14 May 2015
As usual, I've baked a bloggy cake to mark the occasion, fighting through pages of Google results yielding clip art cakes that either aren't very good or that I've already used. (Come on, clip artists!)
Much like previous years, it's also an opportune time for reflection. Graduate school is almost done, but over the past year I've been suffering burnout so severe that, at times, I find myself needing to spend more time simply working myself out of the resulting anxious-depressive cycles than I could possibly devote to my actual studies. This has, in turn, drawn out the process and left me longing for a change. Despite that, I successfully taught another group of students and recently received my best set of teaching reviews yet, which truly warmed my heart and made that part of my struggle seem all the more worthwhile.
To help me through the rest, I've found myself spending more time at nearby Carnegie Mellon University, both as a physical and a social escape. On some days, I simply find a place to peacefully exist and attempt to achieve productivity with a higher-than-usual probability of success. On others, I've gotten involved in several social groups to keep my spirits active. In so doing, I've not so much abandoned my original intention to "not try to relive undergrad" as I've been incrementally tweaking it, eventually resulting in something resembling: "Screw that; I need friends."
And insofar as that's a need of mine, I think I can honestly say I have some now. Increasingly, I find myself actually and actively welcomed in these communities, which — due in part to the magically nerdy weirdness that is CMU and its people — has been inspiring to me in both a personal and an academic sense. Since I haven't been feeling as connected to many of my colleagues at Pitt in a long while (there are a very few exceptions), this has been an invaluable resource as I work on building a successful transition into the next phase of my life.
For now, though, I'm in the midst of a week-long retreat of sorts (helping my aunt with accounting again), taking a step back and looking at what's coming next. From this juncture, any way I try to slice it, it's going to be a busy few months.
Enough with the mixed metaphors. Onward.
Random tangent: The Unix timestamp reached a count of 1,431,655,765 seconds past its 1970 epoch at 22:09:25 EDT today. This number is significant because, when expressed as a 32-bit binary number, it consists entirely of alternating 0s and 1s. (In hexadecimal, this is 0x55555555.) How appropriate that this occasion happened within mere minutes of my blog turning ten at 22:05 EDT. And how equally appropriate that I, a self-proclaimed super nerd who actually gets excited by stuff like this, didn't even know this was happening until it was already a few minutes too late. Oh, well.
01 January 2015
At the outset of last year, I noticed that I've tended to have a more positive outlook going into even-numbered years than odd-numbered ones. That cyclical trend is definitely continuing.
It's not that I don't have a lot to look forward to this year; I definitely do. But I'm certainly quite a bit more worn down from 2014 than from previous years. I've appreciated having the last few days to sort things out and plan various adjustments for the new year. With everything starting back up again on Monday 5 January, though, I fear I'm not quite going to be in full swing in time. But are we ever?
I'll get back with it soon enough, I'm sure. Writing here more may become a part of that, but we all know how that's gone.
In the meantime, my traditional New Year's Day doodle above attempts to encapsulate my positive self-visions for the upcoming year. I'm up for the challenge!
Random tangent: Mom got a Chromebook for Christmas and has had all week off, so she's been getting totally addicted to Angry Birds, 2048, and Tetris. And she's been hilarious.
31 December 2014
Another year is behind us. And it's been a weird one.
In many ways, 2014 felt just like a continuation of 2013, with many of the same accomplishments and many of the same struggles. While 2013 saw the beginning of a concerted effort toward self-awareness and self-improvement, 2014 saw this effort continue. Some days, in some ways, it feels like I'm leaps and bounds ahead of where I was then. Others, it seems like I haven't moved at all. Mental health is a tough thing to maintain, especially in graduate school, and the calendar year doesn't necessarily offer the cleanest points of comparison for progress.
That said, over the last few days, I've been blessed with the ability to disconnect (at least partially) from my day-to-day duties, which has helped me step back and assess my life, where I am and where I want to be. It'll be a big year for me in 2015, as I keep molding myself bit by bit into someone I'm ever more proud to be.
Random tangent: We're more-or-less back full-circle to watching Ryan Seacrest's show this year, with the exception of a few musical acts, despite the fact that we can't stand Fergie. Carson Daly's countdown show has just become dry, and after several disappointments including not even getting to see the ball drop one year, it was time for a change. At least a higher proportion of people are on board with "twenty-fourteen" and "twenty-fifteen" this year. Slowly but surely. Habby Nerrrrr!
14 May 2014
Yes, this oft-neglected blog has, in fact, survived another year of existence. Believe it or not. Bloggy is nine now.
And so, faithful as always, I'm celebrating the ninth cake day of Randomness by baking it a bloggy cake. (And unlike some years past, this one was actually really quick to bake. All of the necessary ingredients were pretty easily located this time.)
With the passing of time, it's increasingly difficult to tap into what my goals for this blog were way back when I started it in 2005, but recently I've had a couple of hours-long conversations with a friend that have got me thinking about the last nine years of my life as a whole unit, a single story arc. And a lot of the things that really threw me for a loop at one time now make much more sense in that broader context. I'm not sure if I want this blog to take on a "memoir" role... but I can see how much I've left out over the years, either because I didn't feel comfortable sharing it at the time or because I didn't understand it myself. I can also see that I actually have some life experiences now that might someday be worth contributing to society at large. But for now, those will remain topics for another heretofore undetermined day.
In any case, though, I suppose I should at least take this opportunity to give a brief life update, since it seems all I do here anymore is show off my not-that-impressive Photoshop skills every few months, then write about how I'm too busy to write, and leave without having offered anything of substance to the readers. (Yes, people still show up here from time to time. You are reading this after all, right?)
Anyway, I'm still doing the grad school thing, with taking classes and teaching being my two main priorities and serving the Computer Science Department as president of its Graduate Student Organization filling in a lot of the cracks. Since most of my friends from my undergrad years have moved away (and I miss you all dearly), and this has left me feeling isolated at times, I've also been trying to branch out socially and am pleased to have found a couple groups which I'm feeling more a part of each week.
That said, managing all of this while still trying to maintain composure and achieve personal growth is a tough task. As a result, at many times over the last two years, it's felt as though I've been working myself into the ground in all sorts of capacities — as a student, as an educator, as a professional, even as a friend — and in many cases, that's been true. So, while I've still got work to do this summer toward finishing my degree, since the spring term wrapped up, I've been taking some much-needed time to myself, just to regroup, rediscover my inner strength, and recharge for what lies ahead. It's very easy to lose one's self-confidence when there's a near-daily chipping away, which makes times like these all the more important and worthwhile.
And so, over these last couple weeks, I got to spend some quality time with lots of family, including my great-grandmother, Esther, who turned 100 on 4 May, which is just incredible! Here we are together on the big day!
(I probably should have baked her a bloggy cake or something.)
I also got to spend time helping out my aunt and uncle a bit with accounting-related stuff for their business, participating in my hometown's collection for the National Association of Letter Carriers' food drive, and actually writing a somewhat substantive post on this blog for once!
All in all, I'm doing pretty well. Thanks for asking.