For some reason not wholly apparent to me, I’ve decided I owe everyone an explanation of what’s been occupying my time for the past couple weeks. My life, particularly since I graduated last May, has been rife with loose ends. Some of them were clearly my own creations, and some were just products of my surroundings. One can only collect so many of these before they begin to weigh down the rest of your life; they’ll sit in the back of your mind and complicate your view of other opportunities that present themselves.
So I suppose it should be a relief to me, then, that many of my loose ends appear to be tidying themselves up right now.
The biggest among these is—surprise—academic. I started an undergraduate research project last spring as a substitute for certain graduation requirements. It is simultaneously the best and worst decision I made for my education. I enjoyed the research much more than a corresponding class; I loved choosing my own direction and following it. However, the project has haunted me ever since it began.
Last summer I was busy preparing to move, and trying to bid all my friends farewell in a manner they deserved. All the while, this research was in the back of my mind, as my advisor tried to have graduate students follow-up over the summer. That didn’t pan out, so it spilled into the fall in two capacities. First, trying to tidy up the paper for a formal publication attempt, and second to assist a team of grad students who were trying to make practical use of the work.
When I wasn’t busy at work, I was busy at home fulfilling these two needs. It took time from me that I honestly didn’t want to spare. Except a week spent hiking in New Mexico, this described most of my fall.
Fast forward a couple months, and it still hadn’t gone away. The original attempt at publication faltered, resulting only in acceptance as a poster. The conference was February 22–24, so I spent many of my evenings in Februray contemplating the contents of said poster, trying my best (albeit rather unsuccessfully) to design and properly print the poster. I didn’t have the completed, printed poster in-hand until the Friday before the conference.
So that weekend, I drove to Monterey where the conference was held. I spent one night (between registration and presenting), which turned out to be quite the miserable experience. For several reasons, I was quite ill last weekend and hardly slept at all. I presented the poster, and then returned to San Jose to work, since I didn’t have vacation time to attend the entire conference.
The research and its associated paper and conference have amounted to so much pressure that ambivalence slowly grew into animosity. By the time I got behind the wheel, driving to Monterey, I was incredibly pissed off at the idea of attending a conference for research that had burned me out. That, and I’d only answer questions for an hour and then be conveniently forgotten. So needless to say, I was a bit perturbed that whole weekend.
Having that research and poster squarely behind me is a huge relief, though my life is not completely free of its shackles yet. My advisor is still pushing for a full publication, and there is some private interest in the work that I shall not discuss currently.
When I first decided / announced that I would be moving to California to start my job, my friends received the news with fairly uniform intrigue. A few of them had recently grown into wine aficionados, and at least one is very interested in skiing. California is a great place to do both, so many ideas were discussed about visiting me here to pursue such activities.
I consider this a loose end because we have this habit of never solidifying plans until the last minute. So despite the fact that discussions began well over a year ago, nothing was (or is) concrete. Turns out that, little to my surprise, all the plans to visit/tour have morphed into nothing more than empty threats.
Disappointing, but at least I have my answer(s) now.
Clarifications. To be more specific, I tend to avoid telling people about my life until I have a pretty concrete understanding of what’s going on. In some cases, this means I let folks go a really long time on their own assumptions. So a couple weeks ago, I finally decided to put an end to that. (Rather, I decided to break the silence with a few people.)
I finally got to catch up with Marj in earnest for the first time since we broke up aeons ago (nearly four years, I believe). It was good to get that sorted out, if poorly timed; she’s leaving for the Peace Corps tomorrow. On that note, I finally took my parents aside and made sure they’re on the same page I am about that situation. I could always tell there was some awkwardness on their part, and it’s good to have that wrapped up.
More importantly, it’s about time I started keeping them more informed about the rest of my life. I don’t know why I felt the need to hide parts of it until I had them figured out.
Some more concrete things I’ve finally done this weekend. My car has needed some routine maintenance for a while, and the trip to Monterey finally put me over the limit I’d been awaiting. So I changed its oil and its wiper blades this weekend, though I’ve still got a couple more things to fix.
Finally made it to the mall to get my watch repaired so now I can actually know the time without having to fumble for my phone. That’s been a long time coming.
So, on the whole, it’s good to have a few of these long- and short-lasting loose ends tied up. It’s certainly made for a busy couple of weeks, and some of it still weighs on me more than I’d like. Of course I’ve picked up a few more loose ends in the process, but I’m not yet sure what to make of those. Feels like I’ve lost something important, though.