Sunday, March 27, 2016

Life lately

Throwback to 2011 at Carter Mountain

I feel that ominous tickle in my throat: allergy season is upon us. Despite being a terrible city for spring allergy sufferers (all the pollen-emitting trees!!), Charlottesville is stunning in the spring. The warm weather brings with it the usual crowds of prospective (or recently admitted) students and their parents to Grounds, which is so fun to see ... It makes me feel really nostalgic! The crowds seem to really enjoy the food trucks over by the Amphitheater :). I love seeing the Days on the Lawn groupings in front of Old Cabell Hall* on my way to class in the mornings. And I saw CavPup for the first time on Monday! 

After quite a busy last week, here is a catch-up post of sorts ...:

Notable quotes:
  • Wise words from my former coworker's late father: "People may be able to take things from you but they cannot take your pride. Be true to yourself, be good to yourself. Don't belittle yourself. Other people will do that for you and they do not need your help."

Things I learned:
  • Helium is mined, and is therefore a limited resource. Something to think about the next time you buy a bunch of balloons for a party, I think.
  • Professors are paid for only 9 months out of the year -- just like teachers! -- unless they get a research grant during the summer time or teach summer school

Embarrassing thing that happened to me:

  • I'm greatly amused by one of my engineering professors' conceptual analogies to Italian foods like a salami (differential unit of volume), slice of cheese (representative slice of a sphere), and "spaghetti noodle" (a fibrous protein).

*The Days on the Lawn opening reception is traditionally held on the Lawn-facing Rotunda steps, but the U.Va landmark is undergoing a facelift at the moment :)

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Photo of me in Blacksburg before hopping back in the car for the return trip

It’s a universally known fact among my close friends and family that I drive like a grandma. In fact, my dad likes to joke that I am a nervous chicken when it comes to driving, in stark contrast to my younger brother who drives like a daredevil. I have major driving PTSD because I was involved in a car accident that totaled both cars back when I was in middle school and have been nervous about cars ever since – even as a passenger or pedestrian. This means I often walk briskly or run across the street even at crosswalks, both to avoid becoming road kill and because nobody ever wants to be that person who takes their good ol’ time, obliviously crossing the street completely unaware or unconcerned about cars trying to speed through before the traffic light turns red.

My dad took a year-long break from giving me driving lessons when I was in high school because I was so afraid behind the wheel that he was fearful for his own safety as I frightfully inched the car at 20 miles an hour through my quiet middle-school parking lot and neighborhood, learning the basics of making right and left turns. So, after college when I accepted a job an hour’s drive away from home, I think we were all a little worried. But I needed the daily practice, and in about six months’ time making that hour-long journey each way, I was comfortable enough to change lanes once or twice a week, sometimes mustering enough courage to pass a slow, right-lane driver. A year after that, I was brave enough to conquer Route 66 during the morning commute. Three and a half years after starting that job, I inexplicably volunteered to pick up my brother from Blacksburg, Virginia, a town in the middle of nowhere – twice the longest journey I had ever driven from home. That was an expedition that tested my bravery as my sweaty hands clutched the steering wheel, hoping the cliff views – much too uncomfortably close to my right-lane situation – would soon be out of sight so I could relax my tense muscles. Even I can’t believe my parents let me do that.

Very seldom would I ever volunteer to drive anywhere, but if I do it’s for one of two reasons: 1) because I don’t trust the other passenger to transport me anywhere safely, or 2) because I recognize the opportunity as one for which I need to push myself out of my proverbial comfort zone. After all, driving and navigating highways are facts of life, and fears I need to conquer. It’s just like tackling that tough new work project that secretly intimidates the crap out of you, or making that big career leap that will lead to better long-term prospects.

After all:

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fitting in

Sunrise view from Humpback Rock

One of the perks of being out of school is not worrying about or trying to fit in. I’ve always been friendly to and generally well liked by most school cliques I interacted with because I’m a relatively neutral personality, but I enjoy the adulthood freedom of electing to spend my free time however and with whomever I wish. It is from that independence that I, or anyone, can truly explore themselves as individuals.

This disinclination probably stems from my undergraduate experience at U.Va. Although my college experience shaped me more than any other time period in my young adult life, U.Va students face significant pressure to attain a certain social status; it’s part of that U.Va elitist culture, as horrible as that might sound. It feels good to be past that and take myself less seriously. Or maybe it’s because I’m growing up and becoming more comfortable in my own skin.

I am more myself now than I have ever been. I am thankful for both the positive and negative experiences in school, at work, and in my personal life and relationships – even if some of those moments were particularly trying – because I am the product of all of that. Although there is always room for improvement (of which I am aware and to which I am always open), I’m proud of the person I’ve become.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hindsight is 20/20

My friend's Pomeranian, Rory, during Halloween on the Lawn 2011 
Sometimes I cringe at the college version of myself. Ideally, as we collect life experiences, we ought to strive to be come better people, friends, employees/workers, and partners. Sometimes, for example, past transgressions are brought into sharper focus when someone wrongs you in a similar manner (karma!). We learn to be better friends by having and then identifying deadweight judgmental acquaintances; better team members and future leaders from poor examples of management; and better partners from the shortcomings of former flames. Or I simply needed more life to live, days to learn from, and self-awareness to gain.

I could’ve …:

Been a more inclusive conversationalist when socializing with the significant others of close friends

Been a better student leader who used meeting times more economically, and was more inclusive and trusting of team members’ abilities to execute plans

Dropped the meal plan sooner

Been a more consistent pen pal

Identified and dropped the deadweight, judgmental acquaintances sooner

Been a more empathetic friend