About Me

My name is Spencer. I'm 23 years old, and I'm a junior at Princeton. So far college has taken me five years. I've taken time off to work, transferred to USC and come back, and learned a lot along the way.

I like to think about life and what I'm going to do with mine.

I've met a lot of people my age with the same sorts of thoughts so feel free to read, take surveys, and comment.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be safe. Travel safe. Enjoy family time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Choosing the Right Psychiatrist - "Shopping"

I just finished a couple midterms, and I'm feeling productive at the moment so I thought I'd post. Good luck with midterms to anyone who has them and congrats if you just finished them!

So, for those of you who have just gotten over that initial "bleh" feeling when it comes to deciding you want to start to see a shrink, I hate to say it, but that is just the start. There's plenty more left to do en route to feeling better, but it shouldn't be a deterrent! It's just hard to know where to start. Hopefully this post will alleviate some of those daunting feelings and shed some light on what it's like to "shop" for a new psychiatrist.

Long story short, deciding to go for your own benefit (or even to just try it out to appease someone else... significant other or parents) is the first major obstacle. It's an important one, but your next choices will really decide whether you will actually get something out of it or not.

The next "first" step is really finding someone you can be comfortable with. He or she doesn't have to be your new best friend (in fact, they shouldn't), but you should feel a connection with him or her. Doesn't matter who you are, you'll just never really share private things with someone if they creep you out or you don't like them.
Even though gender doesn't matter in terms of skill, I think it does in terms of comfort and can be a good place to start. For example, I feel more comfortable talking to women. I always have growing up; so, naturally, I first looked for a female shrink. Let me emphasize that even though it's a good place to begin, it shouldn't be a limitation. My last shrink that I saw for an extended period was a guy; quite honestly, you'll never know until you meet them.

Besides gender, your friends and family can be a great resource. Ask them if they know someone they trust or have seen before. One or two degrees of separation can help a lot in situations like this because a mutual party knows both of you and can tailor a recommendation to your personality. It's even better to ask a family friend who is a shrink because they know quite a few mental health professionals who either specialize in your age group or would match up well with you. However, I do know some people that prefer to have their psychiatrists as far removed from their personal lives as possible so they would want more than one or two degrees. Nevertheless, if you're completely lost, then a recommendation can go a long way. Also, if you don't feel comfortable admitting to a family friend that you're planning on seeing a psychiatrist, then say it's for a friend or a friend of a friend (or even your brother).

Now onto the next thing: just like with anything else, if you aren't open minded about it and open during your session, then there's nothing that your shrink can do to help. They are trained to analyze your thoughts and feelings, but they can only do that if you share those thoughts and feelings with them. Initially you don't have to tell every intimate detail of your life, but be honest and give them more than one word answers to their initial questions. To be frank, anything you say, they've heard before. It's honestly an extremely professional and safe environment. They won't judge you. And if you get the feeling that they are, then mention it or don't go back. Look for someone else who you feel more comfortable with.

And just as fair warning, you will almost certainly see more than one or two doctors before you find someone you like or want to see again.

And lastly, for now, don't go in expecting a Will Hunting/Sean Maguire relationship from Good Will Hunting.
That's not what it's like.

A lot of what they do is very subtle. They are not trained to overwhelm and push you, but to get you to reach conclusions on your own terms. A lot of them have years of experience so they will recognize many things about you that you don't know. Be patient and let the process work.

So let's recap:
1) Look for someone you feel comfortable with. Every shrink is a different person with a particular set of skills.

 Look for someone that suites you well!
    a) Start with gender.
    b) Ask friends and family for referrals.
2) Be open minded about the whole thing; don't just blow it off as something that can't possibly do you any good. If there's even the slightest chance it could help you, then why not give it a wholehearted shot?
3) You will have first meetings a lot! Don't get discouraged. You'll find a shrink that suites you, but it will take time!
4) This isn't a movie. Don't expect a father/son/friend/bro relationship like in Good Will Hunting.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thoughts About Surveys - Looking Out for Friends & Dealing With Depression

A while back, I had posted a general survey about depression. I wanted to get an idea of how many people had suffered or are currently suffering from it. I got about fifty responses or so, which is not enough to make any serious academic conclusions, but enough to make it interesting.

Now, as someone who has suffered from depression on and off for a number of years, it's a serious condition that seems very hard to relate to, which remains shocking based on the sheer number of people who say that they've been depressed before.

Regardless, in my survey, a whopping 80% said that they have been depressed in their lives before with a majority of the reasons surrounding:
1) stress (clearly the #1 reason based on this survey)
2) peer acceptance/personal appearance (looks)
3) relationships with parents (a close 3rd)

In terms of degree of depression, a little under 50% of those that said they had previously been depressed said that you had been suicidal at one point or another.

That's a really high percentage!

As someone who's been down that dark road, I encourage all of you, whether you're in that 50% or not, to seek professional help. Despite all the stigma attached to seeing a shrink, it really can help you get your thoughts and life on track. Even if you don't realize it, these are professionals that can pinpoint what you need and help you realize it yourself. Beyond that, for some people the issues are a chemical imbalance that a small dose of an anti-depressant can help you fix. It'll take time, but it's worth it if it makes you feel like your best self.

However, the limiting factor (beyond one's own apprehension) is definitely money for most people. The good news is, for those of you on college (and even high school) campuses, you have plenty of resources at the health center! There are designated counselors there to help you deal with the stresses of college life and the work load. Don't be afraid to seek them out.

Last, the medical professionals aren't your only resource. Your friends can be the best resources you have in times of need. Don't be nervous about talking to them and sharing with them. I used to be very closed off, thinking that sharing would make me look weak or that I could just deal with things on my own... and while that may be true most of the time, we always need help sometimes.

And even if your friend seems like they have everything under control, take the time to ask if everything is alright. Go out for a meal or a beer and talk about whatever, things just tend to come up. Just showing you're there for somebody can go a long way.

For those of you who feel like you don't have any friends, don't fret. I've been there. Friends aren't the only people who want to help. I've talked to my deans, advisers, professors, and even strangers before about issues that I've had. Don't be afraid to ask. The worst is that they simply cannot help. The best... you could find a new friend or even a mentor.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Past Couple Years

Over the past two years, I have been busy working, going to school, and figuring out what I want to do with my life. Since I stopped updating my blog, I had worked full time in an office for a year and transferred schools (and returned to Princeton). However, I have continued to pay for the domain name just in case anyone is looking for some resources and, perhaps, someone to relate to.

I've continued to be open about my life, and I have tried to talk to as many people as possible to learn more and get more feedback. By talking to hundreds of people that include friend's parents, Professors, TAs, students, co-workers, and strangers, I've found a lot of people willing to listen, give advice, and some of them continue to be resources in my life today.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Perspectives from Graduates

Recently, I spoke with some recent college graduates (graduating within the last ten years), a couple of whom are M.I.T. alumni. I only bring up the Alma Mater in order to emphasize the difficulty of school I'm referring to. Now, onto the important part.

What they said was that the rigorous course work from such a hard school helped them more than they would know for a long while; in fact, they only just realized it many years after graduating. What they had realized was that getting through such an immense amount of work truly taught them the value of dedication, very hard work and the benefits that will come from it later on.

Notice that they didn't concentrate on the "education" that M.I.T. gave them. Although I presume that the teachers were excellent and the facilities quite good, they weren't the things that left as much of an impression years later.

To make this brief (as I am running low on time), we are told since we were in middle school (or even elementary school) that we must work and do well in order to get into a good college and then go onto getting a good job and then perhaps a good grad school etc etc. I know that it's hard for younger people to appreciate the benefits of being forced to work hard. Even if it's something that they are blatantly told, true acceptance and knowledge of this fact comes with maturity (i.e. basically older age).

So, does that make what our parents, advisers, and teachers liars (to tell us that we have to work hard to get into a good school)? Or do they think that we're not mature enough to know the true reasons for our work?

How can we be expected to give our best for a reason that, in my mind, doesn't seem correct? Not to mention that a lot of college acceptances are out of our control to a great extent.

And what about this: if we have an off day or do poorly in a class or an exam, it suddenly becomes okay as long as we tried our best? But how can we vest so much into something, and, when we fail, it's suddenly okay if we tried our best? The colleges won't care about your off day? So why not tell us that we work hard to learn how to work hard?

I'm still unsure if it depends on the individual or it's something we can, as people, only appreciate later in life...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Random Thought - School Costs a Ton of Money

So out of interest I just looked up the average cost of tuition for private colleges in the US... it's a whopping $32,000 per year (which seems kind of low to me). So let's say I take like 32 credits worth of class for both semesters (about 8 classes)... then that's $4,000 per class. So about 12 weeks per semester... that's $333 a week rounded down.

So that's like what? About $20-30ish per hour that you're in the classroom.

I'm still not quite sure if it's worth that money (at least to me.) I know that we absolutely need to have a degree to really get anywhere in the working world (as society has dictated), but I'm not quite convinced yet.

Well, if you consider that things like therapy are like $250 an hour and expert witnesses can charge up to like $1000 an hour... I guess the cost of school is pretty minimal.

Anyways, that was just a random thought with me thinking like George Costanza.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Race and College Admissions - The Supreme Court

Nine years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States allowed universities to make race a qualification for admission to increase diversity within the student body; in other words, they approved Affirmative Action.


In my opinion (although well intentioned), it made room for an unprecedented level of reverse racism within the college admissions process, giving a greater edge to certain races in the already extremely competitive world of college admissions.

In the Associated Press article that I read, the justices will be taking a look at the University of Texas's admissions program used to help fill one quarter (let me emphasize 25%) of the incoming freshman classes. I.e. about one quarter of the incoming class is reserved for minorities.

The AP article says that "Race is one of many factors considered by admissions officers. The rest of the roughly 7,100 freshman spots automatically go to Texans who graduated in the top 8 percent of their high school." It used to be that the top 10 percent of the high school graduates were automatically admitted; however, since the new U of Texas admissions process has taken over, that number has dropped significantly to 8 percent.

Also, keep in mind that this is purely admitted students, not committed students. Those in the top 8 percent may decide to go out of state or to more prestigious universities elsewhere. This implies that other students on the wait list etc get admitted, but which of those students get in? Is it based more on minorities or merit? We can't really know. Additionally, this does not include the numbers that are reserved for athletes, major donors, famous people etc.

The University of Texas says as well that the number of students of Asian backgrounds will increase if race were not taken into account. For more on my opinion about why Asian-Americans (not international students) are not considered minorities and are discriminated against at all universities, see the post on International Students.

Think about the implications that this would have over all other universities or at your school. Would it affect international student rates or the overall look of the student body?

For more information on why the result from the 2003 affirmative action case Grutter v. Bollinger (FindLaw article) is being looked at so soon after its decision, please see the article.