Since arriving alone in this foreign land (O, Canada!), I have frequently doubted myself. In the spirit of “fake it ‘til you make it,” I embraced my new life with confidence, or the best approximation I could rustle up. I have never done anything like this in my life – not just graduate school, which is of course new, but living off-campus, grocery shopping and preparing food for just myself, existing in the real world.
Of course, graduate school is not the real world. But it’s the closest I’ve ever been, so indulge me in my drama! Although I rarely venture out of my academic shell, I do spend about an hour every day reading the news (Slashdot, Boing Boing, my friends’ blogs, and occasionally the real news), so I have an increasingly good view of [my small corner of] the real world.
G likes to remind me that is what I chose for myself, and although she means “how wonderful that you get to live your life as you want!”, every time she says it I hear an undercurrent of “don't be dissatisfied!” Both those messages are worthwhile, since I could leave at any point if I realized that graduate school, or my current way of life, or even this looney country are not what I want to do. So it’s important for me to remember that I’m in control. That said, I have been living mostly alone, mostly in my own head, much like L, and like C I am slightly wistful for the society I am missing, though not enough to make me leave graduate school for anything else.
Could I even meet the right kind of people elsewhere? A while ago I exclamatorily wrote, “I found my people!” upon discovering a group of graduate students who meet once a week to play board games. (I am a strategy fiend, and live for the kind of 12-hour-long, friendship-ruining games like Diplomacy.) Unfortunately we seem to have stopped meeting since the semester’s work began in earnest, sending us scuttling back into our offices.
Luckily for me, I was bold enough to blindly email my entire department and get a four-person team to compete in last weekend’s College Puzzle Challenge, an “an annual puzzle-solving competition held simultaneously on college campuses across North America.” It’s a twelve-hour nerdfest, with staggered release of packets of devilishly obscure puzzles. (And no instructions. They are for the weak.) I found my people again! It turns out that, much like X-men, the Incredibles, or heroes, sarcastic, hilarious math and CS nerds are all around us. They keep their abilities hidden to avoid ostracism/exploitation/genocide/your-favorite-sci-fi-disaster-here.
The puzzles were difficult, and my team didn’t pick up steam until the final three or four hours, but it was still lots of fun, and made me happy. I have been laughing to myself intermittently since then, something I hadn’t done in a long while.
In sum: it’s good to be me, everything about my life is perfect, and I love what I’m doing! Now back to the grindstone.
This post’s theme song: the eponymous Gary Allan song.