Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gray Days

The weather has been distinctly unlike a typical California May the past week. Overcast days, even some rain. It feels like a piece of Winter Quarter got lost and wandered into spring. Honestly, I don't mind all that much. Gray weather is enough of a novelty that I'm not sick of it, and the overcast sky matches my low energy levels. (It's that time of the quarter.)

I've been thinking about the end of the year and about the summer work that I will be doing. The university has been very good about making sure students think up-front about their summer experiences, including doing the unusual and talking about mental health. "Make sure you have a way to stay in touch with people." "Write things down." "Do your research before going."

What I wonder is what of these things would have been useful to implement or consider prior to coming to college. I am bad at keeping in touch with people and it would probably have been good for me to establish that I'd send weekly updates to my family or friends. Things get busy and anything for which time is not explicitly made falls through the cracks.

I think I underestimated what a singularity college would be. It's something I've been thinking about, on and off, for the past couple of weeks--how unrecognizable the me is that walked onto campus in September 2014, how different my life is, how differently I think about things, how the people I've met here and the experiences I've had have changed me. When I came here I thought I wanted to do civil engineering wet track (hydrology) with a minor in CS. Now I'm declared as civil engineering dry track (structures) and, if I thought I could swing it without dying, I'd go for a EE minor.

When I came here, I did not know that I was ace, I did not dance or see dancing as something in which I'd have any interest. I was in a relationship that I cannot understand, in hindsight. I could go on. I feel as though I am a different person; but am I?

In my German culture class, we're on the topic Vergangenheitsbewältigung and were talking today about the question of whether or not post-war Germany is different from the Third Reich or if there is continuity. I realize that it is somewhat silly to keep comparing myself to Germany, but I do think that as a human in possession of an overactive pattern-making device (my brain) I can be excused for finding metaphors in all places.

Then, what am I now and am I different from who I was at the beginning of the year?

Sometimes I get deja vu as I bike across campus, because I remember going here for math competitions in high school and being overwhelmed at how large the campus is, getting lost, not knowing how to get from CoHo to the Main Quad. But now I'm familiar with campus, having been here for eight months, and I'm used to it and that sometimes surprises me. What is surprising about college is how easily it swallows you, turns everything that got you here irrelevant, how quickly it becomes normal, how easy and simple it is to get lost in the bubble.

I spoke a couple of weeks ago with a former Haas summer fellow who spoke of her difficulty in reintegrating after returning from her summer work. She spoke of constantly needing to tell herself "this is no less real than that." I think I might have some problems with that, if my experience of going back to my high school two weeks ago is any indication. That was no less real than this...? But the thing is, I do think that high school is less real than college, and that college is less real than the world after graduation.

Everyone is telling me that my summer work experience will change me and I need to prepare mentally as well as logistically. People probably told me that about college too, but I didn't really internalize it, I don't think. I think I thought that going to school close to home would cheat me of character development, and perhaps it has, but I definitely have changed more, and in different ways, than I expected to.

Yet many things still have not changed. I still find angry music soothing (yesterday I presented "Rosenrot" to my German class and they liked it!). I still disappoint myself with how little I can do. I still love cats. I still find introverts easier to talk to than extraverts. I'm still self-absorbed and find that writing about my experience is the best way for me to process it. And I still think that gray days are an excellent excuse to indulge that need.

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