Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Week as an English Major

April 15, 2012. Last night I stayed up all night programming for Google Code Jam. It was the qualifying round, and you needed 20 points out of 100 to move on to the next round (okay, so the bar was set low). I scored 45/100, and my buddy Dallin got 60/100.

I recognize that the chances of me getting out of the next round alive are slim-to-nill. I'm not competing in this contest to win- I'm competing in it to learn and grow as a person. I want to be an excellent programmer, but I know I'm still a total noob. The way to get better, I figure, is to consistently work on it. So that's what I'm trying to do- throw myself up against problems that need to be solved so that I can get better at solving them. The problems I solved last night were trivial, and it took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to solve them. But the truth is, that's okay with me. You better believe I'm going to do much better next year. And that's why I do these things, because I know that my actions today are going to affect my abilities tomorrow. I'm super stoked that I live in a world where I am able to pursue my dreams like this. The great news is that there are resources available. If you want to get better at something, chances are you can find a way to do it. I like having things to work on.

I watched Much Ado About Nothing yesterday with a great neighbor of mine. I had completely forgotten how awesome William Shakespeare was. That guy had serious moves. He was a true master of his craft. It was awesome to see a good play put on by very good actors. Sure, there are flaws to it, but it was a great moment for me. For some reason I had forgotten that the world wasn't made up entirely of amateurs. We get so very used to the mediocre. Yesterday it was great to see (arguably) the best playwright ever's work put on by (pretty great) actors that got paid a whole lot. I loved his writing. It reminded me how much I love English in general. I am not an English major, but I feel like there's a portion of me that would like to be. I remember how much I wrote in the past and how much I loved doing it. I remember how much I loved reading and analyzing. There's a huge part of me that just loves that stuff, but I don't get to express that part too often. It was good to let the English major inside of me out for a while.

I haven't had much homework this week. It has led to more free time, more social interaction, and in general a wider-range of thought and consideration. My thoughts and energy haven't been funneled entirely into homework of only one variety. In a way it feels like a historical trip to the past. Back in the blessed days of high school we learned about so many things at once. All of public schooling was designed to teach us a wide variety of important things. In college we're allowed to specialize. But just because I'm not studying History or English or Choir anymore doesn't mean that I don't love them and want them to be part of my life. Let's be completely honest, I read an article in the Atlantic and Kayne West and Jay-Z two nights ago just because I wanted some more variety.

I don't say this in any way to indicate that I am dissatisfied with my studies- I am super happy with my studies right now. All I'm saying is that we as people are so much more than what we study. We are so much more than what we choose to do for work. I can't let that define me. Being good at math doesn't mean I'm a poetic retard. Being a decent programmer doesn't make me socially inept or incapable of dominating a public speaking assignment. I suppose that I had gotten into that mindset earlier. It's nice to be out of it.

So, here I am, with three weeks left in the semester: loving life. I'm not sure how these three weeks will turn out. I'm sure the relative calm of this week will be replaced by the tornadoes of bookstore work, grading, assignments, tests, and the horrific experience that is moving out of an apartment and passing cleaning checks. There will be academic-all-nighters (Year to date: 3), a few dates (oh I sure hope so), the freedom and splurging that comes at the end of finals. I'm sure it'll be a good experience.

It's strange to confront such a finite range of time and recognize how important it is. Three weeks, that's all. Understanding that the people with which I've been in close proximity for nearly 8 months will all be gone in three weeks means that if ever there was a time to try to make friends, it is now. Procrastinating this one for more than 21 days will likely mean that the opportunity is gone. Academically speaking, despite the hard work we've all put in over the past 11-ish weeks, we could toss it all away if we stopped trying right now. So many things will change over these next three weeks. The really strange thing for me is that I know there will come a time when I will look back on those three weeks and know exactly how they went. I'll know which games the Utah Jazz won and which games they lost. I'll know which games our Ultimate team has won and lost-- I will likely know the contributing factors to the outcomes of those games. I will know what my final Java project ended up being, and I'll know exactly what was on the final in CS 1410. Right now all of those things are unknowns. Knowing them would certainly help right now.

I guess what I mean to say is that the future isn't written and that my decisions are going to change things forever. As terrifying as that is, I know that that's how things have been going since the beginning. Who will I choose to be for the next 21 days? Surely my decisions will impact the kind of person I am at the end of these three weeks. Who will I talk with? In what will I spend my time? It's all in the air. With what are clearly unclear consequences for every action, I am chronically stepping into the future and shaping my destiny as I go.

Is this terrifying? I'm not sure yet. It is at once empowering and staggering. Is there some predetermined outcome that, if not reached, will be considered "failure"? Or is this simply the freestyle section of the dancing game for the Kinect, you know, where you get to dance like a maniac for no good reason and then you see the sped-up video of it afterwards? Is there something I'm "supposed" to be making of myself, or is this simply a time to make of myself what I wish and then to live and thrive with the results? I tend to believe that it is the latter. When you start an RPG you make decisions about which class you will play and which abilities you will develop. Those choices are not meant to punish the uninformed, but rather to enrich the experience. I feel like that's how we are now. We're choosing who we'll be. The abilities and characteristics that we choose to develop now will certainly be with us for the rest of the game. We will use them, repeatedly, the beat bad guys and further the story line. At the end of the day, I hope to use them to rescue a princess. But the truth is, I could rescue the princess as a sentinel, soldier, or engineer. My choice to be a sentinel doesn't mean that's the only choice. I suppose that the most important thing of it all is that we make the most of the choices that we do make. If I am going to be a sentinel, I better be a dang good sentinel. Go big or go home.

Only 21 days remain in which I can make choices as a student during Spring semester of 2012. Roughly 100 or so days have already passed- my choices have brought me precisely -here-. Where will I be in three weeks? Geographically speaking, I'll be back at home, 90 minutes away. I'll likely be sitting at this very keyboard, typing on this very blog. But the person I am will be different. I'm hoping to be a better version of myself by then. I like remembering these things. They're not new thoughts. I'm sure you could find a nearly identical post somewhere in the archives. But it's important for me to remember them so I can keep them in perspective. It's important for me to write and use big words. I do enjoy the person that I am becoming. I'm happy to be where I am, and I'm grateful for all the mentors and friends that have helped me get here. I certainly wouldn't be who I am today without the great help and support of those around me.

Well friends, this pseudo-English major is headed to bed. Thanks for sticking around. Y'all mean a lot to me. I hope you're doing well and that life is treating you great. Things are rough sometimes, but that doesn't mean that things aren't okay.

(8) There's a reason for the world-- You and I (8)
(The Riddle - Five for Fighting) (and yes, I did just use the old MSN messenger emoticon key for the 8th note)

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