2021 – New Year, New Beginnings

It’s been over a year since I completed my novel, over two since I started blogging. In this time, I have:

  • achieved some perilous academic feats, like high-school graduation,
  • cracked the university admissions process,
  • changed career directions – three times (blame COVID),
  • moved country – twice: ‘The International Fresher, or There and Back Again in 2020’s Pandemic’,
  • got robbed – once,
  • perfected the skill of writing 4k-word critical essays in less than 48 hours,
  • chanced upon one or two new unhealthy obsessions, a necessary side-effect of some 10 months of intermittent lockdowns,

. . . and, inevitably, suffered through the anxieties of self-definition, causing my rather noticeable radio-silence on this site.

Paradoxically, in reflecting upon the outcomes of my efforts – literature, literacy, and everything in between – I discovered that my work and values escape precisely that cookie-cutter definition I’d initially sought.

This process of accepting my, in fact, multidisciplinary interests and multifaceted identity was far from an idyllic SoCal retreat for spiritual yuppies. Apparently authorship, like grief, is composed of five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, through which one is obliged to struggle when the thought occurs, ‘what (insert a juicy swear) have I actually published?’ The only way out of those five circles of hell that I have come up with so far is the philosophical excuse that, when young, we all do foolish things. Conversely, the more practical side of my mind is always eager to remind me that writing a book provided some choice creative and editing skills, and, ultimately, Waterdown does make for a cute CV section.

This self-acceptance hurdle overcome, my most immediate problem mid-2020 became the where, the what, and the why of my university education. I am pleased to say that I was accepted to 8 US and 4 UK programmes, as well as an engineering school in Holland. However, the pervasive disaster that is COVID-19 severely limited my grand plans of double-majoring in CompLit and Computer Science (or STEM something or other) at, in my humble opinion, the best LibArts college in the States, not to be named. The lockdowns and limitations around travel and in-person teaching ruled out the implementation of that particular dream: I have consequently spent the last semester at University College London in the UK. Frigid British Higher Ed rules make double-majoring a rare and complicated practice, with the combination of anything humanitarian and technical being entirely impossible in my case. I fully recognise that it is insensitively first-world-problem of me to discuss the difficulties of going to one top-rate school instead of another, but the inability to dedicate my time equally to maths and Medieval English weighed heavily on my heart through all of past Term 1 at UCL.

The solution – or catharsis – came in the form of my current work: university admissions consulting for Bachelor’s and Master’s applicants, where I can both help others gain acceptance to their dream school and prevent them from making the mistakes committed in my own path to college. Most importantly – and all jokes aside! – I recognise my own luck and am wholly grateful for the opportunity to attend university, which is why I hope to share my experience and help make education more accessible to others.

This brings me to another point in my update-turned-confession: my literacy work and plans beyond the now-concluded Room to Read fundraiser. $1563 has been collected from the extended year+ of my book royalties – September 2019 to January 2021 – and from the kind donations of the public. This has allowed a classroom of readers to function for over a year and I am ever thankful for this process and all it has taught me, as well as for my generous readers and broader (often anonymous) audience, who have donated. My pledge fulfilled, I leave the fundraiser open for contributions from anyone able and willing, or perhaps from a future me, since my personal support of literacy is far from finished.

What I have retained from several months of daily English BA Zooming at UCL has further cemented my belief that reading, writing, and the critical analysis skills developed therein are the foundation of any other learning. Literacy and education, therefore, remain my core values, improving them – my core mission. As of yet, I have not found another specific channel to support children’s reading and student learning, as was my Literature for Literacy initiative, yet I remain open-eyed and open-eared for causes to which I could possibly contribute (drop me a line if you know of anything education-centred where I could be of help!).

Having touched upon all the major changes of my journey as a blogger, student, author, STEM-enthusiast, and more, I wish everyone reading this a healthy and productive 2021.

AS