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Today was the last day of DEs. Dr. Riddle cancelled class on Monday, meaning I can eat a late lunch and actually get to French on time for a change. Yay for that, but boo for cancelling a math class.

Emily and Sandra kidnapped Renu and me this afternoon. They took pictures of us in winter garb. I put on Emily's wool frisbee...erm, hat. Hey, it was supposed to be a hat. She tried. And we got presents. Yay. I have lotion and a card now. That reminds me. There's a screened-comment entry two entries back if you want a card from me.

So I've been a bit introspective lately, mostly thanks to Ryan's soapbox. And I was thinking about learning from experience. The truth is that I learned most of this from experience, as I usually do. Why? This requires a little blast to the past.

Let's go back to middle school. Besides that awkward puberty stage, I was "the smart kid" and just starting to take writing seriously. People rarely saw me without at least one of a paperback or Dr. Nbook. I worked hard to keep my reputation as the smart kid; after all, my classmates would work to do better than me and rub it in when they did. This would make me quite upset, so I would get caught in that vicious cycle. I was quite the perfectionist then, if you didn't notice.

In the middle of this, I still had friends. Rather diverse groups of friends, probably more like acquaintances than friends, but yes, friends. Either way, I felt some form of acceptance, something every young teen wants to feel.

High school was a little better; at any rate, it wasn't as terrible as middle school. For one, I had competition--competition for the top, I mean. We had actually met before at the local spelling bees in middle school. And for once, I didn't care as much. I cared when others did better than I did, but when Polly did better than me... I didn't really care. Why? Because although we had a silent pact. As long as we graduated in the top two, all would be well in the world. And we did--her first, me second.

I still read and wrote like crazy, but the writing took over as I discovered NaNoWriMo. And as all this happened, I wanted to write more. And write more. And write more. As I got more and more involved in all my extracurriculars, I noticed that people loved to push me away. They couldn't push me away, of course--after all, how do you push someone away so involved? But they did do it indirectly, and I noticed. I continued to cling to everything--my straight-A record, my involvement in clubs, my love of books and writing, wondering what on earth would ever happen if I made a B.

And then I got sick of high school life, so I left altogether. Not dropping out, mind, but I took classes at the local college senior year out of sheer boredom and frustration. I took calculus. And I got my first B ever.

I knew it was coming; after all, I got a D on one of the tests while still doing well on the others. But instead of feeling crushed, I was relieved. Finally I could regain all sense of human relations I had lost over the years. Finally I could live again, breathe again.

And live I did. The second obstacle was coming out of the nerd closet, especially after discovering my love of math. I came out fine, but the world around me rejected me, which made me want to crawl back in and shut the door tight. Instead of doing that, I embraced my loves of math and writing even harder and watched them become not just loves but part of who I am.

And I learned all this from experience. I let go of (most of) my perfectionism. I figured out how to let go of things, even if they still cross my mind every now and then. But most of all, I learned how to live passionately, to let my passions guide me, and not to let others get in the way. When I have a fiery passion for what I do, I have what I need to make my way through. After years of searching and coming out of my shell, which in itself is a continuous process, I've finally found that.

I wrote that on the paper tablecloth in Evans in the hope that someone would learn from my experience. But perhaps they may have to learn it themselves, just as I did. If someone told me that years ago, I probably would have ignored them, for I regretted quite a bit. Then one day I realized that no matter what I did, I couldn't change the past--only its effect on the future. So what if I've never been to prom or if I've never had too much of a love life or if I didn't do xyz action in the past? I can't change it, so why worry? Why cling to it? It gets in the way of the present too much.

And just as I started typing that last part, Avenue Q's "Purpose" came on. Perfect timing. Now to seize the day, and in turn, to seize the world.

Oh. P.S. How to calculate pi by throwing hot dogs. Awesome. I should try this approximation sometime.