Sunday, July 09, 2006

I feel a change coming on...

This has been a busier weekend than usual. In fact, I think the last time I had a weekend where every day from Thursday to Sunday (and even Monday) there was some social outing that night (and possibly something during the day) was back in undergrad. (note of old age: half a decade ago I was entering my third year of college) I thought this relatively wild weekend would be a big pick-me-up, but for some reason I just keep coming out of it feeling more and more depressed. I'm not sure why. Maybe it is because I feel out of place. Maybe it's because I feel like despite the change in scenery, it is making no impact on me, and thus it feels completely unproductive. I'm not really sure.

Last night I met one of my ECE profs ("Phil") for the first time socially. He got his BS from UIUC in 1992, so I figure he's probably 35. He subbed for one of my classes years ago (he asked if he knew me from somewhere; I don't think I've seen him in the halls, so I figured that's what he was thinking. On the other hand, lots of people give me that line, so maybe it was nothing), and I'll be taking one of his classes in the winter quarter.
"You'll hate me for that," he says.

"Yeah, that's what I've heard," I respond.

"Nah, in the end I think people really like the class afterwards," he defends.

"Yeah, actually most people I talk to say that they really do like the class; it's just a lot of work." I say.

So apparently it's going to be a long winter quarter. It's signal processing though. I'm good at signal processing... aren't I? I guess we'll see. (in the back of my head: would I be better at signal processing if I picked Hesham as my adviser?)

Sitting with Phil and his friends, Owen and Christina (two people who work in the circus--one of them on stilts; how cool is that?), I'm not intimidated by the fact that I'm sitting with one of my profs. However, I am intimidated that I'm the youngest guy at the table. These people have to all be in their 30's. I'm 25. Granted, the two women I was with were 2 and 3 years younger than me. However, it's okay for young women to hang out with old people. Women are "ageless" in that respect. I just felt like an unwelcome interloper. (as opposed to the welcome interlopers? I need an editor...)

During the conversation that occurred at the table, someone said something about someone not liking their job, and Phil mentioned that he really liked his job. It was funny because earlier in the night I was thinking about how uneasy I feel right now about life in general... and I had this strange desire to know how Phil, who was the nearest approximation of something like my near future, felt about how he was. Him saying he liked his job simultaneously made me feel relieved that maybe things get better and worried that maybe I don't like my job as much as I should.

Later in the evening Phil asked Anna about Liza. The hairs raised on the back of my neck and my defenses went up. Suddenly I wanted to destroy Phil. Then I relaxed and realized that I simply had not had the time to remove that reflex and in the interim I need to disregard it. I was calm again. "I think she just went to a funeral," Anna replied. Suddenly I'm transported to High Fidelity. I'm John Cusack sitting soaked on the bench in the rain with "I'm sorry, Laura" still hanging from my lips like a forgotten cigarette. Just before I satisfy my urge to dive into a pile of mud to hide from these people who know Liza, I again remember that those things are just my autopilot, and until I take myself into the shop, I just need to fight it for the controls and take us in for a steady landing. I ask, "She went to a funeral? Whose?" Some friend of her mom's. I was relieved. The rear wheels touched down. Now the front. Now we're taxiing. Phew. Nice safe landing.

It was surreal standing there for those three seconds. I was the ex-boyfriend that no one knew. Parts of me were tempted to say, "Remember that asshole she was dating? Yeah, that was me." Then I realized that it was better to be unknown and not appreciated than being known and "wrongly" appreciated. However, I started to run simulations in my head to figure out how things could have changed so that I wouldn't be such an unknown ex-boyfriend... and in order to get any difference from how things are now, I had to change a whole lot of initial conditions a LONG time ago. I stopped thinking about it.

Anyway, after we left early (I drove; the place was getting pretty boring), I arrived home feeling really depressed and disappointed. Where were all the research breakthroughs that I planned on making when I entered this career? Where was the hip liberal lifestyle that I so desired? (eating breakfast at the North Star Cafe on Saturday didn't help my feelings of inadequacy there) I felt like I was waiting on something, but I didn't know what.

Usually when I feel this way, it's just before I make some relatively major change. I suspect something is coming; I just don't know what.

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