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14 May 2014

Bloggy is Nine!

It's cake day!

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.

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01 January 2014

2014

Here it is: The first post on this blog posted in a year ending with a "four". And that completes the cycle. I can now officially say that this blog will be turning 10 next year, which is... interesting.

I don't know why, but I think I'm going to be okay with it being 2014 this year. Last year, I wrote about how it was going to take some work to wrap my head around 2013. And indeed it did. Consider that I still wasn't quite comfortable with it being 2013 even yesterday. Case in point.

My mother says she's always preferred even-numbered years, that they've felt more "right" or "comfortable" than an odd-numbered year. I've generally regarded that as silly, but now I'm starting to think there might actually be something to that. Or maybe I'm just more comfortable going into even-numbered years because I tend to be more positive heading into them? I have no idea if that's actually a long-term trend in my life, but just thinking back to where I was at this point in past years, I think it's safe to say that it's been true since at least 2010.

Maybe that says something about the cycles experienced by my emotional state. Maybe it's just that certain things happen in certain years, and it all sums up to one big coincidence.

Regardless, it's that time again when I spend a little while trying to remember where everything is in Photoshop to create a doodle capturing my hopes for the new year. Twenty-fourteen, like its predecessors, has a lot of unknown ahead for me, but I'm excited!

Random tangent: I've really been trying not to get hooked on new television shows lately, but holiday breaks always have the possibility of ruining that. Reruns of Brooklyn Nine-Nine help, too.

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31 December 2013

Phew!

It has been... well... it's been a year.  A rough one at that.  I've never really been particularly averse to the number 13, but in retrospect, I've had the kind of year that probably would have warranted a little triskaidekaphobia.  While each month seemed to come with something new to try to beat me down, over the course of the year, continued self-discovery has allowed me to get back up and keep going.

Of course, there's been a lot of actual positive for me this year, too.  I continue to teach and make progress toward my master's degree.  And though my life is still in quite a period of transition, it's a lot more stable than it was not too long ago, and I've been making a lot of progress toward personal goals as well.  So, while I don't have a lot of grand events to look back on here, all in all, I'm pretty pleased with how I'm coming out from this year.

It's still been really busy, so all I have time left to mention is that I've scarfed down my New Year's Eve Nachos and I'm ready to ring in 2014.  Here's to no longer having to fail to write legible "threes" at the end of the date.

Random tangent: The Carson Daly pre-show this year was getting so uninteresting we actually had to switch to a Seinfeld rerun.

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15 October 2013

Self-Discovery

Stuff like self-discovery never happens when you expect it to.  Although it can sometimes come as the result of seeking it out directly, eventually those paths dry up and you're effectively stuck at a dead end until something comes out from the blue and some new, unexplored path hits you like a ton of bricks.  This is precisely what happened to me over this long weekend.

It also never happens when you'd like it to.  There are dozens of other things I could (and indeed should) be doing right now.  (Grad school and all.)  But there will be time for all of that.  Sure, it may mean a little extra frenzy in the coming days, but it's worth it to take some time out to process things now so that, later, such thoughts won't interrupt nearly so much.

I like being able to describe my experience.  It's part of why I started this blog in the first place.  But, among other things, to do so requires words, which have recently been harder to come by.  When confronted with questions about my identity, my emotions, and my ambitions, I've tended to come up empty.  And for every admonition that "labels aren't everything," time and time again I cling to the descriptors I have because they're so useful in helping me to comprehend and process the world around me — all that I'm going through, and all that others are going through.

I'm not sure, but I suppose I wouldn't necessarily mind if this didn't have to be the case.  If it were possible to shun all of these adjectives, and have such a strong sense of identity and self that one only needs a single noun — the nominal, one's own name — to encompass all of that and communicate it effectively.  If only a single word were all that were necessary for deep introspection about one's feelings, desires, actions, and reactions.

Google doesn't operate that way, though.  You can't just upload your consciousness, pick out a feeling from therewithin, and ask it to give you more information about what it means.  You only have the words you know.  And they're painfully limiting.  Nothing will point that out more readily than a computer.  Or a clustered network of millions of them.

But moreover, it doesn't strike me that people operate that way... at least not generally.  We pretty much all have at least some sort of internal running narrative in our minds, and narratives are rooted in — get this — narration, which requires — have you figured it out? — words.  Without words, we can't possibly begin to explain effectively to others what's going on in that headspace of ours and so we can't get out of it.  And since what's going on in there tends to have some governing effect on our more perplexing outward actions, this can become an issue at times.

And so when serendipity offers you a term, loosely defined, which piques your interest, you seek to learn more about it.  But usually you can only connect with a mediocre proportion of what's written about it.  You might learn something new about yourself, or you might not, but either way, the effect is small.

Which makes it all the more special when, despite all odds, it turns out that, in this case, you can directly relate to almost every bullet point anyone could ever write on the topic.  Suddenly, a whole world and wealth of information is available to you.  All of a sudden, you're not alone, and you have the collective wisdom of others' experiences at your back, rather than just your own.  Sure, not quite every bit of it is exactly relevant, and sure, everyone's different, and sure, it's a bit hyperbolic to say that this new word captures your feeling perfectly or even vice versa... but still, it gives you so much new perspective, because my God, it's the closest thing you have, and it's far, far closer than you've had.

Of course, these new realities aren't all rosy.  While they can point out strengths of an extent you didn't know was inside you, they can also point out deep flaws you weren't aware existed in anyone, let alone within yourself.  And while you may have already known some of these things about yourself in a more abstract and fragmented way, synthesizing all of this information — the new with the old — into a coherent sense of self happens both slowly and all at once.  And this process will never end.

At this point, the reasoned mind takes a step back — perhaps two — and begins the difficult task of embracing the good and the bad, and forming, out of parts, the whole.  Ushering in further self-discovery and -identification, introspecting from a new angle, meditating with a new perspective, and ultimately living with a newfound purpose.  After all, the labels merely describe the experience; they don't define it.

Make no mistake, regardless of what this process might dredge up, I'm overjoyed that I even have occasion to dredge it up.  Because I didn't before, which had limited my ability to learn about myself.

With some of those limits removed now, it is in this new context — which I am just beginning to explore — that I feel I'll be spending much of the fourth quarter of 2013, casting new light on my experiences of the first three.  And, finally armed with a few more words to describe them — empowering ones, at that — it may very well be the case that I'll once again be able to find the words to write.

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