7.23.2011

musings of a lowly foodrunner

Hi guys! Just wanted to share some anecdotes from my adventures in unskilled labor (and first paying job).

First off, general reflection: I LOVE WORKING. Of course, I realize my situation is a little artificial. I’m not working to pay the rent or put food on the table. But being out of the house, having responsibilities to fulfil and customers to please, even driving home late at night – it all adds up to a measure of independence and accountability that I find new/challenging/fun.

I like that my job is not glamorous. I’m quite literally at the bottom of the food chain: I bus food from the basement kitchen to the lounge upstairs. That’s half the job; the other half is about never standing still, essentially doing anything I can to help the chefs below and waitresses above. I try to do as much as possible, and it’s not really self-serving, because no matter what I’m still taking home minimum wage when the night is over. I like that a lot. It’s a far, far cry from what I’ve done in summers past, which – I’ll be honest – was about getting myself ahead. Many of you have inquired, so I’ll tell you: summer ‘08: family followed Lulu’s orchestra on tour in Europe; started learning chemistry and physics so my school would let me take them concurrently as a sophomore; tennis camp. ‘09: Russia and Sicily with the family; went to summer school (by choice!) to finish my requirements early so I could take a military history elective in the fall. ‘10: Germany and southern France with the family; interned at a psychiatric genetics lab in Boston for the rest of the summer.

with our awesome cousins in berlin.

Summer ‘11 is definitely a learning experience too, just of a different kind.

Okay. Now, purely for fun, I want to sketch a recent encounter that has to do with (!!) parenting as well...

Last Friday night.

It was a slow evening in the restaurant, so when we got a reservation for a party of 26, we eagerly accepted. We should have known better: their first question was, “is this place like Chili’s?” No, not really. The burgers here have a hint of Picasso. Desserts are evocative of the Guggenheim Bilbao. They showed up anyways; the group turned out to be some kind of elite, 16-year-old travel baseball team...plus an entourage of overprotective helicopter moms. You could picture them sauntering onto the field while the dads struggled behind like pack mules under duffel bags of gear. Right from the get go, they made a huge fuss about everything. All hell broke loose when I brought out the burgers. “I don’t like cheese.” “This relish is gross.” “I have a gluten allergy,  take away the bun or I’ll die.” YOU’RE A TEENAGE BOY, EAT WHAT’S PUT IN FRONT OF YOU. Maybe that’s too callous. At least tell us you need it prepared with sterilized tongs and a string quartet before we cook it! Whatever you do, don’t take it out on the servers. A furious, blonde mom in capris almost had the waitress in tears. “My boy played a VERY STRESSFUL GAME today and he’s been waiting 45 MINUTES for his pizza!” She threatened to “post horrible reviews of this place online” and told me to can it when I apologized for the late pizza. I overheard the boys say they were considering Yale. Well, I hate to break it to you. You can be the best shortstop in New England, but you can’t walk into college with your mommy holding your hand. I like to think this is where tiger cubs have a slight advantage. We are not pampered, so we learn to solve our own problems No hard feelings, though. When the Yale coach comes courting, I hope for your own sake you’ll man up and eat the relish.

On that note, I’m psyched to be a Yankees diehard in Boston next year. I am ready, nay, super-pumped to be pelted with trash by belligerent fans at Fenway.

So that was a little Q&A, family history, and ranting mixed in. Anybody working in the restaurant industry with customer horror stories? Or work stories in general? How about advice for good college jobs? Leave me a comment :)

65 comments:

  1. College job advice: Don't get one first semester if you can avoid it. You'll be getting your bearings and adjusting to a very different learning environment (no matter how hardcore your high school was, believe me). The last thing you need is to spend 6 hours a day making napkin fans.

    Also I was once asked working in a kids clothing store the cotton/polyester breakdown of every item in the store. By a woman who was trying to return obviously worn out jeans. Moms are crazy.

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  2. Hi Sophia,

    That sounds terrible! I'm sure you know it's a good life experience, though. People don't always a) recognize that other people, especially "low-level" staff have feelings and b) realize that their children are not the center of the world.

    As a rising senior in college, I have a couple of thoughts on getting a good job. Here's my opinion :) . You're going to want to make the most of your college experience - everything from classes to football games to to school clubs to (gasp!) partying it up. In my opinion, the best job to have freshman year is something that requires you to (basically) sit 5 - 10 hours a week. These are jobs like monitors in buildings or the help desk assistant at the library. They occasionally require problem solving, but for the most part you sit there. This gives you excellent time to finish your homework and actually read all the readings for class. You sort of get paid to do your homework. While I think it's pretty admirable to do the food-service job you're doing now, and it's a perfect summer job, it might not be the best for the school year. It's much better to find something low-key :)

    The other option, if you could find something so early into school, would be to get a cool research job. I personally think you should wait to get a research or academic position for at least a semester. You can learn about all the cool opportunities Harvard has to offer, and make a decision based on them.

    That's just my two cents. I'm sure you'll be fine either way. Keep blogging - it's fun to read!

    - Audrey

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  3. Everyone should work in a restaurant at least once in their life.

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  4. I can relate to being excited about a restaurant job. At first. I admire people who do it to put food on their tables as I completely understand how difficult, exhausting and demanding (primarily physically) the job really is. Yet after a while I catch myself being really grateful that I'm in college...

    My worst experience from working in restaurant/caffe is the birthday party of deaf people. I have nothing against deaf people, I've never been surrounded by that many of them before or after this experience. This group just happened to be unique in it that it comprised mainly of deaf people and thus are still remembered as "the deaf people" at our place.

    It was a party for about 40 people. Although they were to buy drinks at the bar, they brought their own bottles of strong liquor and well before the wrap up of the party, they got so drunk and got out of control. They were shouting, yelling at whoever happened to be at the bar about the snacks that haven's arrived yet, breaking glasses and they were generally obnoxious. But the best (or worst?) was still ahead.

    Seeing the situation, we decided to close the party and the restaurant about 2 hours before it was due because of their level of intoxication. We got everyone out, started cleaning, and shut the metal blinds in front of the windows. The guests were not about to call it a night. They were still lingering in front of the restaurant, loudly complaining about the establishment, the owner and the service. As they though that wouldn't really affect us much, they retorted to a unique tactic. I was surprised to experience this. They decided to collectively bang on the metal blinds thereby creating extremely loud and irritant sounds for a while. Of course, it didn't harm them as they couldn't hear it anyway but they knew very well the effect it creates on the hearing ones.

    My boss went out (through the back door) and told the hearing members that he called the police and taxis for the group to leave the property. Soon after that, everyone began to sober up and started realizing what they have done.

    They were so ashamed they never showed up at our place again.

    Though it ended this way, it was really interesting to see and learn a bit about deaf culture. I didn't know they learn to speak by feeling the vibrations in their throats and speak in low voices, for example. Too bad they went out of control... :(
    Hope you'll have more positive experiences by the end of summer!

    - Dora

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  5. whoa, they're so picky! that's terrible. i volunteer at the library and i get similar stuff sometimes :/

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  6. Hi Sophia! I love your blog! You're so funny and smart and cool ;D Just wondering.. Did a lot of Asians go to your school? :) Hope you have a great summer... Keep up the hard work! :)

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  7. Best college job I had was running the Audio/Visual equipment for the lecture halls. I made sure the Profs had their microphones, I played their DVDs and sound clips... They usually ran their own slides, but I helped them set it up at the start of class. Then I studied for my own classes in the booth at the back of the class rooms. Easy job, basically got paid for studying and got my homework done during the day so I could have free time and do extra curricular clubs in the evenings. Good luck to you!

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  8. Sophia: Read 'Timothy's Take-Out' sometime. It's all about customer-waiter/waitress confrontations--and how they about drove a restaurant manager insane LOL Funny stuff.

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  9. If you want to read customer horror stories, let me recommend to you "Hooters According To Sauce":

    http://www.accordingtosauce.com/

    Yes, she is a Hooters Girl, and she writes about the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly at her particular restaurant.

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  10. Very nice picture of you and Lulu with Jake and Ella - are you close to your other cousins (your Mom doesn't mention her other sister much)?

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  11. Here's a site/blog of funny comments and quotes exchanged between customers and workers. I always get a kick out of it.

    http://notalwaysright.com/

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  12. Hi Sophia, I agree with Tori,if you don't have to work your first semester, don't! Then you can give your full attention to classes and used to living the college life. :) You might want to apply at Trader Joe's, I worked there for eleven years, it's a great company. Hmmm I think the worst work experience I ever had was when I was a restaurant hostess at a Holiday Inn. The busboy and the waiter who were supposed to work that day never showed up and I had to seat, serve, and bus every table myself! What a nightmare! By the way I love reading your blog, keep it coming! :)

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  13. Hey
    I love your blog, it's so, well, fun! (:
    I have one question though; do you play sports at all? Like in school or anything? Cause you mentioned something about tennis camp...
    just curious :P

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  14. A great job at Harvard, I thought, was delivering the Crimson (and other newspapers) to students. They only allow students to go door to door in the dorms and it gets you up early, is GREAT exercise running up and sown stairs, and the pay was pretty good. Plus, all the free newspapers you can read.

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  15. how did you get to stay in boston for your internship last summer? do you have family there as well?

    are you sure that baseball team wasn't from around cincinnati? that's exactly how so many of the yuppy parents and spoiled kids act in my hometown. my summer job is babysitting kids who shriek when they feel they don't own enough pottery barn kids pillows for them *me* to build a proper fort :)

    please answer some of the Q&A's left on the last few posts. thanks! this post was really fun!

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  16. How do you have somuch courage? Any tips for me to gain more confidence in my self?? Thanks! :)

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  17. you said earlier that you don't like to put much effort into "being accepted" and expressed negative feelings about the college admissions process, but here you say that your past few summers have been dedicated to "getting ahead." could you clarify that a little bit? i don't mean to jab at inconsistencies or be a jerk, but i'm interested to know how these ambiguous feelings played out simultaneously. did you do the internship because it would help you "get ahead," because you were interested in it, or (most likely and understandably) a bit of both? thanks!

    p.s. this post just reinforced my jealousy of the insane amount of traveling you've done at such a young age. i know your mom talked in her book about wanting to instill "anti-provincialism" in you and lulu, but i think a cool post idea would be one about how you feel all your travel opportunities have affected you.

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  18. The transition to college is hard for most everyone, even tiger cubs. For the first time in your life you are *purely* self motivated. Even if you parents made a transition to being fully hands-off senior year of high school, you still worked hard in part for their respect.

    Once you get to college, you work hard for your own reasons. It's hard to know what those are or will be before college.

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  19. Can you tell us about your high school? Was it a private school? Did you have to take tests to get in? Is it Hopkins School, school for students in grade 7~12?

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  20. My two cents: I recently finished your mom’s Battle Hymn book and I can see why others have so much to say about it. But I feel that no matter how much someone may agree/disagree with your mom’s parenting style, it just boils down to the fact that that’s their opinion and this is your mom’s.

    However, there is an issue, one that’s been discussed (though not as often as the parenting style argument), that I’d like to hear your thoughts about. I strongly disapprove of the your mom’s constant juxtaposition of the terms “Chinese” and “Western” or “American” (actually, I don’t remember if she used American, but something along those lines).

    Granted, your mom does clarify early on in the novel that her term usage is a generalization and people in either groups may not fit to the mold. But this is only a small section in an entire book that makes such a meek clarification. The rest of the book continues to overuse the phrases “the Chinese way” and “Western parents” that, being an ABC myself, I find it painfully offending.

    A bit of background on myself: My parent were born and raised in mainland China and came to the US with $400 in their pocket to attend graduate school. I came along a couple years later, and then my brother some years after that. My parents can definitely be considered one of the stricter parents on the block, even among other Asian families. I’ve been raised with high standards and pushed to do things that, at the time, weren’t things I really wanted to do (from studying, piano practice, to tennis). However, our similarities pretty much end there, which is completely fine. My mom (or dad) may have had some parenting styles similar to your mother but they also had styles entirely different. And I know I am not the only Asian/Asian-American in this situation.

    Your mom’s book however, makes it all too easy for others to interpret your mother’s parenting style as the framework for all Easterners, especially the Chinese. Sure, there was that one paragraph of clarification but for the ignorant, bigoted, or racist, their assumptions from this book are not far-fetched from the information provided. Regardless of my own opinion, the details in your mom’s book received a lot of harsh disapproval. And for many readers, this disapproval, thanks to Battle Hymn, can be easily transferred to all Chinese. Just take a look at the rude comments underneath almost any article discussing the Tiger Mom.

    And I feel that that is where your mom abused her responsibility as a writer. Sure, freedom of speech and everything, but that doesn’t make it fair for your mom to write on such a controversial topic and implying it to billions of other people. Culture does play into a person’s parenting decisions but it isn’t the only thing. Your mom’s book left the more ignorant and prejudiced half of America thinking all Chinese parents border on “cruel” or “abusive” or “close-minded.” Definitely not fair.

    And these effects don’t just end with Chinese parents (or Westerners for they too were badmouthed to be too lax and not pushing their children to something that truly made them happy). It reaches out to us kids too. Who’s to say that the worser half of America doesn’t see

    Cont.

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  21. all of us as victims of “cruelty” or “abuse” or “close-mindedness”? It undermines your achievements, my achievements, and those of countless other Chinese descent (or again, Western descent). Your mom’s book creates a bad rap to not just those directly related to her, but to all that fall victim of her ill-used generalization.

    On a pettier note, judging from the information disclosed in the book, your mom isn’t even representative of the general Chinese person. She lived most of her life in America and her parents weren’t even a part of mainland China. If we’re going into the argument of culture being the sole factor in one’s parenting decisions, let me tell you the culture of those raised in Southern China or Eastern China, not even to mention (which ever part your mom hails from, I forgot the specifics), can be extremely different. I don’t see how your mom is in a valid position to speak of “Chinese parenting” when she herself doesn’t belong in the majority party.

    Sorry, this thing turned out to be a lot longer than I planned it to be so if you happen to be short on time/patience and skimmed to the bottom, here’s my summary:

    1. The usage of Chinese/Western is not appropriately distinguished in the beginning of the book to make up for its extensive use in the rest of writing.

    2. Thus, regardless of what people think of your mom’s decisions, that (usually negative) opinion can be applied to all that fall under the generalization of Chinese/Western, showing that such a generalization should never have been used

    3. Your mom doesn’t have the “credentials” (not the best word, I know) to make such a generalization in the first place given her background and that of her parents.

    Okay. I’m done.

    PS. On a side note that’s only somewhat related to my argument, I get the hunch your mom just used the entire Chinese/Western generalization for the fame/infamy. If your mom was just trying to describe her relationship with you and your sister, she could have done so without the constant references to the “Chinese” or “Western way.” I’m sure there many such books, probs in the memoir/autobiography genre.
    And honestly, I believe that your mom is intelligent enough to have predicted the consequences of publishing such a book with these generalizations. The majority of negative (and positive) press could have been sidestepped so the fact that she still stuck with it just seems like an extra (and inappropriate) shot for attention.

    PPS. Congrats on your own achievements. There is no doubt your mom’s approach to parenting can produce positive effects, but only in people as disciplined and as self-aware as yourself.

    PPPS. I didn’t reread this so I really hope that everything I wrote actually made coherent sense. Sorry.

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  22. Sophia you are just so cool. I wish I could come take life lessons from you and your family. Waitressing is a great way to develop people skills. You'll need them your whole life.
    What is your major going to be at HU?
    Peace!

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  23. Helicopter moms are the worst and the inclination of schools to follow this example is equally disconcerting. I worked for an after school care program before where I got written up for letting the kids sit in the sun during snack time.

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  24. Hi思慧我从你的Weibo首页知道了你的博客。你很风趣可爱!支持!!

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  25. lol " ...man up and eat the relish."
    best line ever.

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  26. Best advice for a college job IMHO would be to do a work study (campus work) job. They tend to be more flexible when it comes to schedules and like a previous person pointed out you can usually get ones that pay you to do your homework.
    I was a history major in college and worked in our school archives as a job during school. I answered phones, pulled material for people coming in to do research and monitored to make sure no one was trying to walk out w things that didn't belong to them. It was pretty interesting and as a bonus semi-related to my major!

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  27. I have a story for you. I was working as a waiter in a restaurant in southern California. A party of eight people came in for the WHOLE works...appetizers, drinks, dinner and dessert. During the appetizer portion of the meal, I was getting ready to serve drinks to the guests. I must have had six or seven different drinks on my tray. A few of them were "Long Island Ice Teas". They are traditionally served in TALL SLENDER glasses at this restaurant. As I was leaning in to place one of the drinks on the table in front of the patron, the biggest BLUNDER happened...the TALL SLENDER glasses, filled with drinks, decided (on their own, mind you) to TIP AND SPILL. Not only did the tall ones tip, it set off a DOMINO EFFECT that sent sticky, cold, wet drinks DOWN THE BACK of one of the guests. I felt TOTALLY HUMILIATED!!! The guest looked up at me and calmly said, "Thanks, but I prefer to drink them". He was TOTALLY COOL about it. Of course, the restaurant gave free drinks and appetizers AND offered to dry clean his clothes for him. I guess he must have been in the food service industry in the past. I hope you never have an experience like this...Cheers.

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  28. Also, with your personality, you would be a great campus tour guide.

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  29. "When the Yale coach comes courting, I hope for your own sake you’ll man up and eat the relish."

    Hahaha!

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  30. uh, to anonymous who offered his/her "2 cents" and then gave about a million bucks worth...

    What in ur rite mind made u think that this blog was a place for u to post ur criticisms of Sophia's mom's book?

    Please do everyone a favor, and try to keep ur comments relevent or at least shorter.

    thanks,

    a poacher

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  31. Hey Sophia!!
    I'm freaking out about high school? How did you spend your high school days? Can you tell me your schedule? How did you catch up with the others for the summer between 8th and 9th grade?

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  32. I agree with the comment two above mine. To whoever offered a LONG critical comment with comments about Sophia's MOM's book.. it's her blog. About her life :) Sophia, your blog is awesome. Keep it up :)

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  33. Haha, yeah. You learn pretty quickly in minimum wage jobs that people tend to become most horrible kind there is.

    I've been working a part time job since I was sixteen at a grocery store. This year marks my fifth year at the place.

    One time, I had a customer complain to the manager that I had "rolled my eyes" at her when she produced WIC (welfare checks) when I clearly hadn't and was completely baffled to why she had thought that when I had smiled at her!

    Another time, an older lady started yelling at me and telling me how incompetent I was at my job when she had used the wrong card to pay and when I had tried to help her she just acted like I was stupid.

    I'm so jealous that you got to do all those amazing things during your summer vacations. Mine are mostly just work, work, and work.

    College job advice? Know that most of the time the jobs are for the kids with work study. However, there are lot's of jobs that relate to what you're interested in. Try to get a job that has a lot of perks or a desk job.

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  34. Great story. I've had my share of angry customers working at restaurants too. Can I ask how many hours of sleep you get on a daily basis? I can only imagine with the amount of things you do each day. If so how do you get past sleepiness?

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  35. Sophia, since you are a die-hard Yankees fan--just wondering, who's your favourite player from the team? I'm a huge baseball fan myself and love the Yankees as well. My personal favourite is Derek Jeter.

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  36. For the reader that give two cents: There are many stereotyping in the world for any race. About you get some unfair treatment or prejudice because of Amy's book, most likely it's already out there and people just related news with their original thought. If people thought you are what you are not, you could correct them or not correct them. I thought Amy had clear distinguished her term right in the beginning of the book and she said she used the term loosely. Anyone read this book or any other book draw their own conclusion or cherry pick what they want :)

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  37. Some of the best jobs to get are desk jobs, especially in some dorm front desks... they sometimes let you study at the same time, which might possibly mean more sleep time.

    -Kati

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  38. Hello!

    You seem like a witty, personable, and well rounded person! Congrats on your achievements!

    I have a question for you. Upon further research I found out that your mom and grandparents actually lived in the Philippines, with your grandpa going to school there. As a Filipino reared using the Tiger Mom approach, I know that many Filipino values coincide with the values expressed in your mom's book. As many of us like to say, "Anything is possible with education!" However, your mom makes no mention of her Filipino roots in her book. As someone who is a Chinoy, how have your Filipino roots influenced you in your life and education? Have you had a chance to visit the Philippines?

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  39. Hi! I just read your mom's book. Literally today. As in this afternoon. The whole thing. I cracked up the whole time. I myself have a "Tiger Mother," - and while your mom pointedly leaves out a lot about your dad, he seems to teeter on the edge of one of those "western parents" she laments. Unfortunately for me (I thought so at the time), my father is a Greek "Chinese Mother." Not only did I have to train to be as perfect a concert pianist as my mother was, be fluently tri-lingual, and get straight A's, and sell more girl scout cookies than the "spoiled lunatic classmates," I had to be a champion figure skater with classical ballet to back it up. Until I decided that going to college for literally eight years would be easier. They did poignantly tell me when I was 9 that "winning a gold medal" was actually incorrect; the only real solid gold medals are given at world competitions, like the Olympics. I should quit bragging and work harder. Which I did. Case and point - I get it. And I'm thoroughly glad I wasn't alone.

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  40. Hi Sophia,
    I really enjoy reading your post. I finished your mom's book a few weeks a ago and I love it... It saved my sanity.
    I'm a mother of four girls (10,7,5, &2). I was very excited but very SCARED about being a mom... so when my oldest daughter was born I began to read parenting books...LOTS of them. You see, I didn't have a "tiger mom" (but sure wished I had!!!) so I tried to look for answers in those books and asked advice from a lot of moms/dads I've met. most of the parents (with successful kids) tells me that their kids were born that way and that they didn't do anything much... just words of encouragement... I would feel really lost after these encounters because I lack the ability/intelligence to find words of encouragement or words of wisdom to guide someone. most books i've read would talk about building self-esteem, creativity, patience -from the parents... no screaming... Carefree childhood... I would feel like the scum under the shoes after a lot of these books. I make my kids do a certain amount homework (math problems, reading, etc.) in addition of homework assigned by their teachers and practice the piano 5 days a week before they play...my kids have a routine now because they now see the value of the additional work...but in the beginning there were a lot of screaming matches...

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  41. I would lose my temper and make Mommy Drearest look like a saint. My friends and parents would tell me that I was being too hard on my kids and that my kids will be sick from stress...that they need time to be kids... My nerve would come unbundle and self-doubt sets in at night... And talk about guilt... I cringe at some of the memories...
    I had lots of self-doubt but all I knew is that I wanted to make sure that my kids could take care of themselves if something were to happen to me... If that means extra work and studies before play and having the girls hate me because of that... I accepted it.
    I agree with your mom. It's a hard world out there and i need to prepare my children. That takes a lot of time and work... from parents and children. There were many, many times i'm tempted to sit the kids in front of the TV or send the kids off to my parents so I can have some free time or shop in peace...or just sleep...
    I don't know how my children will turn out in the future... I might have ruin their chances of becoming the next Bill Gates because I I don't allow them enough time to sit and stare at the ocean... I just want them to be confident, self- reliant, and self motivated...
    I thank your mom for being so honest. I thank your mom for having the guts to write her book. I also would like to thank you, Sophia, for writing your blog...it's been very helpful. I hope you the best at college and at everything you do. Thank you.

    -Lee

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  42. Hey why did u where a Yale shirt at the Science Olympiad competition, and ended up going to Harvard?

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  43. Hullo-

    I wanted to ask about your piano regimen. How often you practice and how many hours a day? Have you stopped practicing as much?

    Also, how did you learn to speak Chinese? Did you speak it a lot at home or did you learn it through school?

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  44. When you apply for a job in your chosen field of study when you finish college it is very important to have specific industry work experience. A college student could gain work experience through a job, internship, or volunteer for free in the industry that they are majoring in. Employers rather hire someone who will hit the ground running and need very little or no training. Many college students will take restaurant jobs because they pay more than office jobs that are related to their major. I would suggest not doing that.

    If you really want a restaurant job I would suggest working for a catering company. You get to pick which dates you want to work and can work as little as you want - once a month or twice a month. This is ideal for a college student who has exams and projects. You don't want a job where you have to work at least three days a week and you have exams coming up and you are begging your boss to let you have the week off or you have to find coworkers who are willing to take your shifts. Try to work for the biggest and best catering company in the Boston area. Major cities have a 'Business Journal' which is business newspaper and put out a 'Book of Lists'. In this ‘Book of Lists’ you will find rankings such as: Catering companies, Banks, Architecture Firms, Construction Companies…etc all based on revenue. Apply to the catering companies at the top of the list and the ones which cater the most prestigious events(they are listed in the list notes). You can also use this ‘Book of Lists’ to find out which companies (in your major) to apply to in the area. One great thing about catering is that it gives you an opportunity to meet people. For example you want to be an architect and you are catering at an event for architects. This gives you an opportunity to meet architects. It is all about who you know and networking. I found a great job a number of years ago through someone I met at a catering event. When applying for catering jobs: after you call them and they will most likely ask you to come in to fill out an application. This is their way of meeting you in person to make sure you look professional and clean cut. Although I have a corporate job in the line of work that I went to grad school for I continue to cater because: I think it is fun, you get paid a good hourly rate ($14 - $17 starting hourly rate in California) and don’t have to worry about bad tippers like at a server job in a restaurant, get a free gourmet meal, you have fun with your co-workers, and it gives me an opportunity to meet people. I recently catered at an event which was hosted by a company that I would love to work for and I was able to meet someone who works at the company who I have been in contact with. If it weren’t for catering I would not have met this person. Also it is nice to do something easy, active, and doesn’t require any critical thinking like my regular corporate job. Working at catering events kind of resets me for my desk job. And again I get to pick and choose which dates I want to work.

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  45. Greatness comes . . .

    to those who truly love what they do,
    to those who build a strong foundation,
    to those who set the targets high,
    to those who surround themselves with strong people,
    to those who have uncommon common sense,
    to those who go over, around, under or through obstacles,
    to those who simply get the job done,
    to those who course correct when necessary,
    to those who work while others sleep,
    to those who never, never give up.

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  46. Giving private lessons is always a good job while studying, at least for me, although it's not payed that good. And I'd love to take out dogs (just like Hollie in King of Queens :D), as it's a lot of fun and good for your body, too. But there aren't that much opportunities in my university town.

    A rather personal question to you, Sophia: What do you do to keep up your motivation while learning a lot or while writing a term paper? I try to be as disciplined as possible, but unfortunately it doesn't work well on some days... Any tips?
    Btw: maybe a "How to become an A-student/scholar"-post would be great :D

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  47. Hello Sophia,
    First off, I wanted to say that it's great that you're writing this blog. I think it's very courageous of you to put yourself out there, especially considering how many people must be eagerly searching for signs of your borderline personality disorder/sociopathic tendencies/imminent nervous breakdown.
    Courage must be a family trait, as I also thought it very brave of your mother to write such a controversial book in these insanely PC times - especially about such a sensitive subject as parenting.
    I'm very glad she did - I thought it was a fantastic read. Funny, insightful, original and intriguing. (I imagine that most of your mother's critics haven't read the whole book, or don't understand her dry, self-deprecating humour - something we love here in the UK!) Most of all, though, I found it very touching. More than anything, it seemed to me to be your mother's tribute to her family, and in particular to you and Lulu. Her love and pride are evident throughout. She portrays you both (quite truthfully I am sure) as super-bright, talented, driven, disciplined, strong-minded, witty and fun, and your blog bears that out. Oh yes, and your essay 'Conquering Juliet' was just staggeringly eloquent.
    Despite being half-Chinese myself (and a 1974-born tiger), I'm not much of a tiger mother, in fact I'm something of a pushover. But your mother's book has inspired me not to short-change my own two daughters (aged four and one) by opting for the easy life and letting them do whatever they want. If they turn out anything like you and Lulu, I'll be delighted.
    Good luck for the future to both you and your sister x

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  48. Hello Sophia,

    First, I wanted to congratulate you on your great achievements. While I am a wounded Tiger Cub that doesn't entirely agree with Tiger Parenting, I must concede that the other end can produce balanced, successful, and happy individuals such as yourself.

    Second, I wanted to thank you for discussing some of the Chinese reaction to your mom's book. Both you and I know that it's meant to be a satire, and I admire the fact that your mom promoted a more balanced style of parenting. Unfortunately, there are too many parents out there that will use a literal interpretation of her book it as a "how to" guide unless corrected. Hopefully more people will come to your blog and read that post.

    Third, I think it's great that your parents allow you to work. The experience you gain, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult customers, can be an asset when applying to jobs in the future. I know way too many college graduates unable to get a job these days due to having no work experience.

    Anyway, I genuinely enjoy reading your blog! Keep up the great work!

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  49. Love the blog. Just a question: throughout your life, your mother has been preparing you for "the next big step" - whatever that was at the time - high school, college, and beyond. Now that you're attending such a great university, has she been talking to you about what comes after? what's the next big thing a Harvard grad can shoot for? A Rhodes Scholarship? Or is the long wave of rigorous parenting beginning to crest now that the hyper-competitive college admissions world is behind you.

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  50. OMG! dropped by to see if you commented back yet, people sure leave you some long comments! ;)

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  51. Hi, Sophia, I'm the daughter of Bully Mother. My mother prepared me to be independent and responsible for myself too, though by entirely different methods. I grew up on the Ivory Coast, and my mother's every thought, concern and action was centered on money. I was no exception in my mother's selfish and greedy conquest for money. In fact, I was a pawn in her plan. I went through many terrible experiences, things we would call abuse in the United States, but in the end I turned out all right. I knew that education was the key to my freedom, and it was always my motivation. Now, I am pursuing my PhD, raising three daughters and still send money to my mother. I admittedly have not read your mother's book, but I have read about it. I know one thing: Your mother was concerned about your future; my mother was only concerned about her own. It's taken a long time and much tribulation, but I have found peace. I have forgiven my mother. And that is the message I want to send to others. I'm not saying that you're in the same place; your experience is definitely different. I have the true Bully Mother. Tiger doesn't even begin to describe her. If you want to show people what a Bully Mother really is, point them toward my book.

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  52. Hi Sophia!!! I just read your mom's book and I couldn't stop. Can I just say that you are amazing for sticking by everything your mom told you to do? Part of your success is from your mother, yes, but you also are responsible for half the success. You inspire me. I've been taking your advice about jogging everyday so you know how much you can take. Thank you :)

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  53. Hi Sophia! Wow. This blog is really interesting. I was motivated to read it probably for similar reasons you were motivated to write it; I was curious as to who you really are. Anyway, I really enjoyed the posts I read. You seem witty, honest, mature, and quite likable. It seems like you have a lot of depth, a depth which would have been hard to detail in the book that was more about being a parent than a child. Congratulations on all of your stellar accomplishments!

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  54. Congratulations Sophia!
    Here are the jobs I had in college:

    1. University Archives. This was a calm, low-key environment and the work was interesting because I got to read so much University history in the process. I attended a university founded in 1876, an exciting time in US history. I got to read (and write) about how new departments were established, and even letters about selection of faculty, including such names as Einstein and Schrödinger(they preferred Schrödinger).

    The other job I had was working in the library as a monitor. I chose early morning hours when things were quiet and I could basically study and get paid for my time sitting at the desk.

    Both jobs worked out well for me. That said, there is something to be said for the argument that one should take fewer work hours so as to have more uninterrupted time for thoughtful study. And exercise - which I found essential to clear my brain.

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  55. Hi Sophia - So many of us have been asking for a favorite piano moment or story. I read your mother's book and would love to hear about the preparation of the Mozart Rondo when you were ten from your point of view. You're blog is fantastic!

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  56. Hello, two questions that you do not have to answer. What do you look for in a spouse, partner, and/or boyfriend. Also what would you consider to be your favorite music genre, musician, and song. Somewhat random questions but I don't believe in random, these are things that strike me curious at this moment and therefore I ask.

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  57. Love your blog and I hope you continue updating it periodically. Could you share some more memorable childhood incidents?

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  58. Hi Sophia,

    Have you decided between Harvard and Yale?

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  59. Hi Sophia

    I've been following your blog, and really admire your humility, witty humour, your beauty and your ability to stand your ground in times of public criticisms, especially of the way your 'tiger mom' raised you. I really like the discipline and hard work ethics you have, and I see that many people you as a role model.

    I am sorry to read about your grandfather passing away last week. My condolences to you and your family.

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  60. Hi Sophia,

    I'm very sorry to hear about your grandfather's death. My condolences to you and your family.

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  62. Hi,
    What was the name of the lab that you worked at in Boston?
    Thanks

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  63. When I was an exchange student in Japan, I loved that I was able to try the service industry. By that, I mean that I was a waitress for a good 7 months. The pay was good (no tipping in Japan though), but my parents have taught me that if you have the brains to avoid those kind of jobs, it's better if you do. Not that it's not an honest job. It's just... you learn more from something else. Did that make sense?

    Not that I learned any. I plan on getting a bartending job if I can.

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  64. I work as a cocktail waitress while finishing up my degree in business management and marketing. I started in March, and I am starting to get a little burnt out. Never really got too many horror stories with fussy people, unlike you (well let's face it, my job is to get them drunk, so they don't really notice if there's extra cheese and medium rare meat in their burger).

    But you do get extremely rude people at times, let alone very cheap people who don't tip at all (I am from France, and I didn't think it was possible for people not to tip in the US... Clearly I was mistaken.)

    Besides that, we are allowed to do shots with the customers (it def helps the sales) and I thought it was great at first, but honestly it is starting to become a lifestyle issue. I am currently looking for a job in my field since if all goes well, I am graduating in September.

    So overall I would definitely recommend for anybody to get an experience in the service industry at least once in a lifetime, because it is definitely humbling, and it also makes you look at things from another angle as a customer. I never considered myself a rude person, but now I definitely wouldn't take out my anger on a server unless they have done something really horrifying (like catching them spitting in my food! )

    On another note, I love your blog, and I have a question for you. I understand you give credit to your mother (as you should!!) for your strict up-bringing, which has shaped you into the young successful woman you are now. But do you really think that if she had been more lenient your would have been any less brilliant, that you wouldn't have had an interest for culture, books, and clearly a sharp brain?

    This isn't by any means a disguised criticism of your mother's methods (I agree with her general idea about raising up a kid) but more curiosity that developed while reading your blog.

    I mean, granted, hard work pays off most of the time, but don't you take credit away from yourself and your natural dispositions, by giving all the credit to your upbringing?

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  65. Why did you choose that job? I'm pretty sure you're overqualified.

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