Monday, February 05, 2007

Back in the U.S. of A

Someday I'll have to rewrite the lyrics to that Beatles song so the rest of it makes sense.

We're back from Japan. There were too many adventures to fit into one blog post (and besides, I need to sleep) but they'll leak out of my head unless I make a note to write them, so here's the list:

  • Design != design
  • How Not To Go To An International Design Competition
  • So are you an engineer, or what? (Answer: "Or What.")
I believe this brings my post backlog up to 6. (Two on the future of the internet on education, one replying to Miks.) Will be chewing through this in the next few days while catching up on the backlog of work. And before you ask, yes, it was worth it.

In three days, my views of engineering, design, and art have been completely warped. I used to consider myself an artist. Then I tried really hard to be an engineer, but fell back into the category "technically skilled designer." Then I allowed myself to be a teacher and went back to "engineer," but with an understanding of design. That was nicely refuted by the last week's events. Now I don't know what I am at all. It's a pretty cool place to be in.

I learned a lot of hard lessons (there's no better way to burn something into your memory than to make a complete and utter fool of yourself doing it). I'm gratefully for my luxuriously large single dorm room and the fact that I live in an environment where old jeans and a t-shirt is socially acceptable attire. I'm thankful that my friends and I can be direct, blunt, and downright amiably contradictory to each other as a way of getting things done, and that people will call me out on BSing if I start yakking crazy things, but let me get away with anything so long as I explain the point of what I'm running towards.

I found out that my shoes need better arch supports, that takoyaki (octopus balls) are excellent when it's made hot off the street, and that tiny Japanese businessmen can consume large bowls of udon (noodles) faster than two not-so-tiny American college students. (The bowl of noodles was the size of our sink, and that might be an underestimate.) I found that the dusty remnants of high school Japanese classes, a phrasebook, and a lot of nodding and smiling can get you quite far when talking to people. I learned that I didn't need to check my email incessantly, and was actually happier when I didn't.

The world has once again exploded with possibilities, and I'm desperately trying to prune them. How do you choose which doors to leave open behind you? They might as well be closed, because you'll likely never have the time to come back to them again.

I have also reverted to a schedule of very little sleep. I am going for about 3 hours tonight to catch up on rest and allow my muscles a chance to relax, and then we'll see where things go from there. The fire in my bones is burning in a way it hasn't burned since my first two years of college where I was driven by something (fear, habit, and a sense of duty just as much as passion) enough to force my way bleary-eyed through the days. It's somewhat more tempered now by my first brush with burnout and a little more rationality, but it feels really good to care, and to care so much that I'll balance my life out so that I can do the things I ought.

1 comment:

David Klempner said...

I'd consider this a sign that you're about at the... inflection point, or something, regarding engineering.

It really is darkest before the dawn, or what have you; the time when things look most complicated and overwhelming is right before they start rapidly all making sense.

At least in my experience.