Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Parallel Slope Lines

TIME = 1:(infinity);

1:length(TIME)....[or in English: from now until the length of time]...

Lately I've been thinking. Well, not like that's big news (I think I think too much), and screw it- I'm usually thinking about the past, future, or present unless I'm not thinking (which is entirely possible and probable when I feel like a zombie)- so let's just get to the point.

My thoughts take me back to the summer of 2010, the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. Yep, back in the day.

Finishing up what was a hell year of junior year, I took my ACT and SAT tests and was planning on majoring in Meteorology at Metro State College of Denver or University of Northern Colorado. My mom found this program for minority students interested in math, science, and engineering. I applied, and was accepted, along with twenty-something other high-schoolers.

There's really no way to completely prepare for being on your own for the first time, and for three weeks straight. And there's really no way to know what to expect of the Colorado School of Mines when you've never been exposed to it before. Thus was SUMMET. I had no idea what I was getting myself into for the next five years. All 16-year-old me knew was that I would get a taste of college.

There are certain undeniable stages of growing up. The first is when you are only allowed half a package of Swiss Cake Rolls. The second is when you have the freedom to buy your own box, as I wrote in a note one night:
Swiss Cake Rolls and Junk Food. Yeah! 
Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 10:19pm
Isn't it weird when you buy your first box of Swiss Cake Rolls by yourself with your own money and you're looking forward to eating them all by yourself....something you've never been able to do before in your whole life...then you don't really feel like eating the whole box, and you decide to share them...weird.
Oh, yeah, we went to Safeway and we were the crazy kids buying junk food at 9 oclock; some of us were in pj's (not me!)

So, what's the best method of picking out an ice cream flavor? First, you see what's the cheapest personal size. Then, you choose the brand that has more ounces. If you have it narrowed down to a few varieties, than choose the one with the most calories! Yeah! Now that's what I call the best way to pick out junk food!

Before the days of Sodexo, Mines' dining service was provided by Aramark, and boy was the food awful. I lost weight during the three-week stint, and grew tired of the bland concoctions in the poorly lit room called Slate. Needless to say, I was excited to spend what few money I had on junk food. And I had the common decency to not wear pajamas to the Safeway down the road.

July 17, 2010  Tonight's schedule (proudly brought to you by the school of mines)....Finish Chemistry Lab report (4-8pgs), study for tomorrows exams, take a shower, and sleep. If I have enough time, that is.
I complained on Facebook a bit. But looking back, I had no idea what a true late night finishing reports and homework would be like. 
July 18, 2010 Hey I might have gotten an F on computer science! Woo!!! That's like, 50%!!! Yeah!!On a more serious note, NO MORE HOMEWORK NO MORE EXAMS! Just research.
I actually did well. 
July 20, 2010 Just got back from project meeting interviews...SUMMET could totally be made into a reality TV show.
Yes. The stress definitely got to some of us, and living with people we didn't know had its challenges as well. There was also a winner at the end of the program for those who got the best grades. 
July 21, 2010 Starbucks dark chocolate mocha bottled frappaccino + Milky Way dark midnight = e
I should have capitalized the E. But I was learning quickly. 
July 21, 2010  My Panda Express fortune cookie: "Your sense of humor will see you through difficult times".
Ha. Haha. 
July 23, 2010  WOOOO!!!! Presentations are DONE!!!! The hard part of Nerdland is DONE!!!!!! YAY!!!! I'm FREEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!
Oh, kid. That was the tip of the iceberg. (But props on aptly naming CSM "Nerdland").

It was a great experience. At the end of it all, I wrote this note in reflection. I was so wrong. I would eat breakfast at Slate again (man, I miss those hashbrowns), two summers later I would eat lunch while the sports camp kids yelled when I would be an RA for Challenge, I would most certainly sleep in the dorms again, although that was my last night in Randall Hall, I would get up at an insane hour in the morning, and I absolutely would push the handicap button to open those doors to the Student Center.
We Worked Our Butts Off. Was It Worth It? Yes.
Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 5:11pm
Today was the end of SUMMET and other things. Yesterday was the last of many things.
Yesterday was the last time I ate breakfast at the cafeteria at Mines. I probably won't be getting up at 6:30 ever again to eat that junk, so it was a last.
After that was the last time we would do anything hard at SUMMET, then we were free after our presentation (fistpumpz!). 
Then was the last time we ate at the cafeteria for lunch. The last time we would hear those little brats buzzing and yelling. The last time we would eat pizza cause it's the only acceptable thing.
Our last fun activity together was Eliche's. It was also the last time our lives would be in danger because of Gerame in the driver's seat. The last time we would have to squeeze into those vans- all twenty-something of us. 
That night, it was the last night I would sleep in the dorms. It was the last morning our alarm clocks would go off at an insane hour in the morning. 
Today after waking up, it was the end of saying "good mornin'" even if it wasn't. It was the end of taking your toothbrush and tooth paste to the bathroom and finding a sink to brush them in. 
We ate breakfast burritos: that was the end of all of us eating together.
We all began to pack. The dorms began to look empty. It was the end of hearing my fan humming constantly, Zofia sitting at her computer listening to music, and Brooke's poster of Justin Bieber on our wall. 
We ended our tearful and humorous farewells with Rosana and Marchana, while smiling because Greg had already left.
Graduation was the end of everything SUMMET, it was also the last time I would get to push the handicap button for the doors to open to the Slate building. 
We took pictures, then gave farewell hugs. 
We then walked back to the car that brought us here. 
It was the end of a month together.
But yes, it was worth it.
There definitely were things that were unique to that summer though. Such is time, life, and experiences. Lines have slopes, sometimes intersect, sometimes are parallel. Experiences make up our lives, but I think you can't have the experience twice. It'd be like trying to draw the same line over the piece of paper but never seeing it show up.

I had climbed a slope in what would become a mountain, and did it with some pretty cool people.

 I found out in the Linux Lab while coding in MatLab, ironically (the program I would be using to analyze data this summer).
Dear Katerina,
Congratulations! You have been accepted into the 2013 CMMAP Summer Internship Program....
I was given a week to make a decision, and was waiting from responses from other internships as well.

There are some decisions, or paths that we will take, that will affect our course long-term, possibly for the rest of our lives. I was (am?) afraid that this was going to be one of them, and wasn't sure what to do: wait for another opportunity, or accept the one in front of me. But one of my professors said something along the likes of, "It doesn't end up that way when you look back at it in the end."

I accepted the research position at CMMAP through Colorado State Univeristy. Many of my geophysics friends will end up scattered in many different fields such as oil, seimology, hydrogeophysics, geothermal energy, and others. And here I am, a geophysicist among mostly atmospheric scientists, 13 other interns beside myself. 

I suppose I was somewhat prepared for spending a summer writing MatLab scripts, yet it is still my first taste of "real life". I have an office I'm supposed to sit at for eight hours a day, and I get paid for it. It's pretty great. And when I get home, I don't have to do homework, which leads to slightly more delicious meals than I have during the school year.

The second stage of life, as I discovered Fall 2012 semester, is when you are faced with such hard times that you go through a box of Swiss Cake Rolls per week. The third stage of life is when you can buy Swiss Cake Rolls, but you buy salad instead.

That is now- organic leaf mix with creamy Caesar dressing. I'll bike to work in the morning, just as I have every morning. It's weird, this pretending to be healthy thing. The bike ride is killer. It's only four miles one way, but the last hill to reach the atmospheric science building is so steep, you'd think you'd start rolling backwards. It's too slopey.

Don't tell MatLab, but time isn't a finite vector we can open up on the computer and check out what happens. Back in 2010 I didn't know where I would end up, and I have no idea where I'll be in another three years, in 2016. Perhaps in the future I will discover that this summer experience will parallel experiences yet to happen. Maybe it won't.

But I won't know everything until the end of time.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dear Younger Self: What Really Matters

Dear Younger Self,

It was dead week, and Brandon and I were in the library after a long year. “I’ve got acne, weight loss, sleep deprivation..., all symptoms of stress,” Brandon said.

“Yeah,” I replied, “I’ve got the same, except weight gain, and I heard those were symptoms of depression.”

“Probably both.” We were only slightly joking.

Sophomore year was hard. You might have expected that since you knew at least Fall semester held 18 credit hours.

It was more than the academics, though. I was hung over from what I thought would be the best year of my college days, and spent the first part of sophomore year reminiscing about the epicness of freshman year and moaning how it would never be the same again. Living with 7 girls in a house was a culture shock, and I quickly grew tired of sharing a room. As unappetizing as the cafeteria was, living on frozen dinners and the occasional macaroni and cheese was worse. Spending time with friends had to be scheduled, as they quickly grew busy too. I had involved myself in way too many stuff, as meetings filled every hour in the day not occupied by class. I frequently stayed up past 3AM, as there was physically no time to get all my homework done (which I started neglecting). And at the end of the day, I was incredibly lonely.

At the end of the year, all my motivation was gone as I wrote here. I desperately needed school to end. Grades didn't matter.

I tried to salvage the last few weeks for making memories in what I thought was an empty year of torture. But the whole year really wasn't that empty. I’ll remember doing Linear Algebra at Starbucks with Ethan and then meeting people at Woody’s for College Night, late nights at The Stoop doing homework due the next day, the road trip to Urbana conference, playing peanuts with my housemates and Marie getting super into it, Lon-Capa aliases, the snowy spring break trip, epic shenanigans, and green boxes. And the such like.

I came back from school and cleaned off my shelves, throwing away old binders from high school and shoving my trophies on one shelf. As much as I threw away, much of stuff remained, and they seemed so useless there, unable to be thrown away, defeating their purpose if I put them in a box. When you’re in high school, or even younger, every accomplishment or activity seems like a stepping stone to college, the ultimate step. The geography bee gives out scholarships. Various activities can be put on scholarship and college applications. My high school letter and its pins are so I would get into a good school. And grades mattered a lot to me.

Dusty on the shelf, they all seemed so useless. They only mattered to get me here.

Now that I was here, I realized what really matters. It’s not grades. It’s not the number of people you can meet. It’s not how much money you can make writing, editing, or selling tickets. It’s not even getting a job or into grad school at the end of it all. What really matters are those moments you’ll remember, those people you’ll remember, and the positive impact your short, God-given time here can have.

So, incoming sophomore, remember as you embark on another year that it’s those moments that will make the torture worth it. And they’re also the reason you came to be here.