Archive for May, 2012

Reboot

Life feels stale, stagnant, circling, waiting, stalled, suspended. Despite the fact that I’ve defended my thesis, earned my PhD, graduated, and even had other personal accomplishments (like running the 10k) in the past month or so, I feel totally and completely stuck in my life right now. I’m looking for a job, but I haven’t found one. I’m still working at my old job, but I’m rehashing all the old stuff that was the bane of my existence previously. I have some free time again, yet I can’t muster the motivation or energy to do much at home. I’m waiting for something to change each passing day, but so far what I’m waiting for hasn’t come.

I don’t even think it’s just about waiting for a job opportunity, either. I think I’m just mentally and emotionally stuck, just exhausted in spirit. I desperately need a vacation, or at least I think I do, but I feel like I’m stuck waiting on I-dunno-what before I can even think about making some sort of real plan. It feels like everyone around me is taking time off and going fun places, both local and exotic, while I, despite working hard for two semesters to get done and feeling like I’ve earned some sort of special trip to celebrate my success, am still sitting on my couch petting the dog day after day. All the while, it at least seems like getting away would energize me and strengthen me as I am waiting for whatever-it-is. It’s a catch-22, evidently.

Some days I feel more optimistic than others, and even on those days I just feel generally dull. Some days are not so good, but if I feel down I try to just let it out and then move on with a slightly improved disposition. I guess I’m feeling a little more down today, just trying to trudge along, keep taking steps forward, hoping for a better day tomorrow despite feeling trapped. I wish I could find some way to reboot myself so I can finally restart afresh with a little more of the joy I expected to have after being done.

It’s really dumb to feel sorry for myself, since there’s not really anything wrong and I’ve had so much blessing recently. It shames me to confess that I find myself wallowing a bit from time to time. I really, honestly believe that God has something worked out for me, something that’s good for me, something fun and enjoyable, something to be passionate about. I just wish I felt more energized about the future and didn’t struggle with doubt sometimes.

Mark 9:24: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Mission Accomplished: Bolder Boulder 10k

This morning, I finally ran the 10k race that I have been training for. The Bolder Boulder is an annual Memorial Day event in which tens of thousands of participants run through downtown Boulder, finishing in a grand finale at the university stadium.

Yes, I did say tens of thousands of people…there were probably over 60,000 runners this year. They are all assigned to waves according to their approximate running time so you don’t have to trample slow people or get trampled by faster ones.  My friend and I were conservative in our choice of waves, since we didn’t want to over-commit ourselves on our first race; however, it seemed inevitable that you would be trampling or being trampled by so many folks regardless of your wave. Here’s our wave inching toward the starting line, waiting to start.

The course wound through the middle of town. Every few tenths of a mile, there were various bands and performers to entertain the runners. People also sat in their yards to spectate, sometimes providing such entertainment as slip-n-slides, belly dancers, music, cotton candy and marshmallows, beer bonging, and even a guy in a red, white, and blue speedo doing a pole dance (the low-point of spectator interaction, I’d say).

The whole course has a net uphill elevation gain with a summit of 5,381 ft, and I was a tiny bit concerned about it. However, the whole course was pretty reasonable with only a couple of notable uphill sections. The culmination of the race is up the hill going into the stadium. I was just sure I wouldn’t be able to tackle it, but when I got there, I actually made it, as it wasn’t as long a hill as I had previously heard. However, the turn into the stadium continued uphill, and I had to take it easy for a minute or two before entering the stadium so I could finish the final lap around the field with a final running surge.

I did completed the race in 74 minutes and some change, which I thought was not too bad, especially for my first race, and a longer one, too. So, in the month of May this year I have graduated with my PhD and run a 10k (both ending up in the same university stadium, too, coincidentally). That’s quite an eventful month. We’ll just have to see what June brings!

Ridiculous

It’s Monday again, and I’m hoping for a more optimistic week than I had last week.

I wasn’t as successful as I imagined I’d be with my goal-of-the-week last week, as I felt kind of sick, tired, and blah and didn’t feel like doing a lot for a few days. I know, excuses excuses, but you can’t help it sometimes. I’ll keep on this goal, though, to gradually increase the quality of my down time. For this coming week, I have a few things in mind to attempt.

My 10K race is a week from today. I’m not so nervous about the running as I am the crowds of people! There were over 55,000 people who ran this race last year, and sure to be more this year. I hope that it won’t be super crazy insane, and at least I’ll be running with a friend. Of course, “running” might be an optimistic term; we signed up for a walking/jogging wave so if anything besets us, like aches or pains or elevation changes, we can take it easy and still feel good about finishing. One goal for this week is to finally get up to 10 km/6.2 miles on a training run. I’m just under a mile away from the mark. I’m hoping to make it happen today, but we’ll see how it goes.

My other goal is to prepare my lunch the night before I go to work so I’m not throwing it together in the mornings. I eat quite simply, actually, but it still requires some assembly. Occasionally I do manage to do this, and I like the result, so I decided to be intentional about it this week, just because it’s the perfect scope for a GotW.

As we approach June, I should also consider another monthly challenge to pursue. That has been interesting and successful in the past, so I should come up with a good idea and a plan by next week. Did you realize that May is almost gone already? Ridiculous.

 

No idea

I try very hard to not use my blog as an outlet to just whine about my life, but I have to say that, while there have been a few bright spots, I feel like I have been repeatedly kicked in the gut by life  in the last week. >sigh< People keep telling me how wonderful it must feel to be done and free and relaxed and not stressed after graduating. They  have no idea. I had no idea it would be this way.

Well, the only thing getting me through this time is the faith I have that God will provide exactly what I need in precisely His timing. Of course, He never promises that what I need is exactly what I want, and He doesn’t promise that life will be comfortable, either. But sometimes you have to go through some pressure to get a diamond out on the other end, right?

Anyways, it’s Friday, so that’s something I suppose. There are a few interesting things happening over the weekend, so I should look forward to them.

I haven’t done very well at my goal of the week, probably because I didn’t anticipate getting sick with allergies and not feeling like doing anything but sit around and mindlessly surf the web or play games on my phone. However, while I did allow myself some leeway, I did manage to make myself do other things a few times. And thankfully I am feeling better…less miserable congestion and sinus pressure though still some lingering sniffles and sneezes.

Here’s to less emotional baggage next week.

Goal of the week, unplugged

I feel like it’s time to start up Goal of the Week again, but focusing more on personal stuff with some work/career related things if appropriate. However, I feel a little bit silly blogging about my current goal of the week, but please forgive the irony. I’ve been thinking that in general I spend too much time goofing off on computer-related devices–laptop, phone, tablet, whatever. I don’t feel like it’s bad to spend time out on the world wide web or playing a few games on a cell phone, but I think I unconsciously use these as an excuse to not make effort to engage myself in other things, particularly in the evenings at home. This is just a small step from being lazy, isn’t it? And I don’t want to be lazy…I feel like I’m prone to be that way, and I don’t want to encourage it. Plus, if this blog has been about anything at all, it’s about being intentional about life, is it not?

So, my goal for this week is to scale back the gratuitous electronics usage. I should really have some rigorous criteria about usage, i.e. time spent or websites/apps visited, but I haven’t gotten that far. I think I know when I’m involved in meaningful electronic interaction versus when I’m just surfing for the sake of surfing, so I’m just going to try to be aware of what I’m doing. If I sit down to check my email, a few blogs, new forum posts, my fantasy baseball team, and Facebook for 15-30 minutes and then find myself randomly checking the weather or the news or playing solitaire for the sole purpose of avoiding getting up, then I know I’d better hop up straightaway and do something else.

Instead of mindlessly web surfing, I could do some reading or play a board game with DH. If we’re listening to a baseball game on the radio or watching a movie or TV show on Netflix, I could catch up on some knitting instead of being on the computer. I could spend a mere 15 minutes each evening on a household chore and constantly keep on top of everything instead of having marathon cleaning sessions on Saturdays. I can also do a little more exercise, too (gratuitous bragging–I ran 5.25 miles tonight…just less than a mile to squeeze in before my 10k in two weeks!).

So that’s my goal of the week. It’s not always a huge problem, but it was kind of bad over the weekend while my parents were in town and we were just sitting around in the evenings. Plus, if this is a habit I have developed, I don’t want to keep feeding it. Therefore, I thought it would be an excellent candidate for starting this challenge back up. Hopefully I can share some positive progress with you all next week!

Pomp and Circumstance

After fighting traffic and throngs of people, I found myself walking alone across campus to the field between the library and Old Main where all the graduates of the class of 2012 gathered before commencement. The air resonated with the sound of clarion bells continuously ringing in song across campus to mark the occasion. The crisp air and overcast skies, cold yet not all that unusual for spring in Colorado, created an air of contemplation and solemnity for me as I walked, clothed in my full academic regalia, between the dignified old buildings of the university. This ancient of traditions, born out of the formal institution of universities in medieval Europe, has been repeated for tens of centuries, the formality of antiquity juxtaposed with the realities of our modern day.

There in the grassy space, most of the over 6,000 graduates organized and formed ranks, preparing for the traditional procession around Old Main and across campus to the stadium where the ceremony would be held. There I stood with a number of other graduate students, none that I knew, but all united in their similar recent accomplishment. As the procession began, the doctoral students lead the whole assembly of graduates in the march behind a group of bagpipe players and drums.

Yes, bagpipes. Awesome.

People in the buildings leaned out of windows or lined the doors outside, waving and congratulating the students as they walked past. I was a bit surprised how proud of myself and my accomplishment I felt; while guarding against true hubris, I decided to allow myself the pleasure of a little self-congratulation.

Finally, the formal parade reached the stadium, and I, as one of the doctoral students, was one of the first of the 6,000 total graduates to enter the stadium.

It didn’t take long for the doctoral and masters students to be seated, and we waited what seemed like forever while the rest of the bachelors students filed in–almost 5,000 of them. We smirked as they swarmed it, half on their cell phones, many with goofy hats or glasses or outfits, acting goofy when they realized they were on the stadium’s “big screen,” slightly irreverent behavior for such a solemn behavior. I suppose eight years of perspective separates me from my undergraduate self (who probably still was leaps and bounds more reserved than some of these at that time).

Finally, everyone got seated, and the faculty took their positions at the front of the assembly. Having gotten up at the crack of dawn, I got a little tired listening to the line of speakers, but there were many good words spoken during the ceremony. Finally, the deans of the colleges and the university president formally conferred degrees up on all the graduates, including myself. I am now officially “Doctor!”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through graduation; I’m not the kind of person to go through a bunch of ceremonies with a bunch of crowds, especially if it requires getting up ridiculously early. However, when I thought about not doing it, say, if I didn’t finish and graduated in the summer when the did not have a commencement ceremony, I felt a little sad like I was maybe missing something. So I decided I would do it, as I most likely won’t get the opportunity again (I sure don’t intend to get another PhD ;)). My parents were also quite pleased to come out and share the experience after eight years.

Thursday afternoon, the physics department held their departmental recognition ceremony. It was meaningful, as they specifically honored their graduates in particular; however, I didn’t really know any of the other doctoral students who were graduating, plus only three of us total bothered to show up for the event. And since I did my research off-campus, I never did feel so deeply connected with the department. It was, however, a nice event anyway.

I initially felt that the big, university-wide commencement would be large and informal, and in a way it was. I was by myself as far as knowing other doctorates. However, I formed a kindred camaraderie with those students around me as we sat through the ceremony together. Furthermore, the traditions and the pomp and circumstance proved to be very significant to me as well. I’m not the one to hold precipitously to tradition just for the sake of tradition while the reality of changing times forges ahead without me. However, I do believe that traditions with the right perspective and context are extremely important to be a part of and to not forget. While surrounded by cell phones, video cameras, vehicles, and other modern innovations, by going through this ceremony I feel somehow connected now to a millennium of high scholars before me.

Eight years of hard work, plus four years of preparation before that…is it finally sinking in that this chapter of my life has finally, officially closed?

Here’s to us, class of 2012.

Chautauqua

Given that we now have company at home, I decided to do my run from work today. I’ve only done this once before, so I haven’t thoroughly scoped out all possible routes radiating outward from my lab. However, one thing about our building is that we back directly up to the Boulder Flatirons, meaning that after only a few blocks of residential hiking you can pop right out into the middle of a an open plateau or a shady mountain forest. It’s certainly something I try not to take for granted while being here.

For today’s run, I quickly consulted Google Maps around my current location and noted that Chautauqua Park was only a mile or so away. I decided that this round trip sounded like a perfect candidate for a quick mid-day run, so I headed that direction.

The Chautauqua Movement of the late 1800s was a movement that brought cultural and educational experiences to small towns and cities all over the country. What began as a summer camp for educating Sunday school teachers in the northeast quickly exploded into a cross-country movement allowing working-class people with little opportunity for a formal college education to come together for lectures, concerts, the arts, and classes in their own cities and towns. Chautauqua halls were built in to house these events.

Today, the Colorado Chautauqua Auditorium still stands at the base of Boulder’s Foothills, preserved and still used after over one hundred years. And I make a public confession here that in my eight years of living here in Boulder, I have never actually been up there (hides from the torches, pitchforks, and rioting of disbelieving locals).

However, do give me a little credit that I made the one mile run up there this morning! And I do mean up…up and up and up. Lots of huffing and puffing and slowing to a walk to let my heart rate subside a bit. And I even had to abandon sidewalk for a mountainous trail to get up there. So, while this wasn’t my fastest run ever or my longest, it was definitely the most interesting. A couple of minutes into the trail, in my surprise I looked up to see the Chautauqua hall above me. I stopped to take a quick picture.

I kept on the trail a little bit further and veered off at the fork that I knew would take me up to the hall. It was quite interesting, though I was in the middle of a run and not really able to poke around the grounds very much. I did snap another quick picture of the view of Boulder from above. I told you it was “up!”

So, a mid-morning run from a national lab and up a mountain to a historic landmark, with blindingly blue skies and panoramic vistas. Just a typical day in Boulder, Colorado.