JC, 14, is a rising 10th grader at a high school in Johns Creek. You’ve to read every word of hers fully keeping her mischievous smile in mind. She talks about teenagers and their obsessions with their phones, and the extent of procrastination that’s permeated in their school lives. Here’s the transcript of my face to face interview with her.
Heart: So, what’s your story?
JC: I don’t have a story. (Laughs)
Heart: OK, let me ask you a few questions to get us started. What’s a typical day for you at school?
JC: Well, I’m in my classes.
Heart: That’s everyday? You never skip a class?
JC: No, but I know people who skip classes. I hear that some people hide in the bathrooms, which is a terrible idea because it smells in there. I debated about skipping, sometimes I just don’t want to go to a class, because there’s a presentation. But I can’t, because my mom’s going to get a notification that I skipped class. Or, that I was not there. So, I just go to class.
Heart: Are cell phones allowed in your class?
JC: I’m going to the 10th grade, yeah so, in high school, you can take your phone to class. You can use it a little more than how much you can use it in Middle school. But, sometimes, the teacher tells us, the whole class, “You’ve to put your phone away.” And then, you put your phone away. Some kids still send, like quick texts. So, yeah.
Heart: Do you see kids addicted to their phones? I ask this because I got my smart phone at 27. So, I feel like my generation is screwed, but you are Generation Z and you guys were practically born with cell phones. I mean, you’re used to being around technology. You know what I mean?
JC: I know, but, I used to.. I was really obsessed with it at first. But, since I use it everyday, its not as addicting (sic) to me anymore. But for some people, their phone is their life. So, yeah.
Heart: Can you give me an example?
JC: Like, they just have to use it everyday. Like, every second of their lives. Like some people have to constantly check their feeds, on Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter. Or, I don’t know, some people use their phones to organize their life. Like, sometimes, I use it for a checklist. Or some people use it to schedule something. It’s complicated.
Heart: What are the three apps that you can’t live without?
JC: Spotify, you know that(?), um, I go on Instagram and Snapchat every day, but like, wait, do you know what Snapchat Streaks are?
Heart: Yes, and you’re obsessed about maintaining your streaks?
JC: Yes! OK, that’s something that I can’t live without, but like when I go on vacation or some place without service (wifi or phone), I would tell my friend to do it for me.
Heart: No way. I just read an article about it. That kids hire their friends to post on behalf of them during vacations.
JC: My highest streak’s 541 days with this one girl. I CANNOT break that. So to keep a streak, you’ve to send atleast one picture within 24 hours. And they’ve to send something back. Now, no one really talks to anyone, anymore, they’re just on streaks. Everyone’s busy keeping their streaks.
So, if you’re on a cruise without wifi, there’s no Snapchat. So, I give my user ID and password to a friend, and say, “Just post something.” I’ve done that a few times.
Heart: Old people like me in their mid 30’s won’t get this stuff. And why this is so important that you can’t live without.
JC: Yeah, I don’t know. (Laughs)
Heart: Can we talk about boyfriend – girlfriend culture in high school?
JC: Umm. I mean, I’m not allowed to date.
Heart: So, is it an unspoken rule at home?
JC: Oh, no. My mom just goes, “I don’t think you should have a boyfriend until college because that’s where all the smart boys are. Right now, they’re just gonna waste your time. And, you’re not gonna stay with them. So, you don’t need one now. Focus on your studies.
Heart: Do you think its a Asian American thing?
JC: I think most of the couples at my school are Americans.
Heart: What do you mean?
JC: Like, Caucasians.
JC: I know some Asians, that their parents are like whatever, but most are not couples.
Heart: What about Indian American couples?
JC: There’re not many Indian couples at our school. There’re some. I mean, its not like, they don’t want to be a couple, its their parents. Like, for me, I don’t know if we didn’t have this rule, I’m not sure what I would do. I mean, if it comes to it, I might, be OK with it or not do it. I don’t know.
Heart: Where are you going to be 5 years from now?
JC: Hopefully not dead.
JC: I would hope I’ll go to a successful college and maybe become a doctor.
JC: First, I was undecided. When my mom said, “I think you should be a doctor. Steady income. Good for your future.” Then, I was like, “I suck at history, I cannot write, I cannot draw, so Sciences are good for me,” type of thing. So, I was like, “OK, I’ll do it.” Coz, at first I thought, I was almost being forced, but then I thought it was a good idea too. Can’t do anything else.
Heart: Doctors have to be very empathetic, giving, so do you think you have that in you? You’ll have to be social and active around people.
JC: Um. No, um, I don’t like to associate with a lot of people. (Laughs)
Heart: Then, maybe, you can go into research, still in the medical field.
JC: When we have to go to a party, I tell my mom, “Mom, its the worst idea, I hate people.” Yeah, I mean, friends are cool right? But, when I see a lot of people, … (pouts)
Heart: This is great.
JC: This is not great. This is not awesome. (We both laugh)
Heart: When you’re hanging out with others, can you sense who’s wasting their time away with a boyfriend issue or excessive use of the phone. Do you try to intervene?
JC: Well, um, it depends. Some people with whom I can be friends with, if they look sad, I’ll go and try to say something, but if they’re mean people, I don’t care.
Heart: So, the mean girl theory, is it real?
JC: Yeah, kind of. There’re a bunch of popular nice girls and there’re a bunch of mean girls.
Heart: Are the mean girls popular?
JC: Yeah. It’s obvious that the mean girls are nice to their friends but they’re not as nice to those on the outside (of their inner circle). I had an experience with this girl, I was walking out of a door and she was kinda walking in, and we almost ran into each other. I was like, “I’m so sorry.” And she kinda looks up at me in a mean way and doesn’t say anything. This is not the first time she has done that. Yeah, she just kind of threw me a glare.
Heart: That’s sad. You think boys are more laid back, like no drama or anything?
JC: Yeah! One of my friends mostly has guy friends because she’s like, “Guys have no drama. They don’t care about anything.” So yeah, they’re less dramatic than girls.
Heart: Do you think if you’re the older child in the family, you’ve to live your life a certain way? Do you feel pressured to ..
JC: Yeah, he (younger brother) takes after a lot of what I’m doing. He kinda looks up to me. Whatever I do, he develops, so mom’s always telling me not to do anything bad. Coz, he’s gonna copy me. Um, I’m not that pressured or anything because I know that I’m not a bad girl. I’m not like a bad kid. My mom thinks I’m becoming rebellious, which I kinda see. But, I still think I’m generally good. Sometimes, I do things that I know I’ll regret it. I don’t have an example but I know, I’m not the best.
Heart: So, your folks are Chinese from Taiwan?
JC: Um, sure. (shrugs) Technically, we’ll be Taiwanese. My mom was born in Taiwan and she came here to the States. My dad too, before he came here in the 1990’s or whatever. I was born here.
Heart: Oh, OK. Have you visited Taiwan?
JC: Three times? Maybe. It might be more, I don’t keep track.
Heart: Interesting. Do you have a passion? I mean other than school.
JC: School and academics is NOT my passion. (Laughs) I do it because I’ve to succeed in life. I don’t want to be a homeless man living in the street. So, yeah. I really like to swim. Um, and to eat and to sleep.
Heart: I’m glad to hear girls like to eat. That’s good.
JC: Um, yeah, sometimes I like to eat a lot. But sometimes, I eat practically nothing.
Heart: What’s your bedtime? During school.
JC: (Laughs) This year I stayed up to 3, 4am. Generally, its 1:30 to 2:30 (am). Also, I’m kinda lazy. I procrastinate everything to the last day. That’s how most of us are these days. Most teenagers. Like, I’ll have a project for 2 weeks and I won’t do it until the day before its due. (We both laugh) It’s bad, but that’s what I do.
Heart: But, do you think about it all the days leading up to the dead line?
JC: Oh yeah. “Maybe, I should start. Eh, I don’t have time today, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Like, occasionally the big projects, I might do it one or two days before but that’s the most. Like, we had an essay in Biology, and we had 7 weeks to write it, at the end of the 4th week, we had to turn in our rough draft, I wrote it the night before. And at the end of the 7 weeks, we had to turn in the final draft. and I didn’t do it until the night before. So, technically I spent 2 days outs of the 7 weeks on that assignment. I always do that and that’s terrible. (Laughs)
Heart: Well, we’re all fighting it all the time. What’s your GPA?
JC: It’s not GPA at our school like on a 4.0 scale. Last semester my weighted was a 96.
Heart: So is that for a 100 total?
JC: No, it can be above a 100. This semester my weighted was a 98 and unweighted was a 96.
Heart: What’s weighted and unweighted?
JC: Weighted is like, if you take AP honor classes.
Heart: Are you on top of your game then?
JC: Um, no.
Heart: So, kids get higher averages than that?
JC: Some kids have weighted above a 100. I don’t know how high but, I’ve heard like a 103. My mom thinks out of all my Asian friends, I’m the dumbest. I mostly talk to Asian people. Everyone only hangs out with their type. I mean I’ve friends from everywhere, but my mom compares me to the Asian people. She doesn’t use “dumbest”, she says, “least studious.”
JC: Yeah, it’s OK though. OK, so that procrastination thing, every kid my school’s like that. Like that girl that has a 103, she’s the only one that starts her project early.
Heart: Of course, she does.
JC: (Laughs) There’re two girls that I’m friends with, they spend their entire lives doing school work. They do nothing else except school. So, they’ve great grades, but, they don’t have a life. And one of them gets really upset if anyone else gets a good grade. If she gets a 96 and I get a 100, she’ll be so upset for the rest of the day. Its so annoying.
Heart: (Laughs) What’s your favorite restaurant?
JC: Like all time or fast food or what?
Heart: So, if you’ve to go to dinner tonight and you get to pick, where will you wanna go?
JC: If I had to choose to go somewhere right now, it’ll be anything Hibachi. Steak, fried rice and vegetables all hibachi, its the best meal ever.
Heart: Will you cook, I mean at some point eventually you’ll have to cook atleast to survive?
JC: I can’t cook. My dad and my mom – they cook for me. Well, OK, I can’t bake for my life. I tried baking cookies 3 times, and every time, they all burned, undercooked or whatever. I can cook scrambled eggs, I can cook Ramen, Spaghetti and maybe, macaroni and cheese.
Heart: That’s it, you’re all set for college.
JC: Yeah, yeah, all your basic, but not like fresh foods. So, yeah.
Heart: Do you’ve a favorite quote?
JC: Oh yes! Wait, this is really bad though. Its from Instagram.
Heart: It doesn’t matter.
JC: “If tomorrow’s not the “due” day, today’s not the “do” day.”
Heart: What?? Is this what teenagers do these days? I just have to make sure my son doesn’t read this.
JC: (Laughs) That’s why I procrastinate.
Heart: Do you’ve a journal?
JC: No, I cannot write a journal about my life.
Heart: Voice record them, just save them in voice if you don’t want to write. Don’t you want to remember how life was?
JC: Oh, um, sometimes, occasionally when I’m fired up, I go and just type everything up and close it and not look at it. And sometimes I go and read it, and I’m like, “This is so stupid,” and I just delete it.
Heart: Noooooo. What can trigger you?
JC: Just, really annoying people. I don’t know.
Heart: Do you go to the movies with your friends?
JC: I don’t really hang out a lot. Because I’ve to “focus on my studies.” She (mom) already thinks I hang out too much, which is actually very rare, like once a month. I know people that almost go every week. Yeah, so I’ve been only to the movies 3 times. Also, at the movies, you don’t really hang out with your friends. You’re just sitting there and watching the movie.
I’ve been to the mall with them, Avalon or something, um, or we just go to the restaurant.
Heart: Do you drink bubble tea?
JC: Oh my Gosh, that stuff’s awesome.
Heart: So you were talking about successful colleges.
JC: You know, when I was younger, I was like Harvard, Standford and that’s so not likely. So, I’m thinking like if I don’t do as well as I can in school, maybe I’ll go to Emory on a Hope scholarship maybe. If I can make it, then I’ll apply to John Hopkins or I might just transfer in the middle (from somewhere else) to go there. My mom mentioned a medical program in UGA, so yeah, maybe that one.
Heart: What about the politics or global warming climate issues are you bothered about in the teenage world? Or do you even care?
JC: I mean, I read about it sometimes, like, honestly it doesn’t really affect me. Like, I didn’t really like Donald Trump, I was kinda annoyed when he got picked president, I thought he was going to ruin the world or something. But, its OK now, nothing’s really happened to our cities.
Climate change – its getting hot, so I can get tanner, so its all good. Its OK.
So, I can talk about 1st generation Asian kids.
Heart: Yeah, go ahead.
JC: They’re really competitive in school. Remember, I told you about my two friends who are really into school. They annoy me so much because they try so hard. I’m like, “Why?” And the one that has really good grades, she doesn’t care about anyone else. Its just her and her grades. If you ask her how she got that answer, she’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t know, I just got it.” I mean, her work is right there on the paper.
And when we take a test, she says, “Oh my God, I totally failed.” And guess how much she gets. A 100.
Heart: Brags are annoying, I agree.
JC: Her mom’s also into her and her grades.
JC: Yeah, with grades, its been hard for me this first year in high school. But, I know I’m fake when I see a B on my friend’s report and go, “Oh, don’t worry, that’s not bad.” But, if I got a B, I know that’s not good. I go in my head, “Oh God, this is horrible.”
High school’s tough, but as long as I have an “A”, I don’t worry about it. I’ve got As to Cs to Fs. Of course, I can’t let my mom know about it. The lucky thing is she checks my grades (online on the school “Home Access” center) but not that often; once a month. She checks my math for sure because I took a PreCalc (Pre Calculus) and got a 69 in my first test. I had come home and cried about it, that’s why she knows. She doesn’t look so deeply into the grades, that saves me most times, because all I’ve to do is maintain a “A”.
Note: Before you rate this episode, please consider if you would’ve been so open and authentic about your own life. Earlier episodes available at The Anonymous Manifesto.
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