Thursday, December 13, 2012

Last Days (And Not Because of the "Apocalypse")

These last days of the semester are like every other semester, save for one exception: I'm not freaking out. Again, I think it's evidence that I'm growing up and handling challenges in a sensible, rational way. I didn't buy an industrial pack of Redbull from CostCo. I'm not wasting time on websites (except for this one). The final papers have instead turned into a reflection of 2012 and to a degree, further back.

Most of you have only heard about my academic obligations and my career endeavors. Only some of you have heard the nitty-gritty that has become my personal life. Most of the nitty-gritty has worked out and taken care of itself but some details still remain. These details have become the greatest stressors in my life, far more than school and work have been.

In juggling this personal life and my graduate program, I've figured out much about myself, how I operate, and why I think the way I do. And instead of trying to actively change these, I've figured out how to work around them.

I realized that I don't think linearly or even cyclically like most. Instead, I think conically, in circles and moving across a spectrum in a rapid and unpredictable manner. No wonder people have had difficulty figuring out how I got from Point A to Point F in a matter of a few steps.

I've begun to understand the basis of my relationships, both platonic and romantic. I've figured out where I'm invested, where I'm not, and where this stems from. What I struggle with is addressing these different problems. I'm seeing changes in my lifestyle and the effects these changes are having. I'm struggling to get back on track to where I want to be. But this came after the hardest reflection: figuring out what I want.

This existential reflection is necessary for human development. Everyone goes through it at some point and no one is excused from the "what does it all mean?!" moments that we often classify as quarter- or mid-life crises. While I haven't skipped them altogether, my existential crises have scaled back considerably (compared to last year) and only pop up under the inevitable pressures associated with deadlines (like the past two weeks).

The coping mechanisms have changed in some ways. I still clean extensively to clear my head and I still check my email compulsively. But I'm not pounding energy drinks and locking myself away. I'm not snapping at people under duress. I'm sitting comfortably in the library, writing notes in all places, listening to either RHCP or classical piano on Pandora. I'm not yearning for the bike rides my friends are going on tonight, as I used to. My wheels are rubber side down and I'm crossing things off the list.

The sense of success and accomplishment is also different. I'm taking more pride in my work (probably because I love what I'm doing) and working harder to produce better work. My success in my planning classes is evidenced by the perfect (or near perfect) scores on memos, maps, and presentations. And while I've not been as successful in my other classes, the fact that I'm reading comments and revising papers based on those comments shows that I'm taking it seriously. The truth is: I haven't been this serious about school in...probably four years or so?

Yesterday, I finalized my plans for my MPR and, while it's not necessary for another four weeks, began outlining my research and making notes. It's probably the most I've been motivated this semester. And although I still have two papers to crank out over the next two days, I'm not worried that I'm going to do poorly or that I'm not going to get it down in the timeframe I've set for myself. RHCP and the piano are keeping me going, as well as the reward of rebuilding and riding my carbon as soon as Monday.

Even with all this work, I couldn't be happier with this semester and every stumble-and-fall I made. Here's to the end of this and the beginning of that.

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