Kyle Liao

Summer of 2023

The Summer Story of 2023

It’s been one year since the last summer post. I didn’t even realize. It’s given me great perspective to see how far I’ve gotten in a year. It most certaintly calms my nerves, my worries, and my thoughts. I’ve gotten to go to plenty more in-person hackathons since. I’ve made Edison Hack Club a reality, and I’ve taken on a new sizeable project, TeenHacksLI as a director of the programming committee. I’ve read and watched a few too many pieces on work, labor, and class. I’ve seen them. I have a nuanced perspective. My family does well for themselves, and we live in a nice part of the city. But in constrast, I go to school every day in Jamaica. Jamaica isn’t the worst place I’ve seen, by any means, but its a daily reminder. I’ve been privilleged enough during my hackathon journeys to see more than most students do. One day, I’m taking the most mundane classes at Thomas A. Edison CTE HS, a middle of the road high school. I take the bus to a nice neighborhood in NYC to lay my head. The next day, I’m off to a place I’ve never been talking to high school students who have made 6-7 figures, students who have been accepted to some of the best universities in the world, students who have been programming for the better part of a decade, students who have lead non-profits, students who are number one athletes, etc. I know students who go to far exceptional public school institutions that fit into the same class. I know students who go to regular private schools and extremely presitigous private schools. I know students who dropped out of high school or graduated early. I know students who take community college classes while going to school. I recently joined the team at TeenHacksLI and when I looked at the students who built it before the pandemic, they fit a similarly diverse, yet successful set of characteristics. I’ve gotten to see poor neighborhoods, and up to the richest ones. I’ve seen college towns, rural towns, mega cities. That’s all to say that in one year I’ve met a lot of different people. I’ve probably met more people in this one year than significant amount will have met in their lives. I’ve had so many experiences, I’ve completely forgotten some of them. I sang in front of the Russian Consulate, took a photo with a statue of St. Peter, went to Boston at 1 AM, and so many more. I’ve had so many things that I haven’t gotten either. I wasn’t able to go to Syracuse for the SkillsUSA quiz bowl competition. My handball team didn’t make playoffs. I missed the opportunity to go to a college fair. Imagine had everything gone right, theoretically, how packed full of experiences I could have had. I still haven’t made it to a CODE and Coffee, despite wanting to go. I tried to take a sailing class and register today, and now they are full on registrations and I have to waitlist. In my last blog post to myself, I worried about making progress. Am I still scared? Yes. Nothing is a given, but the reality is I didn’t have anything to worry about. I’ve done so many things and met so many people my biggest concern is not documenting it more. It’s a nice privillege to have. This summer and beyond I have plenty of ideas and projects I’d like to do. I have plenty more experiences to go experience. I am ready, as ready as one can be.

What have I learned from all these experiences? When they ask why do you do what you do, I’ve heard many answers ranging from compulsion, to destiny, to praticality, to desire, to envy, to anything in between. Now that I’ve seen some success in what I do, which is making things and learning. I do them honestly because of all of those criteria. I’ve met people who have been very successful, far more than me in most conviential metrics. When you add up a combination of environment, opportunity, and personal experiences, the reason they continue to do what they do could be partially dervived from all of these metrics. The reason I think about this is because of the fact I have to write a college admissions essay. The purpose of the essay in my mind is to demonstrate who you are. In some ways, my story is complex. I am sproatic, entropy ridden, crazy person. I do things that others don’t do because I feel like it, yet I still have humanistic tendencies when it comes to a fear of heights. I love talking to people, but I still sometimes get afraid. But at a core, I’m still the same kid I was a decade ago. I just have a lot more tools to do what I want. So is that a reason for greed? To gather all the tools and connections necessary to do what you want? I mean, I’m happy already. Is it greedy to keep pushing for more? Probably not, but I’m just rambling. All of this thinking about story, makes me think of other stories. Whenever I meet someone I like knowing their story, or at least a piece of it. I find it easier to get a story out of someone you don’t talk to often. Hackathons are the only time you get quiet-ish 30 minute conversations with people know nothing about. I met a guy who said he worked on a shrimp boat and now works at a movie theatre to make a living. It’s an interesting story. I know a guy with a comparable story who worked on an apple picking farm. I also know the stories of people with significant financial and educational priviledges. And yet we all stand in the same room. Hackathons are not all equality. There are far more privilleged students than those not, but I think for the non-privlileged student hackathons are far more accessible. For instance, I’m 17 years old. If I decided I wanted to be good at competitive programming or cybersecurity CTFS it would take years. I probably wouldn’t be able to do much of anything else for a few years to be truly good at it. And I’ve heard of this stuff. My school doesn’t have a competitive programming or CTF team. A lot of top schools do now. If you don’t know, why would you do it? and even if you knew, what community do you have to support you. hackathons are great because I just showed up. I didn’t prepare. There was no months of studying. I decided on a whim to show up. When I write my essay I don’t know how to frame the story. I am not exceptional in my own head, that’s kind of how the mind works. If you are the center of your imagination, then how could you be exceptional. If anything everyone is very normal to themselves. When I look at those with more than I have, and those with less, I feel I’m a real middle ground character. I’ve gone to school in Queens, NY at a regular high school, playing handball, a street sport, taking a normal ish curriculum. On the other hand, I have a near perfect GPA, I live in a middle upper class neighborhood. My childhood friends, the majority of them, have said privilleged financial and educational advantages. Yet I’ve been able to meet people with even farther exceptional advantages and accomplsihments. I’ve also seen far, far worse off environemnts. Everyone is unique. Is my unique trait that I’m in the middle of all these groups of varying perspectives on the world. I know a lot of stories. Is it a personal story, to be uniquely involved in a wide variety of stories. How can I write one essay of 500-600 words? Do I write about the mountain of projects, each one has its own story of challenge, influence, learning, perspective. Do I write about the hackathons? Each one has a twist, it’s characters, personal evolutions. Do I write about my travels? The travelling itself to hackathons is already a story. Do I write about Edison? Had I not gone to Edison I probably would not have had any of this happen. I could go on and on. I have no clue what to write, because I could write about anything. What story defines me? They all define me. They are all the truth and reprsent the reality of myself. There are postive and negative attributes to all of these stories. I am not a hero, a prodigy, or a villian in any of them. I’m just a guy. I’ve met many people. I have not met anyone that close to myself. I’ve met programmers. Most programmers I met have had straightforward stories. Personality wise, they are pretty linear, some on the reserved side, some more standoff-ish. They had a parent who was a programmer or some kind of engineer. They had a formative experience as a kid learning something about programming. Then they spent the next few years bouncing around programming till they get to my age and start delving deep into the programming related opportunities. My parents aren’t developers, but I did have an early childhood programming experience. I was in my school’s SEPjr program. I learned computer science ideas in elementary school. Is it destiny that I became ethralled by hackathons? I don’t think so. Therre were better programmers in that class. There are plenty of people who after that experience never programmed again. When it comes to the programmers I’ve met, I don’t think too many of them are like me. I shared a formative exprience, but then I didn’t do anything with it for years. I spent the in between time doing something between doing nothing, playing video games, and trying to start a computer business. The ramble is starting to get even more off track. I am not a run of the mill programmer, I started later than average programmer does these days at least the successful ones. I’m not a high school business prodigy. My computer business did make money, but it was shortlived and not efficent. I’m not a run of the mill teacher. I don’t volunteer to teach kids computer science or tutor them. I am both a lot of things and not those things. I do the verb, I don’t think I’m the noun. I do teach, I’m not a teacher. I do business, I am not a business person. I feel like when you use the nouns, they don’t fit. When it comes to that essay, maybe an interesting idea would be to write it as if it was one of these posts. They are supposed to be about personality. They are supposed to be specific. What if I just make it as a 600 word story for the site. It still doesn’t not make it specific. What moment to choose? What angle to pick? The questions that need to be answered are who am I, and what do i do? Maybe I should choose a very off-topic story. Or maybe a hackathon story because it is so unique. Maybe a hackathon story is the perfect story. maybe its more about using it as a vehicle. They are what I am most passionate about, and a part of that is because they are open to letting me push my other passions. They are a vehicle for my personal progress. Why should they not be a vehicle for my essay. I have to talk about things like passion for learning, long-term goals, initiative, extracurriculars, going beyond, obstacles, and differences. Any hackathon I’ve been do demonstrates a love of learning, connecting ideas, using hackathons to accomplish the long term goal of making things indefinetly, pushing past hackathons to start my own and a club, going beyond by always moving foward with ideas, and obstacles galore related to a hackathon story, and the unique personality and perspective I have on the world through the lens of a hackathon are all present. How will it flow? Maybe it should all be very subtle. Pick the most recent hackathon I went to angelhacks, and as the timeline progresses, demonstrate the answers to those questions and the connections to past and other activities. This has been good writing. I understand why people like journals, but i feel like part of the novelty is only doing it once in a while. If anyone else ever reads this, which someone will eventually, you know me. This is just the inner monologoe of my head. I don’t have an imagination where I can see anything, like close my eyes, imagine an apple, i don’t see any apple. So this writing, is literally my inner monologe. This is my thoughts in its entirety of the moment. I just wrote whatever I thought. There is no more to my thoughts than the words on this page. I think that’s the truest representation of self one can provide. This is literally it.

Goodbye and good luck future kyle. i look forward to getting that letter from ms. moss.

#blog #Hackathon #summer