i love ideas

By Laura Gao • 2 min read
November 2022

It’s August. I flip to the third page of my freshly-blue hardcover notebook. I title it: "New ideas that excite me." My plan: preserve every single one I hear—"state observations not theories" in Eli's class on being concrete, Ricki telling me "I get the feeling that what I'm saying right now is outside your action space," Avital using betting as a sanity check for her 90% confidence interval.

But then, I'm sitting in Sydney's talk about agency and I want to write down every fifth sentence. To record them all would make it basically impossible to enjoy the moment—like taking videos, experiencing Switzerland’s mountains through your phone screen.

I’m at the Atlas Fellowship, a 2-week summer program in Berkeley, California. My place of free intellectual exploration: A fellow math nerd teaches me a third of multivariable calculus in one evening. “Goodharting” is a verb. I learn that I feel more intellectually satisfied from conversations where someone disagreed with me. Spending time with confident-sometimes-arrogant-sometimes-elitist individuals teaches me confidence more effectively than years of self-help books. At Atlas, I don’t hear snide remarks of, “look at these nerds talking” that I sometimes hear even at TOPS. I walk into a random convo at lunch and I can put a 40% chance it'll bring a fresh perspective to tuck warmly next to my heart.

A lot of these ideas, not written down, have been lost into the abyss of memory. But I think that's okay. If I go to Stanford or MIT, or a co-living house of self-starters, I think I'll see ideas bouncing around the air again, to feel a semblance of this joy. (This is the #1 reason I am tryharding applications to top US unis.)