down to the low 120’s. Since then, I’ve been slowly gaining mass, and it’s been working pretty well. I’m back up to around 135 lbs. My strength at this weight is even higher than my strength when I was at 145 lbs, and my bodyweight to strength ratio has definitely increased.
Goal: It’s always hard to set fitness goals because you want to set something reasonable but difficult to achieve. If I had to set a goal, I would want to increase my lean body mass by 12 lbs by the end of 2013 putting my target weight around 145 lb (but at a lower body fat than last time). As extra credit, I plan to get my bench press/deadlift/squat to bodyweight ratio to ~1.5/2/2 respectively.