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Yesterday I went to Sam’s house, which was nice since I’m very lonely and bored now that no one else is here. My uncle stops by from time to time, but other than that, I have to talk to my cats if I want any companionship. On the way to his house, he told me that he thought I was a diligent student, and I told him I had no idea how he ever reached that conclusion since I didn’t spend any time on schoolwork if I thought that I wouldn’t get anything more than a grade out of it. On the way home, I somehow revealed to Sam and his mother that I was much happier in junior high school because I was working all day rather than playing all day. Sam said that I needed a break from all the work I had been doing, and so I revealed to him that I have been doing no work lately. The music that I listened to when I was younger is the only memory I have of those happier days, and that is why it has such a saddening effect on me, despite being quite cheerful music.

Today I decided that I was going to stop merely talking about the better days of the past. I determined that I would be much happier if I could learn a lot, and now would be a good time to start since no one else is here to ridicule me for my changed ways or four wasted years of high school. For probably the first time since eighth grade, I began to read a history book for pleasure. The time I spent reading that book was probably my happiest time since eighth grade. After reading a section of the book, I decided to play the cello for a little while. I decided that I would attempt to do exactly what my teacher had told me to do, and I believe I was playing quite well, by my standards at least.

All these years, I was forced to pretend that I was a happy person. I did not want anyone to know how terrible it felt not to be learning what I could have been learning, but yet I was never able to change that. Perhaps unfortunately, I have committed myself to four math classes and two music classes in the fall, which leaves me no room in my schedule for a history class or a language class that I would love to take. It is quite a pity that the only Introductory Greek class is 5 days a week in the middle of the morning, when so many other classes that I must take are offered uniquely. I shall try very hard to squeeze that Greek class into my schedule in the winter, since I really need to take something like that to be happy.

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About Simon

Hi. I'm Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo. I'm a mathematics postdoc at Dartmouth College. I'm also a musician; I play piano and cello, and I also sometimes compose music and study musicology. I also like to play chess and write calligraphy. This blog is a catalogue of some of my thoughts. I write them down so that I understand them better. But sometimes other people find them interesting as well, so I happily share them with my small corner of the world.
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5 Responses to Next Post

  1. blenrock says:

    There will be plenty of time to take other courses. One semester of a schedule that’s not entirely ideal won’t be so bad. Plus, all the math sounds GREAT. I bet you’ll enjoy it a lot more than you think you will. =)

  2. rippledance says:

    Good for you. Try for the Greek class. I love the humanities almost as much as the sciences, which is to my great disadvantage as I can’t bear to concentrate overly on the sciences since that means giving up some of the effort I put into humanities. I’ve always loved/hated subjects regardless of the teacher or the grade – though the latter gives me something of a focus. I think I may understand your sadness at having no work to do – it’s for that reason that I miss school. Having nothing to do eats away at me – it’s a kind of emptiness that I cannot entirely fathom.

  3. mathfanatic says:

    Simon, I thought I should let you know how moving that was…
    No, really. I suddenly appreciate the freedom I have to take history and Spanish, as tiring as they can be some times. But I’m sure that you’ll enjoy taking the math and music classes, considering that they’re things you’ve enjoyed doing.
    But I don’t believe that you got little done in High Shcool. You’re a motivated person, and you’ve accomplished a lot then. You came from nowhere and excelled in math, participated in USAMO three times, went to ARML several times, and you know a ton of math. You play the piano and the cello very well – much better than I probably ever will at the piano – and countless other things. That time was not spent playing all day.
    School’ll be starting soon, and I’m sure you’ll keep busy with all the classes you’re taking. And if you can’t take a language or history course this year, you’ll always have next year. And the year after. And the year after that.

    • Simon says:

      Thank you for saying that. I too am sure I will enjoy taking math and music classes. However, despite my years of trying to excel in one field rather than be well-rounded, I have suddenly found a longing for knowledge in all fields. When I was younger, I was actually good at everything (or at least everything academic). I felt I knew a lot about history and chemistry and even literature when I was in eighth grade. But now, I know the same amount about history and literature as I knew in eighth grade, which is probably still far more than most people at my high school will ever know, but that’s not good enough for me. I am a perfectionist by nature. Furthermore, my mother always compares me to her father, who was a very famous doctor (neuropathologist) who escaped from Belgium when Hitler was coming to power, and he was unable to attend school. So instead, he got a terrific education by reading anything he could find. I wish he were still alive to be an inspiration to me, but he died in 1990, when I was only four years old.
      What you say is half of the truth. I have been very motivated in mathematics. I have attended many competitions, and I have even been victorious in several of them. For people my age, I do know a ton of math. I play the piano and the cello adequately at best though. I am nowhere close to the standards of the people who win competitions. I don’t practice very much by any standards, and it is probably only because I hear music in my house all the time (my mother is a music teacher and performer, and my father also performs a lot, and my sister is also a musician) that I have been able to get as far as I have.
      However, when I was in tenth grade, I ended up in an idiot’s history class, since my school didn’t think sophomores could handle AP classes (not that that stopped me from taking some), so all sophomores took the same history class. When I got the textbook and showed it to mother, we agreed that the textbook would be appropriate for fourth graders. So my mother got me a terrific Western Civilization book. I didn’t touch that book until today. (Well, ok, I touched it, but I didn’t read it.)
      Before the school year ended, my parents told me that I had to get a job. They listed a whole bunch of things for me to do, most of which consisted of flipping hamburgers for a local fast food joint. Clearly, that wasn’t acceptable, so I ignored their requests. I did do a project for my synagogue that got paid a little bit, and now artofproblemsolving.com employs me, and that was a big relief, since I can now tell my parents that I have a job that I really enjoy.
      But how many hours each day have I been on the forum? 10? 12? I don’t know, but I do know that that time mindlessly refreshing the page to see no new comments was wasted. I would long for a new comment to appear so that a minute or so would pass as I would read it and possibly respond to it. And how many chess games that I didn’t really want to play did I play? I played them because I didn’t have anything else to do. That saddens me greatly.
      You are correct; I will be off to Southern California on September 12th. But what am I to do until then? I can’t pull a minor Rip Van Winkle and sleep through it. Things just don’t work like that. I can read Derbyshire and Du Sautoy on the Riemann Hypothesis. (Thank goodness I’m done with Sabbagh; I don’t know how long I could take being told how to multiply polynomials and how difficult it was to explain everything in mathematics that I understood when I was fourteen years old, or maybe even younger.) I can read Calculus on Manifolds, but only for a small amount of time at once.
      People aren’t supposed to be depressed about this stuff when they’re eighteen, are they?

  4. Anonymous says:

    test
    (By the way, this is B.L. (Lord Venom), I don’t have a livejournal, because, well, blah.)
    Yes, your revelations are indeed reasonable. I have suffered through many of the same experiences (though not to so severe an extent); during my 9th and 10th grade I also didn’t bother to do schoolwork if I thought I wouldn’t get more than a grade out of it. However, 10th grade was also when I started joining various student clubs and organisations, such as chess (which I enjoyed playing when I was a kid but never got around to playing seriously), Debate, and FBLA. I have met many people through these and improved upon existing relations. But I was quite a slacker, to use a layman’s term, though numerous attempts were taken to mitigate the situation. Junior year was somewhat better, since the more difficult classes forced me to commit a great deal more time to continue to earn good grades, combined with the impending task of university applications. It was during this time that I found out about and conducted research on the California Institute of Technology, and immediately realised that that was where I wanted to go and would be most “happy”, to use a comparative. It saddens me as well, regressing in my high school career, that my levels of self-motivation and time invested in performing useful activities and trying to equal Jongmin at math has been less than my standard of satisfactory. To aggravate things, summer has been almost just like the past 2. I had intended to gain a
    working knowledge of Greek, and study math/programming, but those have sadly turned out for the worse. I’m now trying to plan a time budget for the upcoming school year. My senior year will be my last chance to prove to myself that I can do what I need to do without being distracted by frivolous activities such as positing on AoPs (not that I do it much anymore), playing webgames, and the like.
    On a more relevant note, I support your interest in Greek. As you gain knowledge of it, I’ll be willing to engage in discussion/conversation regarding it 🙂

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