Taraxacum Officinale

It’s been ages since I’ve updated. Sorry about that. My life has been busy but good. This will be a short and sweet post containing three photos.

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Photo #1: Path from the Hurd Gymnasium
Spring is finally here. The days are warm and I had my first Founder’s Day. Lucy Madeira is the founder of my school, and Founder’s Day is a surprise celebration of her birthday. We had no classes, ate strawberries and ice-cream, and played outside.


Photo #2: Dandelions behind North Dorm
Dandelions are everywhere on campus. The binomial name for dandelions is taraxacum officinale. I really enjoy blowing on the fluffy, ripe ones. Two times a teacher stopped me while I was blowing on them and asked me if I was smoking.

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Photo #3: The Huffington Library before Study Hall
This is a photo of the Huffington Library that I took earlier in the year. It’s such a nice space to be in. I spend Study Hall and most of my Saturdays in there.

I hope you enjoyed the photos! Life is going really quite well for me right now, so I hope the peace lasts. Plus, I can’t believe there are only 47 more days until the last day of school. Sophomore year is going by fast.

Taraxacum Officinale


There is so much I want to do. But then there is so much I have to do. And there is so little time—I cannot do everything, even when I sacrifice so much of my sleep. I just hope that one day, I can curl up with a book of my choice and not worry about the schoolwork I should be doing instead.


New Module, New Excitement

Friday was the last day of Module 4! Module 4 was a crazy and awesome mod, in which I raised my math grade from a C+ to an A-, in which I analysed John Keats’s poems in depth, in which I learnt how to read and write in an ancient language, in which I represented the Palestinian territories in a debate about terrorism, and on and on and on.

The end of Module 4 means that I’m a little over halfway done with the year. I know it’s a little early, but I am excited for the school year to end. I have awesome things planned for the summer, such as spending time with friends and family in Shanghai, attending a session on Justice, Nature, and Law in Annapolis, and maybe attending another session on Self-Knowledge in Santa Fe. There are so many cool things that I don’t have time to do during the hectic school year, and I look forward to doing all of them during the summer. I’ve recently developed an interest for criminal psychology and cryptography, so I intend to spend many hours reading up on cases and solving ciphers. 🙂

Anyway, back to reality. The end of a module means the start of a new module. In Module 5, I will be taking AP World History and Shakespeare II. I am excited about AP World History because we’ll be learning about industrialisation and globalisation, two loaded, interesting topics. Shakespeare II will also be nice because I will read Macbeth for the first time. Plus, Dr. Arizmendi is teaching Shakespeare, and I really respect her as an English teacher and pianist. There are 3 academic blocks in a module, but I am only taking 2 classes. I was originally going to take Introduction to Riding as well (ponies!), but I decided that I really wanted a free block to save myself some stress. I was so overwhelmed with work for most of the school year (or most of my life, I should say), I just really want 80 minutes of free time every day for 5 weeks. I look forward to using this time to get work done, practise the piano, read things, write creatively, update this blog, etc. 😀

One more thing about AP World History–in Module 6 I will have to submit a final project on a historical topic of my choice. My research question as of now is: “How did nationalism influence the unification of Germany and how has the definition of the term changed in today’s world?” I chose nationalism as my topic because there are so many current events and people that I can link it to (*insert small wink here*). Perhaps I can do a comparison between Adolf Hitler and a current leader, I’m not sure yet. Everyone has to read a book about their topic before working on the topic, and my book of choice is The Unification of Germany and the Challenge of Nationalism, 1789-1919 by Alan Farmer and Andrina Stiles. I will read this book over Mod 5. At this point in time I don’t know much about European history, so this will be a wonderful opportunity to educate myself.

But academics aren’t everything. Module 5 will also be packed with activities, most of them musical. I will continue to take piano lessons with Mrs. Morris–literally my favourite 45 minutes of any given week. I performed Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C Major, Mvt. 1 in a soirée on Thursday, and I’m ready to play more Mozart. I will be learning Fantasia in D Minor next! My evening classes in Mod 5 will be Chamber Orchestra and Madeira Glee, just like in the previous four modules. In Chamber Orchestra, we are working on “Bacchanale” from “Samson & Delilah” and “España Cañi”, a Spanish Gypsy Dance. I absolutely love both pieces (especially the former!) and I am playing percussion parts for both. We’re also doing a Bruno Mars medley, which I’m playing the piano part for. I’m less crazy about that one, but overall our Springfest performance will be awesome. I’m also doing a Chamber Music duet with Joanna. We’re playing Pachelbel’s “Canon,” a piece I love to death! In Madeira Glee, we’re singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen as a choir, which is super cool. Some of my friends and I are also putting up a small group performance–a mashup of Ed Sheeran’s songs. So far we’ve been successful in combining “Lego House,” “Photograph,” and “Thinking Out Loud” together. Music makes me happy, and I’m excited to see how all these projects turn out. Oh, and I also have to fill up community service hours for the Tri-M Music Honour Society, which I have no idea how I’ll accomplish.

My non-musical activities will be Model United Nations and the Science Fair. Mod 5 will be my last module of my Model United Nations D block, so I want to finish strong. We’re going to a conference (NAIMUN) soon, and I’ll be in the Paris 2015 COP21 committee, so I’ll continue to research our country (Ukraine) and the topic (climate change). Joanna, my partner for Pachelbel’s “Canon,” is also my Model UN partner because we’re doing a double delegation. I have a feeling that we’ll be cramming on position papers and practising chamber music at the same time, haha! Science Fair projects are due in March, and I haven’t started on mine yet, but I know I want to do something related to criminology and forensic science. I’m currently reading a book on the philosophy and psychology behind serial killers, so maybe I will further research the biological motivations for murder.

So this is everything that has been happening in my life, and everything that will happen. Tonight I’ll be watching the Super Bowl instead of getting ready for Module 5. 😀 Thanks for reading, and I hope the next 5 weeks turn out to be awesome for you!

New Module, New Excitement

Dreaming Again

You are not here to prove yourself worthy. You are enough as you are. It’s okay to not be an expert in everything. It’s okay to fail. You’re here to learn. You’re here to discover. You’re here to be happy.

It’s so hard for me to believe the paragraph that I wrote above, when I have been told otherwise my whole life. My entire existence and self esteem is built upon performing well, upon being the quintessential good girl.

I don’t want to blame anyone. But from a very young age, my achievements were all that mattered. To my parents and teachers and almost everyone else, if you weren’t the best, then you were never going to be any good, and therefore you were useless. “Not good enough” was carved into my brain, every day. Maybe it is my own fault for believing them. When I reflect on just how broken I am today, I fall into the never-ending abyss of self hate.

Honestly, I lost so much on my mission to earn those straight A’s and more. Happiness. I spent every minute working or dreading the work I had to do. Sleep. I never went to bed before midnight after 1st grade. Friends. They became competitors in an endless race. Health. I destroyed myself physically and mentally while trying to be perfect. Self worth. I was never content with who I was, unless I performed at the highest level possible.

And my biggest loss? Dreams.

When I was younger, I wanted to be so many things—a bus driver, a painter, a ballerina, an astronaut, etc. Eventually I found out that I wasn’t the best at everything. For example, in 4th grade I took an accelerated math course, and while I had an A+, I wasn’t the fastest mental math whiz in my class. I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t good enough, and that I would never be able to succeed in any of the fields I expressed interest in. My friends scoffed when I told them I wanted to become an aerospace engineer.

I was engaging in many unhealthy behaviours to cope with the stress by then. My only healthy coping mechanism was writing. I found solace in writing as I continued to feign flawlessness. Writing was the only thing I found bearable, because when I wrote I was free.

When people asked me what my dream job was, what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said I wanted to be an author. Or a hermit philosopher, because I also liked thinking about things. People sneered at me and said I was wasting my expensive education. They told me that those weren’t real careers, and that I would never earn enough money to support myself.

I don’t know exactly when I stopped dreaming, but I did. It only got worse from there. I self harmed and thought about suicide constantly. Dreams matter because they give you purpose and excitement. I wanted to be loved, accepted, and recognised so badly that I lost sight of everything that actually mattered.

This post wasn’t supposed to be depressing.

I started writing this blog post because in the past few days, I’ve noticed myself dreaming. It’s amazing to be dreaming again, after so many years. It’s so nice to be thinking about the immense possibilities in my future, rather than to just be planning my next week’s assignments out.

Right now I can see myself as a secret agent, a criminologist, a counsellor, a writer, a professor, a homicide detective, a philosopher, and so much more. All of these visions feel real. I’ve even shared my aspirations with some friends and adults on campus, and none of them have told me that my dreams were too far-fetched, too unrealistic.

One more thing, and I hope this fits in with the rest of the stuff I’ve talked about so far… I’m starting to enjoy math class again. Sure, it’s difficult. It’s challenging. It gives me headaches. But I’m learning and conquering (understanding) new topics. This gives me so much confidence and excitement. In the beginning of the year, my goal was probably to get an A. Now, I have goals that go something like: “Today, I will learn how to rationalise the denominator when there are radicals.” I’m learning for the sake of learning. It really helps that there are no academic awards, rankings, or whatever at my school. And that I am the only person with access to my marks (my scores are still in the 90s). Now I’m planning to take Calculus and Statistics before I graduate, so that I’ll be better prepared for my dream careers.

I am not here to prove myself worthy. I am enough as I am. It’s okay to not be an expert in everything. It’s okay to fail. I’m here to learn. I’m here to discover. I’m here to be happy.

I’m beginning to believe in this, and in my dreams. There are still so many things from my past that I cannot erase. I still berate myself, I still find myself stuck in a fixed mindset, I still feel very inadequate. Maybe these things will hold me back forever, although I hope not. But I know it’s not too late to be curious, passionate, and excited. After all, I’m dreaming again.

Before I sign off, please please please never tell anyone that they’re not good enough. Loving something is so much more important than getting it all right or being the best. Everyone should be given the opportunity to dream, or to dream again.

Thank you for reading. Good night.

Dreaming Again

New Year’s Resolutions 2017

Hello! How has the new year been for you so far?

For me, it’s been great, especially this weekend! The Chamber Orchestra went on a field trip to watch the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Centre. I just loved pianist Jeremy Denk’s amazing rendition of Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, and also the majestic ending to Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird. I also saw Roe at the Arena Stage. Roe is a play about the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalised abortion in 1973. It was so interesting to learn more about the different positions on this difficult issue. It was mind-boggling. Before, I had a very bold stance on abortion, but his play showed me all these vivid stories, perspectives, and circumstances. And I’m not quite sure anymore. So, yes! 2017 has been interesting and productive. So far, so good.

Below are my new year’s resolutions, as I have promised. Hopefully at the end of this year I can smile and say I’ve kept and achieved all of them!

One. I will study Latin every day.
I will self-study 36 topics of Wheelock’s Latin (pages 1-303). I will also complete the Oxford Latin Course Part I before the end of sophomore year (May 2017). Over the summer, I will learn the material for Madeira’s Latin II course and test into Latin III for junior year.

Two. I will practise the piano every day.
I will perfect and add three of the following pieces to my piano repertoire by the end of sophomore year:
Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16, Mvt. 1, 2, 3
Mozart’s 12 Variations in Ah! vous dirai-jie, maman
Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor
Beethoven’s Rondo A Capriccio
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Mvt. 1
Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata, Mvt. 1
Schumann/Tausig’s Der Kontrabandiste

Three. I will read (something that isn’t for school) every day.
I will finish reading 5 non-fiction, scholarly texts by the end of the year. The first of the five I will read is Ian Morris’ Why the West Rules—For Now.

Another challenge that I will try my best to tackle is a Boarding School Series on my blog. I will write a series of posts about boarding school—living in a dormitory, weekend activities, classes, etc. I have already started writing this series! I will begin posting in March, because that is when admissions decisions get mailed out and students start wondering what exactly their life will be like at a boarding school. I am very excited about sharing this series because I would have loved to know more about boarding school life before my first day at Madeira.

Yep! These are some of my long-term goals for the year. I encourage you to create some if you have not already, and share them with others! There’s a TED talk I once watched, telling people to never share their goals with others because the act of sharing the goals itself will make them feel like they have already achieved the goals. I can see why this might be the case for some people, but personally, sharing my goals gives me another incentive to achieve them. Just imagine yourself telling a friend, “Remember in January I said I’d (insert goal)? Guess what! I did it!” Or something like that, you know? It will probably feel really nice.

I’m going to go to sleep now. It’s almost 1:30AM already! Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the morning, and thank you so much for reading this post!

New Year’s Resolutions 2017

My Week, January 2nd-6th

It’s Friday night (midnight) in the dorm. It doesn’t feel like a Friday, though, because tomorrow is technically a school day for me. This Saturday is our mandatory college counselling day. At least there are no classes, right? Anyway, I am so tired from my first week of school. School can be so frustrating sometimes! I so wish that my teachers were a Youtube video or something:

In math class, I find myself wanting to pause, replay, or play in 0.5x speed my teacher’s lecture. Math is a challenging subject for me, and since the modular system squeezes an entire year’s worth of Algebra II into 15 weeks, we’re learning stuff at a crazy fast pace. It’s only the first week of school and I’ve met with my teacher outside of class three or four times. I mean, it’s wonderful that my math teacher never says no when I ask for extra help. Mr. Ifft is a great person and a great math teacher. But at the current moment, I’m so tired of math. :/

Okay, so going back to that Youtube video thing. For Latin class, I want to 2x, even 4x the speed of Dr. Bednarowski’s lectures. Confession time: I was too excited about taking Latin, so I kind of finished reading the entire textbook over Winter Break. I love self teaching. Although my teacher incorporates interesting aspects of Roman history and culture into the language class, not a whole lot is new because of my interest in classical civilisations and my detailed AP World History class. I guess I could work on other things when I get bored, but then I don’t want to make the teacher feel bad, you know? If I were a teacher, I’d be sad if my students didn’t even feign interest. Plus, there are only 7 of us in the class so I can’t exactly hide. Dr. Bednarowski is very reasonable, though. He told me that I could self study ahead as much as I want, and that he would help me if I have any questions. I’m planning on self studying Latin II over the summer and taking Latin III junior year. That way I could take AP Vergil as a senior! Every cloud has a silver lining! I think the best part about Madeira (my school) is the people. I’ve met the nicest teachers and made the best friends here.

Since I ended that on a positive note, I’ll go on about all the other nice things of this week (more like just today), because why not, right?

Starting with the simple things… A girl in my dorm, Maggie, showed me how to use the Keurig in the dorm. The four(?) months I’ve been at boarding school, I was so intimidated about using that machine, and I don’t even know why! It’s so nice that I know how to use it now. It’s so useful! I’m drinking my second cup of English Breakfast tea as I’m writing this.

Panem et Circenses was also a big highlight of my day today. “Panem et circenses” means “bread and circuses” in Latin, and that was the name of our movie night in Dr. Bednarowski’s classroom. We watched Monty Python’s Life of Brian and had really good Italian food! It was just for Classics Club, a group of high school Latin fanatics! It was a good time.

I could probably go on and on. I’m really enjoying Poetry II with Dr. Arizmendi. This is the one class that I don’t seriously want to adjust the speed of. We just finished reading the first three parts of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and I’m really enjoying that book. We’re also learning about the history of the English language, bits and pieces of European history, courtly love, etc. Everyone’s super engaged because these are some very cool topics! We have a lot of meaningful discussions in Poetry II.

Speaking of discussions, I had a really deep discussion with Mr. Sudnik and my friend Casey after Model UN today. We started out talking about climate change, Paris 2015, and environmental problems around the world. And somehow the conversation took a political turn, so we talked about democracy, Trump, the political divide in the United States, capitalism, Bush, the education system, and more. I find it fascinating when teachers talk about their political views. And Mr. Sudnik had a lot of cool experiences to share with us too. By the time I had to leave, I had no idea that we’d been talking for 2 hours. Every minute of it was so valuable and intriguing.

One more thing, and I should probably go to sleep. This week I made some more progress on Beethoven’s “Rondo a Capriccio” (Rage over the lost penny). It’s a really fun piece! I sight-read and practised it over Winter Break on the electronic keyboard that my piano teacher Mrs. Morris lent me. I was really happy that I had the keyboard over Winter Break, and I’m even happier now with the Steinway grands at school. I love how on a real piano, I can play softly then loudly, sweetly then furiously. Beethoven is one of my favourite composers because of all sorts of emotions you feel from his music. It is rumoured that Beethoven wrote this particular piece after he saw a man running downhill in pursuit of a lost penny or something (don’t quote me on this)… and although frustration and perhaps even anger is clearly shown in the tempo, I’m still unsure about exactly what Beethoven wanted to say. Certain parts of the piece make me wonder if Beethoven is saying that losing a penny is not such a big deal, although it may seem so at the moment. Trying to figure out how to feel when you’re playing music is always confusing and fun at the same time! Listen to the piece here! What do you think Beethoven is trying to tell us? It’ll probably take me a very long time until I can do the piece justice (it’s 14 pages!), haha, but I’m definitely up for the challenge!

So yeah! That was my week. Despite the insaneness of getting back into the flow of school and all that, I enjoyed my week quite a lot. I honestly have so much to be thankful for. I hope your week was as good as mine, and even better! Here’s to a great weekend. Thank you always for reading and following my blog. 😀

Oh, and that New Year’s Resolutions post I was talking about before… It’s definitely coming soon, I promise! Good night for now, though! Sleep tight.

My Week, January 2nd-6th

School, Goals, Christmas, and Sherlock

Hello! Winter Break is now over and I am back at my boarding school. Although I can never have enough breaks, it’s pretty awesome to be with my friends again.

Today was a very busy day. I got everything organised for the start of Module 4. In Module 4, I take Algebra II, Poetry II, and Latin I, in that order. I am especially excited for Latin because I have a strong interest for classical languages. I also found out that two of my Latin textbooks were actually written by a former Madeira teacher, which is just so cool. I started reading Latin Everywhere, Everyday: A Latin Phrase Workbook over break, and I was astonished at how many of the phrases I throw around every day are Latin. I’m excited for my other classes, too, of course. I will be continuing with Model UN, Orchestra, and Glee, too.

I will share my New Year’s Resolutions on my blog soon—I just have to come up with a few more. My goals for sophomore year are kind of put aside for now. Hopefully my new year’s resolutions are better than those. Anyway, something that’s definitely going to be on there is: Add the 1st movement of “Waldstein” to my repertoire! I often listen to Beethoven’s “Waldstein” because it’s so good and emotionally complicated. I turn on the music, close my eyes, and lose myself (I’m so sorry that I’m being so cliché, but words cannot describe the amazing depth of this piece). So today I’ve started playing “Waldstein”, and I really look forward to learning the entire piece and playing it for my friends and family this year! Here is a video of Pletnev’s interpretation of the piece. It’s so beautiful.

Before I go, I want to talk about the best Christmas present I received. My friend got me a very cute pair of gloves in which the fingertips can be covered or not covered. She told me that I need to keep my hands warm to play the piano well. My friend is an amazing pianist, and I want to be able to play like her. We’ve spent a lot of time listening to each other play! I love the gloves because it was such a thoughtful gift. Plus, she put a little tag that reads “For Elsie, My Favourite Ravenclaw.” We both love Harry Potter to death. From this present I was reminded once again that the best gifts come from the heart. I hope the gifts I gave to people in 2016 show that I care and think about them.

And one more thing! Sherlock! I watched the first episode of Season 4 last night! It was a lot more serious than the usual humorous episodes, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I learnt so much more about the characters, and the more human side of Sherlock. And this is where I stop because I mustn’t spoil anything. I can’t wait for the other two episodes!

Good night, everyone! Thank you so much for the continued support. ❤

School, Goals, Christmas, and Sherlock