Sitting in the Pittsburgh airport listening to Chet Baker and waiting for my flight to board. I've got a while - there was less traffic than Matt and I expected. It'll be interesting to go back home to Boston (it's the closest thing I have to home right now). I left there a little more than a month ago - which really isn't all that long a time; I've had extended travel jaunts for longer - but I'm a slightly different person now than when I left, in a couple different ways. Between my takeoff and my landing at Logan, I have learned a lot.
I'm thankful to Matt, Carrie, and Matthew Jadud for hosting me in Meadville, to Darren Miller and Ishita Roy for opening my eyes to more of academia, to Matt and Bonnie Tesch for taking care of me in Pittsburgh, to Katie Rivard and Kristen Dorsey for a lovely time downtown, and to my team(s - they overlap) in Red Hat and Fedora for a fantastic FAD in Raleigh. And many more names and hands and voices stretching out over the internet who've helped me work and think and pause and grow.
I land this evening; I get in early enough that my arrival won't be rushed, won't be too late, will have a little time to unwind and settle my mind for the day before I head to sleep (at a reasonable hour that I'll try to be more regular about over the next month). I have the email backlog of doom to face at some point - but my goals this weekend are extremely simple: (1) finish and send my taxes, and (2) send out my grad school draft to professor friends for comment (it will not be perfect or complete by any stretch of the imagination). I'll also see some friends tomorrow and will make some time to chill with family. Beyond that, whatever work I get done - POSSE, Allegheny follow-up, travel-booking for the summer, everything - that's bonus.
Mostly I need to make sure I'm ready for my rhythm over the next month while I'm actually in town, and that this rhythm takes me to a point where I'm ready to run full-tilt at a long, hard, gloriously exhausting summer. Getting my sleep, exercise, and food patterns into something reasonable and maintainable will be important - right behind that is making sure my finances and correspondence are as close to autopilot as they can be, and right behind that is looking at the time I'm going to have for studying and reading. Because summer is also getting ready for the fall. I think ahead - mostly because I know I'm very spontaneous and impulsive, and I like having the freedom to randomly do things while knowing that the important stuff is taken care of. In a funny way, there are things that I am able to do now because of preparations that I made when I was back in middle school; you set up capacity so you can use it later, even if you don't yet know what you are going to use it for.
I usually take the month before my birthday as a quieter period of reflection - not that I'm that great at slowing down, but it's the cycle during which I take stock of things and figure out if I'm still going where I want to go. So maybe I snatch moments here and there that add up to a couple hours of running numbers, drafting timelines, checking back on how a bunch of things are working out - and I try to write these things down, and I try to talk with people and get a gauge. That's a tiny fraction of my time, though; most of it is still spent running and running. These days, I am occasionally reminded of the importance of breathing. I suppose people have been trying to tell me that for a while. Whether I actually listen to the reminders is another question. I'd like to think I'm getting better. Not too much better, though.
Things might come together in interesting ways for grad school now - we'll have to see. The short version of the story is that an idea's starting to make the rounds, and... depending on how the first few people like it, I may be learning how the grant process works. Which would be extremely cool. If this works, I'm going to be working like a dog for at least the next half-decade, maybe a little longer (then again, I'd work that hard no matter what I was doing). Part of that might be waiting to work on stuff - which is a difficult thing for me to do, not being able to run directly at something I want - and part of it will be learning how to be patient and learning how these sorts of conversations work. Part of the reason I need to work on that application. In a lot of ways, it's running towards the stuff I'm working on in open source and education - it's going to let me more richly do what I already do, work more deeply with the people I'm already working with. For the most part - if this works out - I think - I wouldn't actually be leaving anyone behind.
I realize these notes are vague - I just want to pin down, for myself, the conversation Matt and I had in the car on the way to the airport today. Idea came up. Matt ran with it and I was going "Wait, wait, what? Wait, wait, what, really? That might even be remotely possible?" But I have also learned that if you want to work within the academic world (which is where this idea has to sprout, though we'd transplant it to the open world as soon as possible) you have to start your ideas slowly, safely, closed - because a single "no" can bring it down forever, so open discussion can be a giant penalty. I don't understand it right now; I certainly don't agree (which isn't fair, since I don't understand it yet), and I also figure I should learn it this way at least once. I'm not used to not being able to share things with the world (and this is a twitch that I don't think will ever go away, so the moment it becomes possible to broadcast braindumps on something, I will be blogging about it), but if this works out, it'll be... pretty awesome. And if it doesn't work out, I can talk about what it was anyway.
Excellent work. I must continue to do excellent work. I feel as if I haven't been half as disciplined about that as I ought to be in the past month especially; I've been doing barely-good-enough-to-scrape-by work while my brain's gotten rewired in any of a half-dozen ways. But I think this will also allow me to settle into a better steady-state (for the little while that I have a steady state) now that I'm starting to get used to the new ways I can think and the new things I can see and the new stuff I can do. I'm not sure what many of those things are yet. But I am looking forward to finding out.
Don't worry, though. The restless, stubborn, gleefully spontaneous and easily distracted Mel is still around. We change, and yet we stay the same.