Monday, January 28, 2008

I never admitted it was a mistake before

Today is the first time I've ever admitted to myself that going to MSUM might have been a mistake.

In my senior year of high school, I applied to various colleges with no real desired destination. I got accepted to a few that I really liked, including the physics program at RIT, the Rochester Institute of Technology in Ithaca, NY, whom the U.S. News and World Report ranks as having the 8th best master's program in the nation.

At the time, I chose to go to MSUM instead, telling people it was because RIT cost about $35k a year for tuition and housing. The truth, however, was that I didn't want to leave the girl I was seeing at the time.

We broke up the following year when she moved away to college.


I always told myself that going to MSUM was still the right thing to do. It was cheap enough that I didn't have any student loans to pay off when I graduated, it was small enough that I got a lot of personal help from the professors and they actually cared about me as a student, and I had friends here to help me adjust to the college life. Now, I don't think those things justify what I did.

I'm applying for jobs now, and while I have a bachelor's degree in physics, saying that it's from Minnesota State University doesn't quite hold the prestige that RIT does. I've looked at applying to the FBI as a Special Agent, and one thing is requires is a degree from an accredited university. I believe MSUM counts because there have been MSUM students who have gone into the FBI, but there's still a slight sting in knowing that RIT would have more prestige and give me an edge in the job market.

My life hasn't been bad since I made this decision. I'd actually go so far as to say it's been quite good. College was fun; I made some good friends, kept in contact with some great friends, gotten help with homework when I needed it and as I said, walked away with a degree and no student loans to pay off.

Still, now I'm looking at moving away, and I'm starting to realize that maybe I stuck around, not necessarily just for the girl I was with, but because I was scared to leave. I'm not scared to leave now - I'm borderline giddy about the idea - but now it's starting to occur to me that the choice I made almost 5 years ago, while at the time I thought very sweet and courageous of me, I'm now seeing as an act of cowardice and a mistake. I didn't do what I did just for her - she was telling me to go to RIT - I did it for me and I used her to justify it.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe I condemned my career because of this. MSUM is hardly a well known name - it doesn't even register on most "college rankings" sites. I was always told that a bachelor's in physics practically guarantees you a job. Well, the "practically" in that sentence comes with a big asterisk that means it's only if you're from a well-known university. I'm not. The job hunt isn't that easy.

Still, I may have found something. It's not much right now - just a response from a company executive about the job asking a few questions - but I think it has a chance to become something. It's for a position as an optical engineer for a company, which I'd absolutely revel. It would put me into a career where I get to use what I've learned in school, it would look great on a resume for future jobs, and it could help me get into graduate school as work experience in the field.

Maybe I didn't condemn my career or my life by staying here, but part of me knows that I could be doing a lot better than I am. Still, moping about it won't change anything. I may have made things harder than I needed to, but I'm used to doing that to myself. A self-sabotaging narcissist is a rather odd combination, and it definitely doesn't make life easy, but at least it makes it interesting.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

300, mk II

Jared and I did the 300 workout again; well, I did it again, he did it for the first time. We completed it in 1 hour and 10 minutes (that was for both of us).

Honestly, I don't know if we pushed each other to go faster or slowed each other down; either way, my time improved by 10 minutes.

I'm happy with that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A new career path

For those who read this blog regularly and have disturbingly accurate memories, you may recall that I once stated I wanted to go to medical school and become a radiologist. At this moment, I still like the idea, but I no longer feel that is what I want to actually do. Medical school would require another year of classes before I could get accepted and even then it's uncertain. I also don't like the idea of disimpacting someone's bowels.

I have found an alternative career path that, though doesn't have quite the starting salary, does still have prestige and would provide me with the ability to use my analytical skills: I want to become a Special Agent for the FBI.

I picked up a book the other day from work called The FBI Career Guide, written by Joseph Koletar, who was the Section Chief of the Criminal Investigation Division at the FBI. The book details what the FBI is like, what agents do, what the training is like, and what the job is like day to day. I've already read much of it, and the more I read it and learn what agents do the more interested I become.

I haven't even been watching the X-Files recently, either.

To date, I don't meet the pre-reqs for application. I need 3 years of full time work experience before I can apply (or have a JD, fluency in a foreign language, or a degree in accounting or computer science; none of which I have). I may be able to get computer certifications (Microsoft Certifications and the like, I believe) and use those in place of the CS degree, but I need to look into that option.

I really feel good about this. I know it's recent, and in time I may abandon this prospect as well if it proves unattainable, but I think I can do it. I have the physical fitness qualifications all met, and as of now the only lacking thing is work experience.

I can do this.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Absence

It's been a little over a week since I last posted anything. I suppose it's largely because I don't feel like I have anything to say. I could go on about various topics, but I don't really care to. It's not like anything I write here will matter. I suppose there could be something cathartic about writing down your thoughts and feelings, but it seems juvenile to me. The idea of writing down my feelings - my problems - in a location where people can read about them feels like I'm asking people to give me pity or sympathy, like I'm saying, "look at my trials and tribulations! Pity me!" In all truthfulness I think that very line of thought is what caused blogs to become so popular. It gives us a way to tell our friends our problems without actually having to tell them, thus making it feel less like we want sympathy and simply that perhaps they're reading our journals. Our very public journals. And not just public journals in that anyone might stumble across them, but rather journals that we have told our friends and acquaintances the exact location of, going so far as to provide them with the link itself, removing all work on their part so that they may read and understand our hardships and our lives.

It all seems like just a way to pass on responsibility. If my friends and family read about me being turned down for a date or not getting a job interview, then the next time I see them I can expect some sort of sympathy or understanding for my melancholy demeanor. If they didn't read about those events, then they might simply wonder exactly why I seem less than excited to be alive and that would then put the burden on me to explain why. It makes sense in a cynical, minimalistic way.

The reality of the matter is that I shouldn't write anything personal here at all. Instead of using this as an aid - a crutch, if you will - to gain support and understanding, I should bear the burden myself. By doing so, I don't grow to rely on others always understanding a foul mood, and as such removing any potential justification for it. Without justification - without purpose or meaning - the foul mood I may be experiencing would no longer be something others would understand and sympathize with, but rather would be something I could deal with individually, and thus not burdening others with my rather meager problems.

This is contrary to what therapists have said, however. I once read an article that blogging is considered very healthy in that it has replaced journals and has once again given people an outlet for their feelings and thoughts. The downside is, as I addressed above, the public nature of weblogs. With them being public, our thoughts are no longer private or personal, being able to be read by friends or family we may have shared the address with or even anyone who happens to google certain key words. Our once sacred bastion of personal feelings is now available for all to read. This is not inherently a bad thing, as it can, in theory, help people learn if their loved ones are depressed or suicidal, or simply update people on the status of ones life. This was once done through Christmas cards or regular correspondent letters; now it's done by a web address.

The downside of this public nature lies in the very idea of what a journal once was - a personal, private place to write down and acknowledge your thoughts and concerns. By writing down our thoughts, we force ourselves to understand them because we cannot write what we cannot put into words, and we cannot put into words what we do not understand. Weblogs have kept the personal aspect of a journal while stripping away the privacy of a journal. It was once the ultimate taboo to read someone's journal - particularly a girl's - and now our journals are available for the world to read. If we didn't know that these journals were so easily accessible I feel their purpose would be more well served. I would write in it as I would a journal: candidly, openly, honestly, privately. It would be simply an electronic journal.

As it stands, I know that people read this and, whether purposefully or subconsciously, I tailor it to them. I don't write simply what I'm feeling, but I write what I think you need to hear from me. I may write that I am in a good mood and that things are going well when in reality I may be on the verge of tears, yet I don't want you to know that because I have a confident, male image to uphold. I may write about something I experienced that focuses on the negative events so that I may evoke sympathy from you. I may tell a story yet leave out certain events I don't want you to know. It is no longer my private thoughts and feelings you are reading but simply another facet of me hidden under a very deliberate facade; a facade that many people may believe is more accurate than who I am in person. The cathartic quality of a journal is not continued in a weblog because we know that people will read it, and I - and most likely we, speaking for most who read this - are not comfortable with anyone knowing our personal thoughts and feelings. We feel vulnerable and weak; we're afraid of anyone knowing who we really are.

Blogs that are truly personal are almost always anonymous. It is only in anonymity that we can be completely honest with one another. While anonymous, we do not fear repercussions for our actions; we do not fear judgment; we do not fear society frowning upon our thoughts or actions; we do not fear disgust or hate; we do not fear others thinking less of us for who we really are because they do not know who we really are. It is perhaps comical that only when someone does not know who we are that we can actually be who we are. Once someone knows us, we become the person we think we need to be around them. We begin censoring ourselves; we begin catering to their thoughts of how we should act; we begin to care about their opinions of us and as such grow to fear the idea that they may feel negatively about us.

I suppose I could say that we lose who we truly are when we are around those whom we care about most. If we care about someone, we tailor who we are to them and betray who we are to ourselves. The goal of all this is, of course, to become a person who does not feel the need or have the need to change who they are around people. Someone who can truly and openly write what they feel without fear of what others may think. Someone who can be who they are around anyone - who acts the same whether anonymous or under spotlight. Someone who doesn't fear disapproval from society because they know that it is their opinion that matters most; and they approve of themselves.

Maybe someday I'll be that person. Until then, I guess I'll continue to tailor this to those whom I know read it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Epiphany

My New Years was less than stellar. I went down to the cities to go to a dance and hang out with friends; it had the potential to be totally awesome.

Well, somehow, throughout the car ride down and the time at the dance, I managed to alienate or offend a girl I like, which was not a very good thing. Then, while at the dance, I got hit on. By a guy. Not one of those cool, stylish gay guys that, if they hit on you, is actually a compliment to your sense of style and physique. I mean the probably-hasn't-showered-in-two-days, overweight, creepy gay guys. Even when I made it rather obvious I was avoiding him - going so far as to literally turn and run when I accidentally caught his eye - he kept following me around. Anytime there was an event and people were watching something, I would turn around and he'd be there, about three feet behind me, staring.

Had this been the New Years dance for 1965, the music would have been awesome. I guess I may have different ideas of what dances should be like, but I generally don't go to dances to rock out to Buddy Holly or the Big Bopper. The DJ at this dance disagreed.


New Years came, and the only person I even had the option of kissing was the guy who was stalking me. Yeah, talk about a great way to begin a year.

After the dance, we went to some "house parties." I say "house parties" because they weren't really parties as attempts to pick up the girls we had brought with us - something that I didn't take very kindly to seeing as how I happen to like one of those girls. While at the house, someone decided they were going to shoot off fireworks. In January. In Minnesota. For those of you who don't know the weather up here, the temperature was about 1 F (-17 C). Well, the girls wanted to go, so I went, but mostly because I didn't want the girls alone with the guys. The fireworks they had were on par with what I used to play with in my backyard when I was 8: jumping jacks, satellites/bumblebees, and a tank. Not exactly the "Happy New Year" mortars I was expecting when I was told "fireworks for New Years." At this point, I'm cold. And I'm tired. And I'm upset because I've had to watch the girl I like get hit on by other guys all night long.

We go back to the house a few blocks away; the guys who came down with us were talking with one of the guys at the house about the military and aircraft. The guy starts spewing stuff about how we should just threaten the entire Middle East with nuclear warheads and tell them to "cut the crap or we nuke you off the planet" (and he wasn't joking). Now, I've studied nuclear weaponry - a professor of mine has studied it for years and I've listened to a lot of his lectures and seen the data about what the bomb actually did to Hiroshima - so I spoke up and said that that would be a bad idea, because trying to threaten those countries would be incredibly stupid and only escalate things. He got very irate that I disagreed with him and demanded that I give him a better solution. I said I didn't have one because I haven't studied the politics closely enough, but that I do know about nuclear weaponry and I don't think it's ever justifiable. This sends him off on a World War II tangent regarding Hiroshima and again demanded an alternative to using the bomb - once again I calmly replied I didn't have one because I haven't studied World War II and I don't know the scenarios.

I'm not sure what wasn't clicking, but he didn't seem to understand that I was just saying it wasn't right. I wasn't insulting him or trying to outshine him; I was saying that in my education I've learned what nuclear weaponry actually does and that it is never justifiable to use. He didn't get it. (I later found out he's the brother of a girl who's good friends with my family. That was kind of awkward.)

After about 15 minutes of him almost yelling at me, I look at the guys and say I'm tired and that I think we should leave. I tell the girls we're leaving and one replies "good." I figured they were glad we were finally leaving so they could spend time with the guys who invited them there. It turns out they were actually about as bored as we were and were happy to finally leave.

Getting back to the hotel, I shower and head for bed.

This morning, we drove back to town and I had to be at work at 3. Thankfully, my coworkers are awesome and were willing to listen to me complain repeatedly about my night. Throughout the day, I got into a slightly better mood because my coworkers kept trying to cheer me up (it worked), and I got better at telling this epic tale of fail. Then I ran into an old friend from high school; a girl I knew from theatre. We got talking, she introduced me to her friend, I relayed my tale (which had been quite honed at this point), and when I said, "How's that for a crappy beginning of a year?" Her friend replied simply,

"Don't think of it as a bad beginning to a new year; think of it as a bad ending to an old year."

This really hit me. She was right. I didn't have to think the year was ruined or that it had started out crappy - the last year had just ended crappy, that was all. A New Year was ahead of me. This actually made me smile and made me feel good about it. That was when the real epiphany happened.

I was standing at the customer service desk, sorting some books, when the door opened and two school kids come running in. The first one suddenly stopped and quickly spun around, looking at his friend behind him, and yelled, "I know what you can get with your gift card!"

"What?" his friend said.

"Something COOL!"

Now, at this, they both ran off in the store to find what I presume was something cool. The epiphany I had at watching this was that these boys had obviously had a discussion regarding what the second boy should buy with his gift certificate, presumably being given it for Christmas. This had apparently caused some difficulties for them because they had so many options and did not know what it was exactly they wanted. However, the first boy had solved the dilemma - the boy should buy something cool. He never said what it was; he never specified what cool thing he was thinking about, but he didn't need to. He had an answer. He had solved their dilemma.

It was simple. Their solution didn't require tedious time consumption and comparison of products. It didn't require endless perusing to make sure they got the exact object that will bring them maximum pleasure. No; their solution was solved by finding something cool.

Far too often in life, I over complicate things. I think too much about things. I look too far into each detail. I push too hard and too fast in efforts to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. With science, this works great. With girls, well, they don't seem to appreciate it as much as science does. I get excited that I've found something/someone that I want to learn about that I try and move too fast and end up ruining something that could have been great. However, this kid had the answer; instead of knowing exactly what toy he wanted due to hours of comparisons and analysis, he just knew that he wanted something cool. What exactly it was didn't matter - it would become obvious what exactly was cool when he saw it. What mattered was that he had an answer to his problem.

I think I need to solve more of life's problems that way. Instead of trying to find the exact answer and know every detail and variable, I need to just have an idea, and let the details work themselves out. I don't need to have all the answers right now; I need to let them come at their own pace - I need to let the cool toy come to me instead of studiously trying to find out which toy is not just cool, but is in actuality the coolest, and having the charts and data to prove it. That works wonders for physics - my senior project got an A because of this trait - but my relationships (and potential relationships) all fail because of it, too.

Sometimes, you just need to know that you want something cool, and the details work themselves out.

That's my New Year's Resolution: Stop needing to know all the details and reading into everything and just enjoy life. Let the details come when they come.