A little bit of failure.

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It’s finally come, the moment where the cascade of everything that was slowly stacking up finally came made me lose something. Now, it’s partially due to a series of unfortunate events that led to the personal failure that in some way may have been avoided if only I had taken a moment to consider the world.  In having already reflected on these events what I come away with is something different than I thought I would in the first place. A sense of understanding and realization of maturity in myself.

Some things can’t be avoided, but most things can be tracked back with the realization that it’s usually a set of multiple failures that go unheeded before things like this happen. For me, it was just a bit of consideration.  I keep my most of my life pretty prepared for the inevitable unexpected things that may happen to me.  This is shown best through the weight of the bag I carry with me through my day-to-day.  It’s heavy, full of all things I may or may not need during the course of my day.  This preparation is something I am going to reflect on another time but for this moment, that preparation and routine broke down.  I had been rushing from the moment I woke up because of the fact that I had woken up late and was practically running the rest of the day.  In an attempt to be productive and feel on top of things I decided to upgrade my personal computer while at work, something I’ve never done. This lead to my computer crashing and ultimately losing a months worth of work.  I didn’t remind people enough about running the study in my lab so I ended up having to fill in missing a lecture I wanted to hear.  I spent about 5 hours dealing with the problem with my computer ultimately settling on the only option of resetting everything and starting over from a back up I had made a month ago. This back up should have been more recent but because I decided not to back up before I upgraded, I lost.

I never got mad though, a little exasperated by dominoes falling into place as they did but I felt like I handled it well. I just did what I needed to do and kept moving forward.  The final straw with all the loss of time and files came with an application I was supposed to submit the next day. Of all my time in Graduate School, I’ve managed to claw together everything I’ve needed, maybe sometimes at the last second but it’s always has worked out. This time though, this time I couldn’t scrape by. I wrote and wrote but by I realized several hours before it was due that I had to make a choice. Turn something I was not proud of and blow off some of my other responsibilities or admit defeat. and continue forward.  This time I conceded.  It’s not something I’m proud of but it was necessary I feel for my growth.  I push myself and have reached the limit not of what I can do with talents but with time.  I have too much going on and not enough time to do everything.  This means, something’s got to give and I don’t choose for myself, then my choices will be made for me.  It’s hard for someone who wants to do everything because if I had the ability to I would but I can’t so choices have to be made. Kind of like triage, save what is savable, do what’s important and try all that you might to use the hours that we have to accomplish the things that we need.  Failure is part of that growth.  It allows me to see that there see where I still need to keep going.  I think it’s gonna come to a head soon I think, me or it. Perhaps a month from now we will see who wins and where we will go from there but until then, I’ll keep moving forward.

 

Inside Pandora’s Box

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I’ve always been fascinated with ancient myths and legends, not just for their tales of magic and adventure but with each myth comes with it a belief about how we see humanity and human nature. Tales of valor and weakness, people, overcoming challenges and succumbing to temptation highlight these beliefs. These stories really give us insight in the best and worst of us and what we believe humans are ultimately capable of. I’ve been thinking about them a lot recently, but each time I do I seem to always come back to the story of Pandora’s box.  The story, for the most part, is meant to explain all the evil and terrible things in the world and why humanity is expected to struggle against these terrible evils.  In thinking though, the story shows us something else entirely, the only thing we have to push forward.  Without it, we have been lost long ago.

You see, Pandora herself was created by Zeus as recompense for Prometheus giving humanity the power of fire. The gods were angry that humans could wield this awesome power customarily reserved just for the greater beings that Zeus had a box forged and placed within it all the evils that humanity had never known. The like the evils of war, discord, famine, and sickness.  Zeus gave this box to his new human creation and sent her out into the world with only one command “Never open the box.”  Being human, she was naturally curious, but a while she left the box alone, even at some point burying it in the ground. Day after day, she found herself thinking about the box, “What was inside?” she wondered. That’s when she found herself, overcome with a single desire to uncover this great mystery that was shrouded inside.  She unlatched the box and opened it up to discover she set free all these great evils to forever torment humanity.  Before all of the evils were released, she slammed closed the box saving humanity from the greatest of these evils, total despair – the opposite of hope.

The reason I like this story so much it that it speaks to this belief we have, that as long as we have hope, not all is lost.  I mean sure, I would love not to get sick, or to have arguments, but the one thing that pushes us forward is that belief that things can be better, that a better outcome can come to us if we persist.  Sometimes this hope is misleading or causes us to behave naively, but ultimately it allows us to see a future that is better than the past.  It allows us to see a tragedy in a new light,  to implement change and not accept things as they are. Where there is evil, we have hope, and hope is the catalyst for the change we need to make this world a better place. Without hope, we are nothing.

The reason I keep coming to this story is that I’ve been running a study for my thesis, one I really love and want to work. But pilot study after pilot study, I can’t seem to make my paradigm do what it needs to.   Some sort of unpredictable element exists within it, and I simply don’t understand yet what is keeping it from functioning properly.  I have hope though, that if I keep trying I will make this work, and have something serious to show for my efforts.  Even if I doesn’t, all I learn today will help me for tomorrow, as long as I am persistent enough something will happen.  I have hope and that’s what makes make me strong because I have hope I can keep pushing forward into the deep.

Stuck In A Daze Like Dream

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It’s when I push too hard that my body starts to deteriorate.  It takes what would normally be my fast-paced and busy lifestyle and grinds it to a halt.  It’s frustrating, but for current it’s a blessing.   It makes me take a second to reflect on all the trouble.

The is a lack of direction again, an unclear path unfolds before.  In this period of time, leading up the eventual application season again, I feel by far only prepared for the process, not prepared for where the process may lead. I search names, I search places but all that comes back is memories of years ago when the process brought me down and crushed me.  This trouble persists in part because of this inability to put a finger on exactly what I want to be doing for the next five years.  Sure, I want to spend it in a school, pursuing a degree in psychology and technology but that’s as far as that goes. This fuzzy outline with no tangible or actionable itinerary drives me mad in the middle of the night because it stirs confusion within me. If I can’t even put into words what I want to do, then how I am supposed to find someone who is doing it?

Second, as mentioned before in previous posts, I feel this futility in what I do.  My motivations, though initially pure are becoming clouded by a distinct lack of self-efficacy about the world I am about to enter.  Even with everything I am doing, I feel that it is all too little too late and that ultimately I will be passed up for someone much more capable than myself.  It’s hard because people believe in me but in my experience, this belief seems to not persist into action.  I want to make people proud but there is a fear that I will continue to come up short. I keep pushing, hoping that I will bring myself to the level  warranted by their belief, hoping to guide the way and show people that it was worth the effort, but I don’t know, I have to convince a room of strangers that I am worth investing in and the excuse of, well if you only got to know him really doesn’t cut it.

Lastly, I feel this pressure from above and below.  It’s more of jealousy that turned my eyes green.  I see people doing so many cool things and despise myself for not coming up with it first. I feel like I just a child in this great research game, playing with toys and trying to show others how cool the land of make-believe can be while others putting in the work and the time to really push the world forward.  Maybe I’m old enough to finally put away childish things, but it feels like I’ve clung to this conception of what I want that I don’t realize that no one really cares about it. Like I’ve been living in the sky but it’s the ones down on earth who are sending people to the moon.

I want to stop this.

I will stop this. Stop looking out in the world and seeing what I am missing within. No one is perfect and being like this has done more harm than good.  What I really need it eyes up. Looking forward to the future I want, instead of at the ground commenting on how close I am to always falling.  So if you’ve seen me recently fade in and out of dreaming it’s because of this, these feelings that attempting to bore holes in my heart. This process is revealing and the only thing I can say thank you for showing me my demons because now I can learn to make friends with them.

In An Effort To Fly

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Generalities, I speak and write and think in generalities. I’ve always been much more of an idea and concept type person, never straying too far into the deep to remember the specific details of an event, so that when I miss a number or letter through my negligence or misinterpretation, the concept still holds true. My memory is strong, but I’ve never been one for the minutia of it all, just taking the important stuff and folding it into a database of obscure facts and stories to draw out when the proper situation arises. The problem is that my points aren’t as poignant without these details.  Like the idea that technology is everywhere; if I say that, it’s not really all that hard hitting, but I was to say that the number of smart devices outnumbers humans 2 to 1 and that the year 2020 its projected that number of devices will climb to well over thirty billion. There is more of a sense a sense of something tangible, it’s real to us when the details are given.  It’s complicated. It’s not like I don’t want to remember but it’s like my mind doesn’t want to, it’s never been geared to.  Where was all of this when I was growing up in school.  Why couldn’t they teach me early, or perhaps it’s my fault for not learning. Unfortunately, my chosen profession deals much more with the details as details are everything, and if you can’t remember them, then you won’t make it.

It’s one of those things that makes me wonder if I’m really cut out for all of this.  Try as I might I can’t shake this feeling that I won’t fly when it comes time.  That I might come home empty-handed again, beaten and bruised with no end in sight. What will I do when my wings won’t work for any amount of trying. Again and again, I move them, but if the wind doesn’t’ take me, perhaps all I was made for was the fall. I’m supposed to jump, but with each passing year, I see my ability to do so as diminishing.  It worries me, that all this work will be like ash in my hands toward my dreams, crumbling away to nothing.  My dream could be out of reach, should I just settle and hope for a good life. Will I never be good enough to walk among giants and great men?

These thoughts percolate within me.  I see the gaps in my ability and hope that I can overcome them with effort. I hope my arms are long enough to be able to reach, my legs sturdy enough to carry me, and back large enough to shoulder the burden I place upon myself.

The fear arises, that perhaps when I’m gone there will be nothing left. That I’m just a footnote in someone else’s story. That I will fade into obscurity as a ghost on the wind, felt when around but quickly forgotten.  If I fade from memory, just as one would fade from view, perhaps I am no one, to begin with.  I know that sound’s a bit dramatic, but if no one was around to know you existed, does it mean that you exist in the first place. I feel like exploding, imploding, and fading from view. The only thing keeping me grounded is the mad hope that maybe, just maybe I can actually pull this off. Trick everyone into believing I’m someone worthwhile. Thinking that maybe I could be someone great, and change the world.

I want to fly so bad it keeps me up at night. I practice, work to do so, consumed by my dream and consuming it. Like an ouroboros, it sustains me and will continue to do so until there is nothing of me left.  I will show them resolve, and ferocity like no other. Pushing myself as far as I can go so if I’m not known not as one of those greats I’ll at least be known as a man with the drive and will to pursue something he loved with all of his being until the end because after all, I’m only human and that’s what humans do.

Recording Of Blog Entry

No Sleep

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Normally I make a joke when people point out that I don’t sleep much anymore.  Saying things like “There ain’t no rest for the wicked” or “I can sleep when I’m dead” because it’s funny to me.  Truthfully, I do get enough sleep every night, around 5 to 6 hours during the week and 7 1/2 on the weekends.  What people are mostly commenting on is the fact I tend to work late night, but for me, it’s peaceful, a way to wind down the day and sometimes the only time I can really concentrate on anything.

But not this week.

This week has been different.  Nights have been restless with the apprehensions about my future and school. I spent them staring at a screen, pushing myself to finish what I said I need to after which I would go to shut my eyes, and all I get is the darkness but nothing else. No calm, no peace, just quiet darkness.

I don’t really know if it means I’m in a bad place or a good one.  It’s the romantic in me that sees this as the final barrier to really being able to say I’ve put my all into anything.  But it’s not fun, the cloud that persists over my head, my eyes that burn in the light, and I am unable to think or do anything productively. Maybe I’ll get used this change to 3 or 4 hours, this feeling of sleeplessness, perhaps these feeling will go away after I stick with it for long enough.  I don’t know, but even in my recovery I am still tired but must press on.

It’s week one, and if this is any indication of how the rest of this year goes I am in for a roller coaster. I tell myself that this is what my dream requires, this sacrifice of self that may take a lot but ultimately will give me what I’ve been envisioning since I began this journey back in high school. For me it’s a constant question, how much will I need to push myself to get what I want and a constant wonder of what more will it take from me before this is through.

Thinking about it, take is a strong word since I choose to do follow through with it. I choose to try and stay up for as long as possible.  I choose to try and squeeze the most out of my days. I choose to forgo going out when I have work, I choose to stay on campus those extra hours to get things done.  I choose, I choose, I choose, and maybe that’s my problem with it, it finally came a time where I no longer chose, my body just did, and I was left unable to stop this restive onslaught. I don’t know if it’s a battle I will need to fight in the future, but the moment I guess I’ll just take advantage of all the extra time not sleeping.

Beyond The Sort

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A tall building on a warm evening. A slight breeze blowing in the northwestern direction picking up the heat emanating off the hot concrete from the earlier that sun-scarred day. It’s warm enough for sweat beads to form on the body but cool enough not to be bothersome.  The last lights of the sun have already dissipated leaving only the artificial lamps of the living to illuminate the blackened streets below. There on top of that building we stand alone on the precipice, waiting for the answer, will we float or sink. It is as if we are to walk along the edge and be judged. Judged by a force that does not know context or form will decide. Where then does our destiny lie, and will we ever know unless we open ourselves to falling. Will it decide right or left, one will lead to death and the other release.  There we walk, teetering on that edge, hoping it’s not already too late.

Almost every student looking to attend graduate school have to take a test. Its named  Graduate Record Examination or called more commonly as the GRE. This test is daunting to most because of its deceptively simple questions require students to brush up on skills and abilities that ultimately have nothing to do with the subject matter they are attempting to study. Of course, there are exceptions to this but ultimately this exam that is the great standardizer among students and although it may not get you into a program, it can certainly keep you out.  I bring up this exam, not for the exam,  I could devote pages to how much this test has cheated young scholars that I know out of opportunities, no today I want to highlight of because of the way this exam is scored.

You can refer to this test as a living test, it’s really amazing. You see, as you take the test, the difficulty of the test will adjust to you, you get one wrong, questions get easier, you get one right, the test gets harder.  What it’s doing is gauging your score by homing in on exactly where your proficiency level is.  The only problem with this is that the first couple questions ultimately become the most important ones.  These are the great sorting questions, get the first couple wrong and it is impossible to get a high score on the GRE.  First sort, top half or bottom, then exactly where in those halves you lie. The rest of the questions are there to accurately gauge your specific score and percentile.  This is done so that Math majors and English majors can take the same test and still get an accurate measurement of their ability when compared to everyone else in between.

Now while you take the test, you can bring your score up if those first couple questions just happened to be your weakness, but for some, the test is decided after a much shorter time. You might answer all the questions, but your score was determined only after the first few, your ability to fly cut short by the first few mistakes.  Of course exactly how your test is scored and exactly how long it took to score it is a company secret, you’ll never know how long it took for people to make those judgments. If you do bad, you have to start all over, pay out some more money and hope that next time will go better.

It’s really unfortunate not just because the test is terrible but a lot of the time this system mirrors the reality.  We are sorted in such a way where the first few mistakes ultimately set us back, mistakes that may have nothing to do with the path you are trying to follow control you. If you get the first couple answers wrong you get sorted, and sorted, and sorted until having to start over becomes the only option but at that point, you’ve put all your time and money to get there.  What does it take to bridge that gap, how do you become the one that rises to the top, the cream instead of the water? Do these barriers matter because at some point when we get mixed together you can’t really break cream from coffee.

I don’t argue that it’s a way to give those who show more potential more opportunity and the system works for some but it is also seeded in the belief that people don’t change and with that belief, great barriers arise to separate those cans from cannots.  This is not everywhere, there are great institutions whose message to the world is let us help you make a good life for yourself.  It is then I who has this problem, this desire of prestige reserved for the few who are sorted.  This inequality in my heart that calls to say that I am not worth the dirt on the ground if I can’t fly in the sky.  What are we then to this, the world tells us where the “important” people are and live. To the hill that rises live those who stand above us all who live below telling us only the few deserve the right to live there.

We stand on the precipice readying ourselves to be sorted by the force that knows not who were are or what we can do by a system built by those of who have just like us been sorted. We crawl upon each other hoping that we get high enough to reach and yet we crush all those below holding all the weight. We destroy and rid ourselves of anything weighing us down in hope fly but remove everything about ourselves that makes flying worthwhile. We are not then defined by this, we are defined by the actions and relations to our fellow man and I’d be damned if I will let this system built by the collective action of those who sort us to keep me changing the world.

Chasing A Dream, Where Ever It May Go

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“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I know recently, I have been complaining a lot about the fact the I’ve been tired, but I want to take a moment to reflect on the reason I am exhausted in the first place.

I’ve been busy, busy with various new experiences life as seen to throw my way.  Mostly work, to be honest, but its weird, this is never the type of working experience that I have ever had.  It’s this thing where I almost crave it.  I work and act as if all myself want and needs to.  I’ve had a lot of jobs and been through a lot of schooling, and this is the first time I’ve really felt this way about all the things sitting in front of me. It’s like a high mountain to climb, and I’m mountain climber trying to traverse it.

My days have been filled with staying at school for more than 12 hours at a time.  I check each day what my home door to door time is and each day I realize its extending.  At these points, I would find that I would be tired of going, tired of continually having to push myself more to get done everything I want to do. Each opportunity feels as if it is a whetstone, sharpening my the tools I will use to push forward in my life.  It feels as if this moment, my body feels live so that it wants to keep pushing farther and further than I ever had before.

Maybe its perspective, the two years away from school has definitely changed how I approach education.  Though I always knew I would continue down this path, I feel more passionate about my choice to do so.  Unrestricted, more sure-footed about where I want to go and what I want to do.   It keeps me vigilant about my opportunities, keeps me actively striving for more, until I find myself staying up late, working long hours to complete something.

My body needs rest as it starts to ache all over.  My eyes begin to burn from all the monitors and from being awake so long during the day.  My mind sits in a fog by the time I get home, just trying to digest everything that just happened. I have no time, and yet I keep going in the hopes that I will catch up in the long run.  My belly runs empty, and I have to remind myself to eat enough for the amount I expend. And yet, I love these moments, because it feels like I am finally pushing myself to do something great.

There a danger to it, with the new feeling comes cautionary tales of both burn out and breaking.  If I push too hard too fast, I can break down my body and my health to the point where my body refuses me, and I have to stop the obsession. The second is set this fire for much for too long runs the risk of turning the subject I have fallen in love with into a bastion of resentment.  Begining to internalize the little things and grow tired of the subject and the place I am to work.  As always, it’s about the balance of these things, to keep my mind healthy and my ridiculous actions in check.

I want to push myself so I can grow strong under the opportunities that I have been presented. By the end of this short two years, I want to have the strength to tackle the next five and the knowledge of how to get stronger for the next 60 and beyond. Every day is a new challenged and all I want to do is live up to it.

A Community of Musketeers

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I’ve recently join now a collective referred to as a cohort which is something I have been working towards for a while. What it is, is a simple name for a group of graduate students which come into a department or program the same year you do. In essence, these people are people with whom you’ll be traveling with on the part of your journey to the ultimate goal of the degree.

I have, as always, been thinking a lot about that means.  One of the functions of higher learning is to find a place you both you fit, and that fits you. Though in doing masters, it’s the process is a bit simplified because of the supposed two-year time clock that is ticking away until the end.  Either way, the people I came in with will still be people who I share this experience with one way or another.

This is not to downplay everyone’s personal intentions for coming to this particular program, but it does beg the question. How do we want our relationship with each other to be and how will that shape the future of our time together? I feel this is extremely important because there are so few of us, that the decision we make individually will affect the group collectively.

My dearest hope is that in some way or another we ban together. As reminiscent of the title I chose, the musketeers,  it would be nice to form some sort of bond in which we can really help each other out in our times of need. All for one, and one for all.  I know this sounds a bit idealistic, but I think that’s the spirit needed to actually accomplish something great.  I’m not saying that we have to hang out with each other all the time or even really become close. What I am saying is that in our times of need or weakness someone is there to help and lend a hand.  We will act as both colleagues and rivals. We can set the obstacles and help people overcome them so when the actual danger comes, we will be ready.  Even though we go to the end on our own merit and alone, it doesn’t mean that our strength has to only come from within, you are always much stronger with others are helping you.

I think it all comes down to wanting to leave this place a lot better than where I found it.  The act of giving is one few things we can do where we end up with more than what we started out with.  I honestly believe that if we want this experience to be the most successful, it can be then we must give and not just take. We must utilize what we can and blaze a path for our future. This doesn’t have to be the worst experience of our lives, and even with the difficulties that come with grad school, we will be able to look back and remember something great. It is the beginning of our future.

The Project

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Over 400 hours at this point, over the last 2 years.  400 hours of research that I have been doing since I got back from my trip after my graduation.  Every week, once a week going out to the lab and sitting down in front of a computer to do some sort of work towards my project.  Over 10,000 miles driven to and from home to Lab, adding up to hundreds of hours in the car.  I’ve never really questioned why I was doing it, I just knew I had to for both myself and my future. Hours now for a better life later.

It started as a project in my senior year of college, having gotten a fellowship I was allotted money to help fund my endeavors. Truth be told, it was more of a validation than a necessity to get the project off the ground.  That year flew by as I worked 12 hours a week to get it done and I did finish the preliminary project.

The real journey began after I graduated.  Expanding the project was a hassle, multiplying the work from 3 participants to 56 was no small thing.  I got help though, got to share the burden of this project with others as I both learned and fooled around with the numbers.  I didn’t realize how much of a novice I was until I was sitting in front of a computer, looking at a bunch of figures I didn’t know what to do with with a bunch of results that didn’t make sense except that I knew that I had to do them.

Wrapping my mind around these things, doing all this work outside of school, I’ve never really thought about what I would be doing instead of research.  I just knew I had to do it and so I did. I learned to ask for help. To admit when I was stuck and to bounce ideas off of others.  To stay positive even when things look bleak.

There has been a lot of self-learning, growing in ways along with frustration from lack of understanding.  Delving into areas unknown. I know that I have learned a lot from just being there, and it’s kept me going forward towards my dream.

I am nearing the end soon, the end of my time in this lab.  4 years in totality, 3 on my own project.  It will feel weird when I have gone and left, it been such a staple in my life. I’ve gone through a whole breadth of emotions there, kept coming even through depression because it was something I knew I had to do.  It will be strange when it was gone, and it feels weird now that I am reaching the finale.  I hope I leave on a high note, but at the very least I want to leave knowing that I at least did something.

My last day I imagine will be a quiet one, nothing big going on, with groups of Research Assistants working quietly in the lab.  They won’t know a thing about who I am, my generation has passed, and I will simply walk out that door, walk to my car, and drive away and maybe be remembered for what I did there one day.

I don’t know what the future holds, I just know not to waste it.