The Old Professor

There’s an old professor who I often see in the statistics department at my university. He’s usually hunched over a bit, walking slowly and shakily with a cane. He’s always dressed in a suit (but no tie). The other people in the department say hi to him as they pass him in the hall, like an old friend. He doesn’t say much; when he does speak, his speech is often a bit broken and hard to understand.

I found out recently that this professor is very well known and respected in the field. He is over 90 years old and still goes to the department all the time. I don’t know if he’s actively doing research, but he’s definitely still active within our department.

He’s done statistics for most of his life, so I guess our department is his home. That’s true dedication to his work. I wonder if I love statistics enough to be that dedicated to it when I’m 90, if I’m lucky enough to make it that far.

The Big Decision

The two main contenders were the Canadian university (where I earned my master’s in math) and the prestigious university. As I narrowed down my decision throughout the week, I slowly declined the offers from the other universities. To really make my decision final, I had to formally eliminate everything else first.

Thursday evening. I called my best friends from graduate school (the math one) for their input on which offer to choose. Of course, whatever decision I made had to be my own. They helped me weigh the pros and cons to each, always trying to stay logical and impartial, which is exactly what I wanted. They said there was no bad decision and that they would love me either way. I needed to hear that too.

Shortly after my phone call with my friends, I already knew what my decision would be, but I wasn’t ready to formalize it. I instead watched The Princess And The Frog. Great movie. Interestingly, there is a recurring theme in the movie of figuring out the difference between what you want and what you need that was oddly appropriate for my current situation.

After midnight on Thursday, with cold hands and a black pen, I formally declined the offer to the Canadian university. When I thought about which university was truly the best choice for my long-term future, I had to choose the prestigious university.

Friday. My celebration day. Having made my decision, the weight I had been carrying for a month was lifted. I drove to my undergrad study buddy’s apartment in the morning for part two of our Merlin Marathon. She made me a chocolate-chip pancake breakfast while I told her about my decision. The prestigious university in question is actually her dream school, so she was very excited for me. We watched five episodes of Merlin with barely any interruptions. Awesome.

Friday evening. I had dinner with my best friend from college. To celebrate my decision, she took me out to a fancy restaurant called Upstairs 2. The menu is based around selecting small mini-courses and wine to pair with them (you know the restaurant is fancy because it involves wine). The experience was excellent and very fun, although I know very little about wine (besides that I like it). Afterwards, we watched He’s Just Not That Into You. I had seen it before (she hadn’t), but I forgot a lot of it and noticed new things. I did remember, however, that I don’t like Scarlett Johansson‘s character.

Legacy

My mom is a librarian for a local university. She is retiring at the end of the year after 40 years of working at the same library. As she leaves, she will be donating a good sum of money to establish an endowment to further support the library where she has spent her entire career.

I’ve been helping my mom with a lot of the details. I came up with the title for the endowment, and I convinced my mom to use her own artwork from when she did Chinese painting as a hobby over 30 years ago as the bookplate for each book that is purchased using funding from her endowment. As a side note, I’m also desperately trying to convince her to pick up her brush again after she retires, because she’s actually a very good artist.

I also wrote a few short paragraphs about my mom and her career that will be put in a catalog which lists all of the endowments established for the library (I’m a good writer sometimes). My mom has seen and influenced so many changes in the library throughout her career, it’s amazing. I find the transition from card catalogs to online databases incredibly fascinating (I love looking back at technological advances and seeing how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time), and my mom played a big part of that change for her library.

Writing about my mom and seeing thank you notes/emails from people at my mom’s library helped me realize that my mom has made a major impact on her library. Her endowment serves as a way to perpetuate her legacy with the library, so that future visitors to the library can benefit from her contributions. They may not know her personally, but they will know her.

This is the kind of thing I want. Forty years from now, I want be able to say that I’ve done something that will benefit my community (local, national, global, who knows) in some way. I want to make a difference somehow. Donating to a library seems small compared to building houses/schools in third-world countries (I know someone who is doing that too), but it is still a way to make a positive difference in the world that has a lasting effect beyond our own lifetime.

As I continue my soul searching and journey for my inner passions, I want to keep this in mind. What will my legacy be?

Cautionary Tales

This has been a bad month for my blog. I haven’t had the energy or motivation to post anything substantial on here. I’ve been consistently staying at the office late every day, and I’m just about ready to sleep by the time I get home.

A couple days ago, as I was getting ready to leave work (around 8:30pm), one of my friends from work asked if I wanted to get coffee with her to catch up. We often used to talk and get lunch together, but we’ve both been busy lately. Of course I said yes; she’s probably one of my favorite people at work (who I don’t have a crush on).

We met up at a local Starbucks and chatted for an hour until it closed, and then we continued our conversation in the parking lot for another half hour or so. I love talking to her. I think she sees me like a little brother, and I see her like a big sister.

My friend has been with our company for ten years, so she has a lot of stories. She told me the story of a coworker who went to MIT and wanted to become a doctor. Our boss was incredibly harsh to her and she quit multiple times. She vowed never to return to our company, but after ten months of not finding a job, she came back and has worked for us ever since.

I used to talk about becoming an actuary and/or finding what I want to do in life. But over the last couple months, I’ve been getting sucked into working later and longer. From the beginning, I wanted this job to be a stepping stone to something better, but it’s difficult to find or even think about other opportunities when I’m working 55+ hours a week.

During our converstions, my friend even admitted to saying she regrets staying with our company for so long. She feels like her life has passed her by and she wouldn’t be able to find a job doing anything different. Somewhat luckily, she and her boyfriend are doing well enough where she doesn’t have to work anymore if she didn’t want to, but I feel bad that she has regrets for staying.

My friend keeps warning me not to stay late too often, and she keeps pushing me to either study for the actuary exams or find other options. She doesn’t want me to end up like her (or our coworker). All her cautionary tales are making me really think about my future. I don’t want to regret staying too long.

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A Nice Break

This trip has been great! Seeing old friends and visiting my old campus makes it feel like no time has passed at all. The weather is dark and dreary, but I love it because it reminds me of my former home. I’ve barely thought about work too, so this short vacation has been quite relaxing. It’s been a nice break from reality.

Catching up with my friends did get me thinking, though, about my current situation and about my future. I can’t just continue working day to day without looking forward. I need to come up with some plans for my life, both short term and long term.

But maybe I won’t do that until my plane ride home.

A Stepping Stone

I really didn’t sleep very well last night. My brain wouldn’t turn off, so I felt like I had some amount of consciousness all night. I think I was really anxious about the possible sudden opportunity for which I was having an interview today.

I first met with my friend. He sat me down and explained his current needs and what he would want me to do, even though it would only be to get me familiarized with the company. I would basically be working directly under him, micromanaging certain accounts for him so that he doesn’t have to worry about the details.

My friend is very professional at work. He’s the only one (besides his boss) who wears a suit (without a tie, i.e. “business casual”). Everyone else wears something that ranges from jeans and a T-shirt to a button down shirt with dark khakis. He also puts his entire being into his work, often staying three or four hours later than everyone else. He works incredibly hard, but he’s also the sales and marketing manager after only working there a few months. I think I can learn a lot from him.

Outside of work, my friend has always been seemingly more confident and comfortable with himself. He’s almost the complete opposite of me. He knows exactly where he wants to go professionally, he has a steady boyfriend, and he’s totally sure of himself. Because he is so different from me, I think I can also learn a lot about myself from reconnecting with him.

On a complete sidenote, my friend unfortunately still remembers a lot of the embarrassing and awkward things I used to do and say when I was a teenager struggling with being gay. He remembers the conversation we had when I said I was “asexual” rather than defining myself as gay or straight. I think I’m less awkward now, but I can still get pretty awkward around gay boys (I’ve mentioned this before). Hopefully my friend can teach me to be less awkward too.

Anyway, after about an hour of talking to my friend, he took me to see his boss. His boss’s office is a huge mess, but his boss is also incredibly wise and smart. His boss has a Ph.D. in physics and asked me a lot of philosophical questions about life and time. If you were wondering, “time is the most important parameter of all,” whether you’re talking about life or physics. His argument for it was very wise (and funny).

The interview with my friend’s boss wasn’t anything like my Target interviews, probably because my friend already wanted to hire me. A lot of the questions were about math and why I liked it. He also asked what I wanted in life ten years from now. My friend’s boss talked about the circle of life, and how his role now was to help smart young people (like me) get started in their careers. I could definitely see that I could learn a lot from him, too.

I basically had a job from the moment I walked into the building. The difficult part is that they don’t even know what job they want to give me (I don’t think there was really a position open), and the reason for that is because I don’t know what I can do or want to do. My friend knows that I’m (vaguely) studying for the actuary exams, so it’s also hard to say how long I would stay with his company.

My friend and his boss are willing to offer me 1.5 times what I make at Target (so still not that much), but it’s because I would be starting as my friend’s assistant until I can figure out what my strengths are and what position within the company I can really excel at. Once I have figured those things out, then we can renegotiate my deal and move to a different position. I haven’t found out about benefits yet, but I assume there will be some.

In the end, the skills and experience I can gain from this computer company would be more useful and applicable to a professional career than the skills I’m gaining at Target. What’s interesting is that my friend and his boss know that this job is just a stepping stone. I can use the skills I gain from their company to get an even better job down the line that is better suited to what I can do and what I want (whatever that is).

I guess this means I’m giving my two weeks notice to Target tomorrow. Because I have some consecutive days off from Target next week, though, I might start working for my new company on Monday.

It’s going to be interesting leaving Target. I still love my job and all the people with whom I work, but there’s no future there. Meanwhile, this new job is being built by constantly thinking about the future. My future. It’s hard not to pass up such an opportunity.

Even still, I’m nervous. Whatever responsibilities they throw at me, they’re going to be challenging. They have high expectations because I’m “smart” (and I really don’t think I am). I feel like I haven’t used my brain (in an intellectual sense) in a very long time, so I hope I can get used to using it again.

No Future

I asked my store team leader about the meeting he had yesterday with my interviewer. He told me that my interviewer thought I came off as very nervous during the interview and suggested that I start as a regular team leader to gain more leadership experience before trying to become an executive team leader.

The team leader position is definitely a step up from my current position, but it’s also a world away from being an executive. Team leaders are paid hourly at about 1.5 times my pay rate (think of cashews instead of peanuts), whereas executive team leaders are paid a (decent) salary.

I’m disappointed in the situation, but mostly I’m frustrated with myself. I really didn’t feel nervous before the interview. I even felt almost confident. But once the interview started, I became a different person. Once I’m in the interview environment, my brain shuts down and my nerves take over. If I consciously know that someone is judging me, my ability to articulate thoughts is thrown out the window.

My fear of failing at interviews causes me to fail at interviews. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m starting to wonder if my fear of being judged stems from being closeted for so long. I’ve been so afraid that people would find out that I’m gay that I get nervous and defensive when all eyes are on me.

The worst part of this whole situation is that my severe lack of interviewing skills will prevent me from getting any job which requires an interview, which is pretty much any job worth getting. My parents tell me that the only way to become comfortable during interviews is to go to a lot of interviews. But that implies that I will fail at interviews countless times before eventually getting my first job. Considering that I’ve never gotten a call back for an interview from any job to which I’ve applied (except Target, which barely counts because I had connections), just getting the “practice” interviews for me to fail at could take years. I really am unemployable.

My store team leader said that I shouldn’t reapply for the executive team leader position for at least six months (to let my name pass through the system). Given that, I don’t know how much longer I should stay at Target. I basically have no future there. I don’t really want to quit without having another job to fall back on, but I can’t just sit on this job forever.

Since my life has no meaning or direction, needless to say I was pretty down all day. My work crush tried to cheer me up a little bit (in his straight guy, arm’s length distant way), but even interaction with him was little solace.