Part 1: Winter
This January, my roommates and I all got COVID. We’re doing fine, but I was exhausted for a few days.
I did my best to avoid the snow. I traveled as much as I could from January through March. (My advisor also went traveling.) I found work “reasons” to visit the Pacific Northwest, LA, Boston, and SF. It was awesome to be in new places, and see friends and family in person. But this also got tiring; I’m happy to be both healthy and in one place for awhile.
I’ve been playing a lot of Debussy’s music on the piano; especially the pair of Arabesques and a few pieces in the Children’s Suite. It’s an immersive escape for me away from people and screens. (And sometimes I play guitar when I have too many beers, but you’ll have to ask my roommates how good I am…)
Do you close doors or let them close on you? Decision paralysis is such a big part of my life. I frequently try to squeeze more “doing” out of life than I think is really possible. And so I worry if I’m doing the right things. How can I be sure my choices are the best choices?
(And as my friend Chris loves to say, “does it matter?”)
It used to be that trying new activities would frustrate me, because I wasn’t good enough yet. Concerts reminded me of insecurities in my own music-making. Painting wasn’t relaxing because I kept trying to make something good. Letting go of the urge to do everything has freed me to focus on things I already enjoy.
Part 2: Spring
It’s getting warmer in Chicago. There are blue flowers blooming on my walk to work; the world feels more open now that it’s above freezing most days. I’ve been having gatherings; one for April Fools’ Day and another for Earth Day. I really enjoy having my apartment be a “third place” for the Computer Science department: somewhere besides home and work for people to gather.
I’m taking several classes, including one with my advisor. Bill is great. It’s been validating to get to know him in settings other than our one-on-one meetings. At a recent conference, he asked me: “How can I be cool?” I laughed and said “Bill, you’re cool just the way you are!” I certainly made the right choice in advisor.
I’m starting to go on dates. I’m not actively looking for anything long term, but I’m not against it either. It’s been an awesome way to explore Chicago – seeing new neighborhoods and museums, roller-blading on the lake, and other activities I have trouble doing on my own.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t scary. Am I healthy enough? Bad dates have sent me down ruminating spirals. Will I ever be ready? I found some reassurance here:
…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet
Part 3: Summer
I’m back on the road. I’m writing from Vancouver, BC — on a trip away from a few weeks in Seattle. It is hot everywhere I’ve been. When I walk, I bring another shirt for when the first one is soaked with sweat.
I finished the school year. A math class challenged me and helped me make new friends. I’m tackling more complex research problems, and failing more. But in the metric of am I learning something new, I’m thriving.
I’m at Microsoft Research this summer, working with the great Matt Hastings. He’s calm, and kind; and he mostly does his own thing. I met a former professor worried about having a negative contribution to science by meeting with Matt too often. (How is that supposed to make me feel?) My confidence is higher; I’m becoming trusted by those who I want to impress.
I feel lucky.
What will never happen? The pedant in me wants to change “never” to “almost never”, but here’s a short list of things that I’ve let go of:
What’s on your mind?
Some things I’ve liked recently: