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My classes haven’t even started yet and I’m already stressed out. I am currently not in the payroll for the lab and I am not sure if this was on purpose or by accident. Either way, my contributions to the lab are being questioned, and it’s really hard to defend them when we just came to the conclusion that my work for the past six months has basically been pointless because our setup sucks and the data I’ve been working with is worthless. Now I’m being asked to take two days to come up with a plan for what I’m doing this year and a project that I wanna do for a PhD. I don’t even know what I want to specialize in, how am I supposed to already have a project? This is just ridiculous, if they take me off the payroll I’m not sure if I’ll be working with them, the professor is a hard-ass and none of the projects look interesting enough anymore for me to spend the next five years working on, and now I gotta do this for free when I need that time to pass my classes, apply to grad school, and hold positions for two societies. I’ve been here all summer, why does everybody wait until the fall to start to throw this crap at me?!
No, I didn’t just kiss a girl, but I suddenly have that familiar feeling of excitement. I’m going to grad school, and this time I might actually end up in Berkeley, or Stanford, or Michigan, or MIT. The nine-year-old I once was had big dreams and nothing but ambition, and every self I’ve ever been, from the 12-year-old sketching accurate power plant models to the 17-year-old attending college presentations, and most of all the 21-year-old frustrated with departmental incompetence and a lack of personal direction, is overwhelmed and ecstatic by the possible realization of a life-long goal. I’m scared - of the difficulty and amount of work, of the increased independence and responsibility, of the distance from the people I love, of rejection - but most of all, I am thrilled!
Driving down the highway with my windows rolled down. My ears resonating from the Johnny Marr-inspired guitars shredding from my speakers. The sun bringing itself down gently behind the trees, casting shadows on the rolling miles of asphalt ahead of me. The wind coming through my window roaring at my face but all I do is yell my pronouncement of divinity back at it.
I was high.
Life couldn’t be better than at that moment; no scent more wonderful than that of cow manure; no number in existence besides 55; no grip more confident than the one on the wheel. I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference. But it wasn’t the lack of cars and strippers and abortion ads that filled my chest with helium. Both that morning equally lay. The country road was what I set my will upon, and if today played itself a thousand times, the country road is what I would desire a thousand times over.
Experts say that more than any other profession, teaching is what students turn to when asked about their future. This makes sense considering that for over ten years this is the profession that young people are exposed to the most, the one they get to experience firsthand. At the same time, when the students enter a more mature age, one when they are able to comprehend the responsibilities and freedoms that go along with becoming an adult, the majority turn away from education when they pick their major because it’s looked down upon, because the pay is low, or because that’s what all “those” girls study.
Tom is quite familiar with this. His own mother loves working with kids and had all the qualities to become a schoolteacher, but she wanted to prove her intelligence and drive to her parents so she decided to study electrical engineering instead. His sister, Sandra, who is only a year younger than he is, decided to study speech therapy, and has been told many times that she has the same traits as her mother. And then there’s Aish, who is studying materials science and engineering (they can’t make up their minds), but complains about it constantly, struggles with it, and makes it seem like she would be happier studying something else. One of the other options she’s considering is teaching, but growing up under Indian parents requires her to study something respectable, like medicine or engineering, even though her mother studied chemistry and is currently working at an elementary school.
And though Tom has talked to Aish about it extensively, he really isn’t one to say much, for he has become frustrated with mechanical engineering and really has no good idea with what he truly wants to do with his remaining years in the labor force. He’s thought of putting everything down and picking up music, maybe trying to get his foot in at some newspaper or magazine agency as a journalist or music critic, or even just driving around the country picking up random jobs and living for the day. But when thinking about it seriously, one of the things Tom enjoys doing most is helping others, and something he’s become decent at is explaining to others difficult concepts in a way that they can understand; it’s been a blessing to many a classmate and friend during testing season. And such it was that in a rather inopportune moment, while having a heated argument with one of his friends, it dawned upon him that like his mom, his sister, and his best friend, he’s been rejecting the idea of teaching. The argument he was having seemed to him more like a discussion now; Tom had found some inner peace realizing that he might find some joy in becoming a professor.
Most days Tom thinks about the girls he keeps close to him because women are difficult for Tom to understand. Other days he thinks about what he wants to do with his life. And some days Tom thinks about death…
Although Tom’s day was often filled with stress from his engineering coursework and the frustrations of his social life, one of the things that got him through was the presence of Benedicto. The two had met in the 6th grade, and then again more intimately in the 8th grade when Benedicto went by the nickname “Gilligan”. Nobody really knew where the nickname came from, but it was anybody’s guess that it was given to him by the singer of his band. It got a little out of hand, to the point where some of his closest friends actually thought his name was Gilligan. But now that he was in college, Benedicto decided to drop the buffoon name and go by “Ben”. It took over a year for Gilligan to die.
After failing to make any new friendships his freshman year, Ben reluctantly agreed to room with Tom and two of Tom’s high school friends their second year of college.
"I don’t understand, I told this girl that I was the guitarist for Empty Vinyl and played with Johnny Depp, and all she said was ‘So did you want a soda with your tuna?’"
Despite sharing tons common interests, Tom and Ben always made it a point to single out the little things that made them different. Case in point, neither of them ever bought anything other than tuna subs, but Tom went for the melt, and Ben criticized him for being gay (like the seal, not Anderson Cooper).
But worse than the accusations of homosexuality thrown at each other were those directed at them by their friends. To be fair, the two did have what some would refer to as a bromance (like a romance… between bros) - Tom would often lie beside Ben on his bed, Ben would pull his pants down and tackle Tom unto the couch, and it was not uncommon for them to share a meal at the Olive Garden (lovingly referred to as “the OG”). It was all the nipple twisting, and the drunken races down Main Street, and the bananas they used to demonstrate in which direction their penis curved that gave Tom his best times in college.
On the weekends, typically Friday night, Tom hangs out with his friends, usually involving going to dinner at one of the restaurants in town and some other social activity to shoot the shit and take off their minds from the stressful lives they lead. You guessed it, they’re all engineering upperclassmen. And a few other things. To be more general, they were all a bunch of guys, the kind who stay in on a Saturday night to study for a test, who talk about whether it’s possible to go faster than the speed of light despite special relativity at a restaurant, and who don’t know when to stop laughing when the cute girl at the cash register says a joke. They’re also the kind that spend 20 minutes bragging to each other about their master plans to take the cashier out on a date, but cannot find the balls to ask for her number, or even her name.
This is where Tom has started to break apart. All his life Tom has had women take important roles in his life - his two sisters, his mom, his grandmother who lived with them, his ex-girlfriend, the group of girls he used to sit with in high school, his ten female cousins, and he’s had a history of keeping at least one female best friend (usually stemming from failed attempts at dating). A year after the breakup with his girlfriend, Tom made it a point to spend at least one of his nights each week with the only girl that hung out with them, Aishwarya, whose parents hailed from the Punjab, though she hailed from the American suburbs. Tom and Aish met their freshman year and since both were in relationships, they became close friends since the whole dating possibility was out the window. Although Tom refused to admit it for two years, Tom had developed feelings for Aish, which were mild at first, but were further complicated when they both used the other to fill the holes left behind by their failed relationships.
Aish kept Tom close so that he could comfort her when she was having a bad day and keep her company during the mundane nights of the week. Tom took every opportunity he could to remain close to Aish, eating dinner with her instead of his other friends, delaying his work until the late hours of the night in order to cook dinner with her. Without really thinking about it, Tom was growing fond of her, pulling her closer when he rubbed her head, letting her rest her head and fall asleep on his shoulder, and giving her one of his favorite sweaters, which she wore quite often. One day he realized that they were essentially in a relationship, so he sought on a way to make it official. But while he was ecstatic to take their friendship to the next level, she was enjoying the lack of commitment and stress in her single life and had no intention or given the thought to being in a relationship, much less with her best friend. And with this, Tom found himself in a scenario he hadn’t been in since his early years of high school - Tom had become her “good friend” Tom.
Let us examine now the lazy engineer (a curious thing considering many engineers are lazy):
Sitting in front of a computer running at an operating system that is ten years outdated because the software that he is getting paid to run is ten years outdated. The lazy engineer is disenchanted with the field that he decided to pursue and it shows in the way that he processes his data at a depressingly slow rate. The lazy engineer, who goes by the name of Tom (or Thomas if he’s trying to make himself sound more professional), at one point decided to join the lab he currently works at in order have a more personal look what it’s like to do research in his field. He did so because year after year Tom attends the numerous career fairs and meet-and-greets with companies in the hope that some corporate minion would find him fit for an internship. But year after year Tom is stuck in the swamp, which only makes it harder for him to reconcile with the irritating pain of knowing that he could have gone to one of the big-shot schools in the North.
His entire life he dreamed of going North, where the snow fell, where people were more educated, where opportunities laid at his grasp in front of him like the oranges lining the side of the highway. From the time he was 9, Tom’s goal in his young life was to grow to be a bright young man, with excellent grades, and test scores that would guarantee him entry to the top institutions in the world and scholarship offers from all over to reward his efforts. All his life. Until reality appeared, smashing his face like the gloves of Mike Tyson on a Saturday night. The day he was told there wasn’t enough money to send him out of state Tom just lowered his sight and went to his room. Several days later his failure dawned upon him, and Tom screamed through his clenched teeth as he threw the remote across the living room.
But in any case, this is the reality Tom is in, at a school below his standards, where he is consistently at or near the top of his classes, unwanted by the industry he’s training to work in, and lacking any passion for any particular aspect of mechanical engineering. (I guess Tom focused so much on going to a prestigious school, that he forgot to give much thought to what he wanted to study once he got there) In front of him is the daunting task of deciding where he wants to go in his professional life, but for the time being he is focused on finding the inspiration to go into work every day and run experiments for a project that he halfheartedly accepted when he had even less of an idea of what he wanted.
If you sit back and let life take you, you’ll go places you might not want to go to, and miss out on the places you wish to be. I’m trying to steer my life in the direction that I want to go towards, and this means things will change. There has been this tension building in the past few days - at work, with others, within myself - and all I feel like doing is kicking back by myself and letting the haze take the tension away.
It’s so great when you find the song that fits your mood, I’ve been feeling this song all day. The Rolling Stones have really been growing on me the past few months, blues rock in general. In reality, though, this song describes how I’ve been feeling in the past months, because no matter how many friendship points I earn, I’ll never amount enough to redeem the grand prize.
Why do I have two blogs? Expressing my life through music is part of who I am.
will work out. David, it’s alright.