Note #200

Brandon Ngo
5 min readFeb 5, 2020

I was planning on journaling all of my experiences at the end of my sophomore year, but when I get that surge and necessity to write, there’s really no stopping me from just dropping everything that I am doing to write everything. It’s 1:07 AM as I am writing this currently and quite a few things are going through my head:

  • My CS31 midterm is tomorrow, and if I don’t get a decent mark after studying C++ for essentially a year now, I will probably scream. And then try again. Regardless, I have truly exhausted my studying so fortunately, I have the time to write this beautiful article before I go to bed.
  • When will the water fountain be fixed on my floor? (I just consumed a steak burrito and three tacos from Rendezvous [UCLA dining restaurant], and my god, those sodium levels are ridiculous.)
  • I feel awfully drained with all of the uneventful situations I have found myself in again.

Honing in on the third bullet point, I somehow always find myself racking up the courage to say, “Hey. Everything is going to be okay in due time, because you did it once, and you can get through it again.” But today seemed a bit harder than usual, but maybe that’s because I’ve been studying for weeks on end for this one computer science midterm.

More often than not, I have let my academics consume my life and put my emotions on standby if the topics I am learning are too convoluted (and they’re very much so at this university, which I really don’t understand why). The fact of the matter is that I prioritize my academics much more than my mental health because I have grown up with this inherent belief that the former is a holistic process that is the culmination of years of dedication through trials and tribulations, while the latter is just a temporary state of mind which will dissolve in a day or so in most cases (anything clinical and chronic is an exception to this). For most of my life, this has been my mantra — to work hard on the now and let the feeling pass later. And to be honest, for most of my life, it worked.

Increasingly, however, I’ve been feeling really down at university, and it’s getting much more difficult to endure. I have been involving myself in so many extracurriculars like Product Space and Cultural Affairs, but somehow, I feel lacking in a sense of community of people with a similar identity. Not only that, I definitely miss simply having the freedom to go on road trips as a means of escaping, as I do not have my car up here until this time next year. My 2006 Honda Civic, Andrés, really provided me with that emotional outlet that kept me sane, and now, I only have my AirPods and these Spotify playlists.

Now having studied for about 8 hours the day before the exam, I just really needed that emotional break. Feeling restless, I’m slumping on my dorm chair just observing my surroundings — my roommate Marcus’s frosted sugar cookies, my Frank Ocean Blonded poster, my MeetFresh souvenir cup — literally anything that I come across. Then I see this memory jar my best friend, Thy, made for me.

It is one of the few things I had decided to bring to university from home. I never really gave much thought to how constant it has been in my life until one day I applied to this club, and for one of their final interview questions, they asked me to bring in an object that is significant to me that I really valued.

The jar of memories (also in front of the two empty burrito and taco boxes)

Essentially, this jar contains a conglomeration of cut-up Post-It notes of reasons why she loves me, each note numbered and containing a memory or some inside joke that we made growing up. From collaborative polymer clay charm channels on YouTube to some failed birthday parties, Thy and I have spent our childhood together in its full glory — the good and the bad.

I have opened these notes many times before, but opening note #200, the final note, felt so different this time for some reason. I think it might be because of how much I have not really sat down to analyze all of the negative energy I have been harboring, which is mainly due to the fast-paced nature of the quarter system. Note #200 took me back.

Note 200: 2002 — Forever. Our kids will be BFFs. >∇ <

Since Christmas 2014 (when Thy and I were also 14), I have kept this jar safe — even when our friendship wasn’t constant. We have known each other for virtually our whole lives (literally 17 years, as we’re neighbors and our parents were friends), and it is safe to say that I consider her one of my closest friends in life. Opening these memories is like traveling through a time machine, and I am reliving every single moment as if we were kids full of endless possibilities again. I was watching the ending scene of La La Land (2016) on YouTube, and I saw this comment that particularly spoke out to me:

When we’re younger, we dream about what could happen ahead. When we’re older, we dream about what could have been.

I think for me, my purpose in working so hard is to create opportunities for the things that I am passionate about so I don’t make the mistake of dreaming about what could have been. It has been a long, arduous journey from my values back when I was younger: to go into a safe career that will keep me financially stable — even if I didn’t enjoy it. Designing has always been my forte in life, and I don’t think I could ever regret about what could have been chasing my dreams.

Note 200 was a nice emotional break, but more importantly, it made me realize that I want my kids to follow their dreams as well. I want to be a role model to them and give them that same courage that I had growing up to pursue what they love to do. To do what makes them happy. To always dream about the possibilities that could happen ahead, never regretting following their passion(s) in life.

For now, however, I also need to dream about what could happen ahead as well: passing this CS31 midterm tomorrow.