Yes, I know tomorrow is supposed to be a holiday. I'm using it to play catch-up on both work and relaxing; there is some stuff I'm happy to do and will be happy to have done, and it takes me a lot of time and effort to ramp down into actually having a weekend, and this is a weekend I'm determined to have.
Heh. Just imagine what it's going to be like at the end of May when I try to go on a vacation (for myself - a vacation that I'm making just for me - this is bizarre!) for the first time.
I have once again reached the point where I'm looking at "an empty inbox" as one of the deliverables on my daily to-do list. The current count for my work inbox is 147; if I do nothing but answer emails all morning and get that done, I'll consider it a productive morning. Somehow I'm much less stressed when I'm at Inbox Zero. Not that I'm freaked out or frazzled or unproductive with a backlogged inbox, but without that tiny bit of pressure of "oh man things that I haven't done yet," things just seem to flow much better. So that's the first order of business tomorrow morning.
After that, but before I have to drive myself and Matt Jadud to CMU for our dinner meeting:
- Do a first round of acceptances for POSSE attendees this summer.
- Follow up on a number of internal RIT-related tasks that should not take that long.
- Clean up an interview I did (of someone else) the other day.
And then the rest of it is sheer output - braindump, reflection. On classes, on conversations with Matt, on what I've learned, and what I think I may have taught.
And then there's life. I've learned a lot about that in the past month, which is silly to say because we're all always learning about life by living it. But - well, Matt described it at dinner tonight. "I can walk up to a cliff edge and look down, and then take a couple steps back, get a running start, and take a flying leap." I'm very good at doing that. And sometimes the flying leap I have to take is into different ways of learning how to scale down cliffs - I've had a number of conversations with professors out here that I still don't fully understand - not yet enough to be verbose about them, which means they're still processing in the background. Ishita and Darren, in particular, have blown my mind in... ways I can't yet verbally express. Perhaps the words will come soon; I'll keep trying.
I'm going to grad school. I'm going for the spring semester. I've got to finish applying, and I've got to be accepted, and I have to be able to pay for it (or more probably, find a fellowship). I need to keep on saying this out loud, publicly, to myself and others so that I'll move forward on it - but things are moving, and they're moving in a way that feels right.
Oddly enough, it's being surrounded by this context now, and seeing more concretely just how hard it's going to be, for such a long time - that's made me feel more free to do this. And it isn't the workload that's going to be the tiring part, although I will have to work hard, and the hours will be long, and the material difficult, and the workload daunting. Heavy workloads I can handle - actually, I think I don't know how to handle anything but a heavy workload. I cope poorly with light ones; I get bored, go off, do crazy things, make myself busy and productive in another realm anyway...
The hard part is going to be the changing - wanting to move, being unable to shift the world in the ways I'm used to. I have grown used to having the power to shape and transform my context, which is something I never could even have conceived of several years ago. And to have to... not necessarily give that up, but to slow it down and limit it in some ways, in order to grow an even deeper understanding of how to shift this massive, massive edifice of education... that's going to be hard. Patient is usually something I am not. But there's power to be unleashed within it, and it's only if you sit down and plant your fingers in the earth and grow roots through the rock that you have any chance of slowly breaking those stones down into soil where many, many other seeds can grow.
It is the sort of thing that takes a lifetime. However, according to the average life expectancy for American females, I have 57 years to go. That's a little more than 14 generations of 4-year undergraduates in engineering and open source and related fields. I pack a lot of life into my years. (It helps that I don't need to sleep too much.) I have a while.
There is one thing that could convince me to defer another year, and that's the chance to spend a year in Asia - and even if it happens, at the end of that, come hell or high water, I am bloody going back to school, because the itching in my brain that's whispered for two years now that I ought to do this is, I think, going to peak around then... and shortly after that, I will start learning how to ignore it better. And I don't want to do that.
And this is all me thinking out loud now. This all might change. I may have different ideas in the morning. But this is what's been feeling more and more right - and kind of where I've been headed for the past 3 years, although not always in a straight line. And it's still unclear what's going to happen - 57 years from now, or whenever it is when I die, if I have the luxury of knowing that and being able to look back and reflect on what I've done, I'll probably think about this and start laughing. "I thought that I might end up where?" And if anybody I know now is still around with me then, they can help me remember and laugh right along. Stories always make a lot more sense when they're done happening; I hope I'll get the chance to read mine someday.
And I have a lifetime to go bike across the USA (my brother Jason and I want to do this the summer after he graduates from college) and get a motorcycle, wingsuit, kitesurf, backpack across Europe, learn to paint in Italy. 57 springs to visit the cherry blossom festival in DC, which I have never seen. 57 summers to climb into flimsy inflated rafts and watch the Boston fireworks while floating on the Charles (which I have done - and it was wonderful). 57 falls where I can drive down winding New England roads as the leaves start coming down, and 57 winters I can curse - nah, just kidding on that one. 57 winters full of nights where I can sit inside and watch the snow and drink hot tea and try new recipes for soup - or just sit with a bowl of rice porridge that's been slow-cooked with pork and preserved egg and spiked with ginger, and think.
57 years of good work. With that long a stretch ahead of me, a few years in grad school don't really seem like all that long.
Of course, I only get that long a lifetime if I take care of myself. I'm trying to learn to do that, and I think that year by year I do a better job of that (although there are plenty of regressions and almost constant backsliding). But my hands are far happier now than they were a year ago, for instance. And I eat better. Admittedly, 2 straight weeks of ramen at age 14 is... there's really almost nowhere you can go but up. I sleep better - though again, most things are better than sleeping 5 nights a week, which is what I did in high school. But... continuous improvement. I will get there. I am not sure where "there" is, but I will learn.
And another thing that Matt reminds me of - and in fact, many of my teammates and colleagues remind me of, all quietly and by example - is that no matter what, you must continue to do excellent work. That is what makes everything else possible.
On that note, before I go to bed tonight, I should:
- Clean up and send a set of meeting logs from today.
- Summarize Fedora Insight meeting logs (different from the first meeting) to list(s, to be precise - same message, 3 lists).
- Set up resources on a wiki page for Matt and Darren's student teams, who've just picked the Fedora Marketing and Fedora Design tasks they'll be spending the remainder of the semester on.
I'm off to do that now.