Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where Chalk-White Arrows Go

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

My high school graduation speech was titled "Where the Sidewalk Begins", inspired by my kindergarten days of listening to "Where the Sidewalk Ends". I stood up there, ready to end high school and take on college, not fully comprehending the sheer stress (pun intended) and challenges and sheer joy of experiences that were ahead. I began:

The path of our education has led up to this day.
That path might have been bumpy, winding, or a joyous ride, but I know it was very long.
Yet, as weary as the walk might have been, here we stand.
We made it.
Now we are ready to look both ways,
cross to the other side of the street,
and go make prints in the wet cement with our bare feet.

This is where sidewalk begins.

It's so cheesy...I know. It's even more cheesy now that I laugh at my high school self who hadn't a clear picture of what bumpy, winding, and weary meant. Or even joyous. But if I thought graduating high school was where the sidewalk began, does that mean college is where it ends?

Silverstein seems to think that it is not so. Or does he?

Colorado School of Mines has been the place where the grass grows soft and white. It has also been the place where the smoke blows black and the dark street winds and bends.

Maybe this is before the street begins? And when did my life take on so many road, path, street, or sidewalk metaphors?

Funny...in college I stopped looking both ways before crossing streets and also started jaywalking across them. And some of my favorite times in Golden have been walking with a walk that is measured and slow in the middle of the campus streets in the late hours of the night when no one else is awake and around to crash their car into me. 

What does that have to do with life and paths? 

I don't know. I'm just going to miss it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dear Older Self

Dear Older Self,

What's the future like? Did I make the right choices about the future? So how 'bout that grad school thing, huh? What about the non-school stuff? What about spending senior year well? How did that go? What should I do better? What should I do?

Did I make the bright-eyed freshman proud?

So many questions...sorry.

Best regards,

Your senior self

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Four of Four

I look up from my phone. There’s a British man scribbling in chalk at the bottom of the  auditorium, pushing Fourier transforms into our reluctant brains, which are mushy from waking up a mere  ten minutes beforehand. I am utterly bored, for I already have learned to make functions as a product of sines and cosines the year before. My brain turns off. I try to turn it back on. It turns off again. I turn it on. It wanders…

I can’t do this.

The southwest stairwell of the Green Center fills with the echoes of my sandals climbing the ugly stairs. So many times I have climbed those same stairs up. Year One, for freshman Calculus. Year Two, for field theory. Year Three, for everything geophysically imaginable. And now, Year Four. For the end.

The days and nights spent in the Green Center blend together now. So many times I have climbed not knowing when I’d see the light of day again. So many descents after those long hours, with my brain relieved, tired, or both, my eyes tired from squinting at my code, laughing, or both.

These years have been piecewise continuous. Each has its own flavor. The setting is mostly the same, the cast of characters slightly adjusting with time, but the story has only one more chapter left to be written.

Chapter Four of four.

The room on the northwest corner and second floor of the Green Center is frigid.  The geophysics seniors have gathered there for guidance on the capstone of our undergraduate career: senior design. “This course is filled with pitfalls,” our professor and department head begins.

I can’t do this.

But after we walk out of the frigid room, maybe we feel slightly more prepared for the future. Or at least senior design.

Still, the future seems like a cold and scary place, and sometimes I’d much rather stay in my bed than travel towards it. But then the future nudges me, “Hey, it’s time to wake up and get dressed. You should probably read those scientific papers for senior design. And put together a spreadsheet of potential grad school advisors.”

I can’t be a senior. I still sleep in a bunk bed. And to think next year I’ll be a grad student?

My eyes are still blurry as I stare at errors in my code at the Linux Lab. Indices are funny things, my coffee-deprived brain remembers.

Chapter 0 of N. Where N is the number of years I am in grad school and is equal to about five or six. Or possibly more. I don’t know the setting or the cast of characters. But Chapter 0—the searching and application process—has me excited.

Chapter Four of four.

They overlap. One story wraps up, another waits to begin, despite my simultaneous resentment and welcoming of it all. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Pre-Senior Year Paradox

I want to graduate. Right now.

I miss people.
I miss Golden.
I want senior year to start.
I miss my favorite restaurants.
I don't want the summer to end.
I'm excited to think about grad school.
I'm not excited to write grad school apps.
I don't want to think about doing homework.
I can't wait to have more adventures.
I think the future is overwhelming.
I don't want things to change.
I don't want to leave.
I'll miss Golden.
I'll miss people.

I don't want to graduate. Ever.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to Find a Grad School #1: Where I DON'T want to go

There are many different factors that one must consider when searching for graduate school to apply to, but when it comes down to it, there are many good schools all across the globe. How to narrow it down? Start crossing entire regions off the list.

I've lived in Colorado my whole life. Colorado is probably the best place in the world, let's just face it. The climate is nearly perfect, although its bipolarness, no tripolarness is annoying. Spoiled in this lovely region, there are some places I cannot bear to live in for two to six years (depending on if I stay for my PhD). Thus began my search.

I hate humidity. And heat. And extreme cold. I don't really want to leave the continent. That left nowhere. But I narrowed it down to this:

So I'm getting somewhere. (Just kidding: I have a list, don't worry, and will probably have a spreadsheet soon). But none of these places are perfect, of course: my short stint in the Northeast thus far is showing me how humid is too humid, and how my hair might be unhappy there. Winters there also suck more than Colorado winters. So my red region might even be shrinking more. But everything is a compromise, right?

Next in How to Find a Grad School, I'll look at schools based on the number of windows in their earth science buildings. You know, the important stuff. 

Note: The posts in this series contain an undisclosed percentage of sarcasm.