Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
May 30th, 2005
Going Out


Going Out: Breaking the rules

Sometime last year, the school Counseling Dept. asked me to write out a tedious profile of myself, including things like accomplishments I’m proud of, activities I’m involved in, and the like. Naturally, I procrastinated the assignment until the night before it was due. So at around 11:30 at night, after laboring through the Biology workbook, I get to the section where I have to list ten words that would describe me. The first word that my pen could come up with for me was, of all things, maverick.

If you’ve ever met me in person, I don’t seem like a very nonconformist person. I’m not a goth, not emo, not punk, not a hippie, not “gangsta,” and not quite geeky. Between the olive green polo shirt, light tan khakis, and black tennis shoes, you’d think that I work after school as a caddy at an exclusive golf club. But I don’t.

See, the way I look at it, the typical nonconformist just wants to break rules – they want to go against the status quo. And they do it so well that they end up conforming to a counterculture (sorry Nick). That’s not the way I “deconform.” I do things my own way when I can find a good reason to.

I can only get away with calling myself a maverick because I try my best not to fall right into a stereotype, without falling right into the stereotype of a nonconformist. As an Asian-American, I suppose I’m expected to get unnaturally high grades at school, excel at math and piano, and have no life whatsoever. Although some of that may be the case with me – I claim that I have a life, but some people just won’t believe me – I have my own identity, and it’s a source of pride for me.

Part of that is in my opinions. I don’t blindly follow anyone when it comes to agreeing or disagreeing with something. I’m proud that I resisted the urge to chant “Four more years!” and wear all the Bush paraphernalia at school, and actually discussed the issues before the elections instead of complaining afterwards; proud that I’m quite possibly the only senior not to get his name in the Blueprint at least once – my name appears to be infamous in some parts.

Another part of that is in my preferences. I’m proud that I used Mozilla Firefox back when it was still called m/b and Phoenix, before anyone had even heard of it around here; that I never got into money-wasting fads like Pogs, Furbys, Jelly-Roll pens, or Pokémon, which I never would’ve enjoyed anyways. It’s the little things, too: I’m quite satisfied knowing that I have yet to eat Thai Chicken of my own volition. And since the Fourth Grade, I’ve abandoned half of the cursive script that my teachers forced upon me – namely, the capital letters.

To the left, the standard capital letter Q. To the right, my version. Ramona Quimby would be proud.

But it’s not all about pride. Really, it isn’t, and I don’t want to turn this into a bragging contest between me, myself, and I. There’s always another reason behind my desire to go the other way. For example, my intense disdain for the cliché.

If someone were to ask me what I’d like most for the world, I would not parrot the “world peace and an end to world hunger” mantra. Not that I don’t believe in an end to needless death – I do – but why repeat what ten thousand others have said, if one more mention by me, of all people, won’t help? I have to say something more meaningful to the person asking me the question. And that’s what makes retreats so hard for me, especially when we go in small groups and start going around the circle with our responses.

Hold on, let me come up with something!

In writing this essay, I’m not trying to find out what the meaning of my life is. There’s not use in asking that. I give my life a little more meaning each time I stray from the easy path of conformity, because each time I do something novel, whether it’s writing a Q the right way or writing a program in Python instead of Java, there’s a reason behind that.

So, come graduation this Wednesday, you won’t be seeing me in a pink cap and sunglasses, “just because.” Instead, you’ll be glad to know that I haven’t stopped giving purpose to my life. It’s just, I’m still thinking of something to say when I break the rules.

[Correction] Justin Lorenz dutifully points out that my name has appeared in the Blueprint – not once, but twice in the same issue. The Blueprint’s last-last-last-last issue, a little leaflet passed around on MusicFest. It mentioned me in the comprehensive list of seniors going to college (so there’s no escaping for me), and in a list of “most likely” futures for us: I was “most likely to become a gym teacher.” Can you imagine me becoming a Mr. Rasso when I grow up? Oh, I can just see it now…


  1. San Francisco is obviously quite different than Cincinnati, but as I’m starting to observe, it’s exactly the same in one irritating way: everyone thinks that everyone has the same political views.


  1. I don't think you should try to be noncomformist or comformist; instead you should just listen to that little voice in your head which makes little sense, well mine doesn't make much sense atleast. I think you have been true to yourself Minh and that is all I can ask from you. You have been a pivital part of my life, so has everything else though.

    Ohh and I can't believe you still remember how to do the cursive Q, did you look it up?

    Thanks Minh


  2. It’s not so much that I try to achieve the label of a nonconformist; rather, I try to strike a rational balance that many people view as nonconformist anyways. At St. X, you’re basically viewed as a nonconformist (or a nutcase) already if you side with the Democrats – or “Liberals” (queue scary music) according to our school vocabulary. But what if you’re more of an independent who likes to take things issue by issue? (Renowned hyperconservative Ben Gerdsen once complimented me on being an independent – though I suppose that qualifies me as a moderate conservative, thanks to overcorrection? :^) )

    Harrison, our little group at school has been great, and highly pivotal for me, too. Though you did it through minor occasions, you’ve helped me pay attention to my conscience, and you’ve helped me get interested in stuff other than just computers: philosophical physics, science fiction (just a bit), British culture… I don’t know how we managed to talk about such diverse things at the parking lot within a mere half-hour after school.

    And me and my brother will watch Dr. Who soon. Soon.

    (By the way, you can easily check your spelling by typing the word into Firefox’s Google search, which will, of course, suggest the correct spelling. Gotta love Google.)

    The only reason I remember how to do the standard, uppercase cursive Q is that I remember the chapter in Ramona Quimby, Age 8, in which she complains about the teachers ruining the beautiful letter Q by turning into the number two. She rebels by refusing to ever write a capital cursive Q, instead writing her name as “Ramona Quimby” (with everything but the Q in cursive).

    I only remember a few of the capital cursives, and only because my 8th grade English teacher, who gave us weekly spelling tests, demanded the best in penmanship: she demanded that we copy her handwriting to the millimeter, John Hancock be darned!

    Well, I look forward to playing some more Settlers this summer… :^\

  3. In case you were wondering, I have never been in the Blueprint either... -Eric Webb