Obligated To Help

The last few weeks have been busy with a constant stream of homework and helping my classmates with their homework. I probably do every assignment at least three times because I explain the solutions to so many people over the week.

A girl in one of my classes sent me over 40 emails this week (split over two nights) asking questions about homework. A lot of the questions were extremely basic (for someone in a graduate level statistics course, she really should know what a p-value is). Being a business major, she obviously hasn’t had the quantitative or programming background that I have, so I felt bad enough for her to keep replying to her emails. After a while, though, it was difficult not to be short in my answers. When did it become my responsibility to hold her hand through the homework?

The worst part is that she never thanked me once. When it comes to tutoring or teaching others, I’m completely willing to help, but I do hope to receive some amount of gratitude. After all, I’m not the TA for the class, yet I spend far more time helping other students in the class than the TAs do. I don’t get paid, and I don’t ask for anything in return. The least my “students” can do is thank me. When this girl sent me 40 emails without a single “thank you,” she made it seem like I was expected or obligated to help her. That’s not how helping people is supposed to work.

The last email she sent me was asking what score I got on the previous homework, because she somehow got points taken off and is “curious” what I got. Why does it matter what I got? Shouldn’t she just figure out what she got wrong, rather than try to compare with someone else (who actually understands the material)? I didn’t reply.

Needless to say, I’m glad the term is almost over. All that’s left before spring break are two finals (on the same day) and a take-home final. Even during this weekend of cramming for exams, I still get emails asking for help. Unbelievable.

On a completely different note, the ten-year anniversary of the day I came out is Monday (March 14)! My two finals are on that day (starting at 8:30am, which is such an unholy time of day), but once those are over, I’m going to have an extra fabulous evening. Yay!

On Call

The last few weeks have been beyond busy. I decided to work extra hard early in the weekend so that I could take yesterday off from studying. I had a homework assignment due today, so I stayed up until 3am Friday and Saturday night to finish it.  The assignment wasn’t difficult (for me at least) because it was mostly a review of linear algebra (one of my favorite subjects), but I had to make my homework look perfect. I started typing all of my homework (for all of my classes) in LaTeX because it’s faster for me to type in TeX than to make impeccable handwritten homework. I’m finally coming to terms with how obsessive compulsive my perfectionism is.

I decided to go to the mall for my day off. Right before I was going to go, my undergrad study buddy called me for help on the homework assignment. I spent so much time with the material and the exercises that I could answer her questions without even referencing my work. After I helped her with the problem at hand, I went to the mall.

During the three hours (roughly) that I was at the mall, I received a text message from my undergrad study buddy about every five minutes. She called me a couple times for some longer questions. I don’t mind helping my study buddy. I wasn’t annoyed at all; I found it amusing.

Not more than 20 minutes after the final call from my study buddy, I got a call from another friend from my class. He also had a question about the homework (one of the same questions I had answered for my study buddy earlier). He text messaged me a few times later in the evening, too. I wasn’t annoyed by his questions, either, mostly because he’s cute.

I don’t mind tutoring at all. I like teaching. Helping other people is beneficial for me, too, because it solidifies the material in my head. Teaching is always the best way to learn. It’s funny, though, that I would continue to answer questions on my “day off” from schoolwork. I feel like I’m on call for tutoring at all times.

Merlin Marathon

It’s been a little difficult making friends at the university where I’m taking classes. Many of my classmates are friendly, but I never know if they’re actually being friendly or if they just want my help with homework. Luckily, one classmate who I had helped in the Fall term stayed friendly. We took a couple more classes together this term, and we study together now. I call her my undergrad study buddy. We’ve actually become pretty good friends.

When I first became addicted to Merlin, I talked to my undergrad study buddy about it constantly, so I convinced her to watch a few episodes with me. We set aside a day after our finals were over to have a Merlin marathon! So right after she finished her last final (this was two days ago), I picked her up from campus to head to her apartment.

Actually, my study buddy’s best friend from college (also an Asian gay boy like me, but far more outgoing) wanted to join us, so I picked him up as well. We should have had many hours to watch Merlin, but many YouTube and cake related distractions later, we had only watched one episode before my study buddy’s best friend had to leave. I had to drive him back to campus during rush hour and then return to my study buddy’s apartment for more Merlin.

After only one more episode and a quick dinner, my study buddy and I helped the university’s star quarterback with his studying for his statistics final. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a football athlete up close before, but he was very cute/hot. Huge muscles. Great smile. He even had perfect skin.

Anyway. My study buddy and I tutored the quarterback for a good three hours at least. It was already around 11pm when the quarterback left. I asked my study buddy if it was too late to watch more Merlin, but she was up for it. We ended up watching two more episodes, bringing our marathon total to four episodes.

I was hoping to get my study buddy addicted to Merlin. I don’t think she’s addicted just yet, but she is open to having another marathon next week!

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Kinsey

So, there’s this boy…

I met a guy in one of my classes last week through a mutual friend. I later found out that we share two classes together. He’s 20 years old (so very young), cute, and definitely gay. I’ve been trying to keep my distance and not obsess over him (I’m not at that point, yet), but I figure it can’t hurt to become friends with him (I hope I don’t eat my words later). For simplicity, let’s refer to him as “the cute guy.”

One of our classes has homework due tomorrow (the assignment I finished over the weekend). The cute guy and his friends (four of them total) seemed confused in our discussion section today (our TA is pretty difficult to understand), so I offered to work on the homework with them. I spent two hours helping them. I sat next to the cute guy.

At the end of our homework/tutoring session, the cute guy gave his friends and me a survey to use in his political science class. The survey was pseudo-anonymous, but since I was sitting next to him, the cute guy could see what I was writing. The first question asked how I rank myself on the Kinsey scale. I said that I’m a 6 (“exclusively homosexual”). Great way to come out to him, right?

Afterwards, his friends dispersed, but I coincidentally had to walk in the same direction as him (honestly, I swear), so we chatted a little bit on the way to his next class. When we got there, he gave me a very cute smile and said thanks for all my help. Not too exciting, but what do you expect? I barely know him!

Go-To Guy

I’m getting to know some of the students in my classes. Word seems to have spread that I know what I’m doing (I stay up to date on the course material and try to do my homework well in advance), because many of my classmates have been asking me for help whenever they have questions. I’ve become the go-to guy for verifying answers and helping to solve homework problems (I’ve usually solved them on my own already).

One of my classes involves group work, so our class was split into groups of three. We sit with our group members during lectures and do in-class exercises together. A couple days ago, we were working in our groups, and four people from separate groups asked me questions to see how I was doing the exercise. They have their own groups with whom to compare answers, yet they all came to me. It’s amusing.

There are a few classmates who are in two of my classes who ask me for help in both. One classmate in particular initially asked to “work on homework together,” but because I do my homework early, I ended up just tutoring her. I feel like a TA for my own classes!

I used to be the go-to guy at my old work and at Target too. I think there’s a trend here…

Motivation

I tend to shy away from challenge. When things get tough, I give up pretty easily. My mom even told me so (and when your mom says it, it’s probably true). I joked that I would consider going to medical school (like my brother). She said I would never be able to handle it, because I would give up at the first sign of difficulty.

What my mom said is true, to a point. Math was always difficult to grasp, but I studied it because I was interested in it. It was worth it to me to spend so much time and energy understanding it, because it didn’t feel like work. But once I became discouraged and lost confidence in my ability, it felt like work. The payoff wasn’t worth the effort anymore.

My interest and motivation has always been highly influenced by my supervisor. For example, I never liked math until I had one incredible professor in college who brought the subject to life for me. In graduate school, my conflicts with my advisor directly resulted in my deciding not to continue pursuing a Ph.D. Now, my motivation to work has been all but erased by the awkward work environment created from the strained relationship with my boss.

This dependence on my supervisor has been both an advantage and a disadvantage. When relations are good, I’m happy and I work well (often seemingly independently motivated). When relations are bad, I’m discouraged and lose all drive; tasks that used to be interesting and challenging become laborious and cumbersome. As a result, lofty ideas and goals become unrealistic and impractical fantasies.

So here is my solution to my own shortcomings: go into business for myself. I’m too easily swayed by a supervisor, so why not become my own supervisor? In doing that, I would force myself to stay motivated, because there are no other alternatives. Sink or swim, basically.

Given my interests, skills, and background, the most practical business I’ve been considering is private tutoring. Having seen my company run from different perspectives (I’ve done sales and accounting, but I’ve also helped in production, shipping, quality assurance, and customer service), I think I have some idea on how to run my own small business (I might be eating these words later). I should be fine, especially if I get a lot of advice from Amy (I’m strongly considering partnering with you).

I still have a lot of reservations regarding making the leap into becoming self-employed (often considered a euphemism for unemployed). There is substantial risk involved, and I still have confidence issues, but maybe that’s exactly why I should do it.

Outsmarting Myself

I still haven’t decided if I want to join the price change team, but I’m leaning toward taking the job. I’ve been frustrated a lot lately by the fact that I can’t motivate myself to be productive. If I stay at home all day, I end up playing my DS Lite or surfing the net all day without realizing it.

If I’m already out of the house, I’m more likely to sit down at Borders or Starbucks and do what I need to do. I would basically use the price change schedule to outsmart my lack of self-discipline. It’s easier to work with my limitations rather than try to change them, right?

I’m tutoring my friend from work again tomorrow morning. That should be a good excuse to get me out of bed and be productive. Speaking of tutoring, my mom found out that I wasn’t charging my friend anything for my services. She was so upset that she didn’t say anything. She sort of changed the subject and left the room. I don’t think she understands that there’s more to tutoring than just money.