Zeke’s Life, Spring 2010 edition: Be Here Now

I don’t know where the last couple of days have gone, but I want my weekend back!

I haven’t been posting a lot about daily life this semester because I am lucky enough to actually be very consumed with school and the career search. I really didn’t expect things to hit me so hard all of a sudden, but I’ve been going seemingly nonstop since January or February. For the most part I’ve been handling it OK, though I’ve definitely had to shift gears on my daily routine.

One unfortunate truth is that I get so distracted having my desk in my bedroom that it’s pretty hard to be productive from home, so I find myself kicking myself out of the house a lot to get stuff done – to the CSU library if the time is right, but more often than not, I’m at the Alley Cat, Fort Collins’ 24/7 coffeeshop near campus. I quickly gained my FourSquare mayorship, I’ve had more than one precarious 4 AM bike ride home in varying levels of snow, and I am not going to tell you how much money I spend there. (The cost of the coffee and food is far offset by my productivity gains from the removed distractions.)

Currently on my plate are two big midterms and one case study on my own while working together on a huge paper and presentation with another group. Somewhere in there, I also need to find room to squeeze in a freelance project and the hunt for a job (Not knowing what I’m doing a month from now? Not the greatest feeling!) Despite all that, I feel like I’ve been ramping up the workload so steadily now that I can still manage to get stuff done without self-destructing. It’s interesting, though – I really haven’t felt this intense, stressful-yet-exciting kind of routine since my last senior year, back in high school. Back then I was juggling AP exams, college applications, understaffing at work, and a family with a 14 year old and a 4 year old at home. The situation has changed, but it’s the same old story: I’m super busy, but it’s almost all really worthwhile stuff that has me excited for what lies ahead.

I’m still actually working on the answer to what does lie ahead. On the practical level, I’m looking for systems analysis, sales engineer, and web developer opportunities in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins and San Francisco. But I’m wondering a lot more about long-term stuff: what do I want my life to look like? Do I want to move to a big downtown area and try the urban yuppie lifestyle? Do I want to travel? Do I go back to Spain or do I take care of my massive international “to-do” list? Since I’m at a point in my life where I have the freedom to make those decisions, I feel like I should really think a lot about them before I commit myself to one path for a while, since I’m just finishing up this 4-year “chapter.”

I find myself thinking back to a walk I took a year ago alone on the dunes of the Sahara: it was there that I felt the most clarity and perspective I’ve ever experienced. That wasn’t really a “what am I going to do with my life” kind of moment; it was more like a time where all distractions were removed to the point where all that remained was the pure essence of being in communion with all that really matters in the world. A few months later, I was back in the daily grind when this line from Six Feet Under hit me like a ton of bricks:

All we have is this moment, right here, right now. The future is just a fucking concept that we use to avoid being alive today. So, Be. Here. Now.

I never expected to get a serious philosophical revelation from an HBO show, but it really does explain it all. The stuff I have going on isn’t necessarily irrelevant, but it’s really important to me that I don’t get lost in it. I want to go after a lifestyle for my future. My goal is not to save for retirement, or be super successful, or be the best person in my professional field. I don’t want to burn out on stress to the point that I need a vacation to recharge my spiritual batteries. I want to work towards making every aspect of my life: personal, professional, social, financial, spiritual, whatever – into things that enrich my life and the lives of everyone around me. And that’s it. Anything that doesn’t work towards that probably shouldn’t be there.

Small Victories (with apologies to Shakira)

My intensive spanish course doesn’t allow the use of English to help define Spanish words, so when we don’t know one, we have to explain its meaning in Spanish. It’s difficult at times… I’ll give you an example here. I’ll leave it alone for the hispanohablantes to figure it out, with English spoilers afterwards…

Today we were going over vocabulary for different body parts. The word caderas came up and most of the students didn’t know what it meant. It took me a minute and an example involving a dancing student and then I figured it out. Trying to define it to the class in Spanish, however, was near impossible, until it came to me:

“No mienten.”

About half the class figured it out just with that.

 “No mienten” = They don’t lie.

ENGLISH CLUE #2 (for the truly hopeless)

Well I’ve been in Granada for a couple of days now, and I’ve been able to adjust to the city some more. I’ll commence the unfocused mental dump of my observations from the last few days:

  • Granada feels way more urban than I had expected. I thought it would be a small to medium-sized town like Fort Collins, but it’s about twice the size of that – around 250,000 people. I’ve been saying for a while that I’d like to try living in a big city, and while Granada is pretty small relative to Denver, Phoenix or Madrid, it’s still way more urban than anywhere I’ve lived before. Maybe it’ll make for a good trial of a somewhat larger city before taking the plunge into a city of millions.
  • Living in an old city with old streets is a very – well, foreign – concept. It’s obvious that there was no master planner in Granada, and it’s really easy to make a wrong turn that takes you way farther away from your destination than you had intended. I’ve gotten lost several times but the major streets and landmarks in the city center are starting to become familiar. I know enough to get home and get to class 😀
  • The weather here is abnormally cold. It snowed yesterday, which is very rare. Many, many scarves. I’ll probably pick up the trend this weekend.
  • Because of the crappy weather, I haven’t bothered to go anywhere near La Alhambra yet. I want to tour it when the weather is just a bit better.
  • Going out tonight for the first time, not counting the pool hall I went to in Madrid. I’ve heard good things about the nightlife here, so I’ll have to report back on that.
  • I have one class for the next three weeks. It’s four hours long every day, with two profesoras that teach for two hours each. Neither of them know a word of English (or at least they claim) and it’s not allowed to define or translate an English word for another student – we have to try to define the word we have in mind in Spanish. It’s more difficult, and after several hours of this  my brain definitely starts to hurt. We won’t be learning any new grammar in our class, but instead will be reviewing everything we’ve learned and perfecting it in order to correct all of the little mistakes. It’s exactly what I need, so it’ll be hard, but I’ll be glad I did it by the end of the month. After that I’ll advance a level and take my semester classes one level up.
  • I’m resisting the temptation to eat at Burger King. My roommate went there today and he says it’s better than it is in the States. I’m going to guess that I’ll cave in in another day or two.
  • Everything they say about learning a language by studying abroad is definitely true. Being around it all  for just a week has helped me to pick up so much, and I’ve met a few students who were here for the last semester that are excellent with the language.
  • My English writing has gotten sigificantly worse because my mind keeps trying to form sentences in Spanish structures.
  • In the last day or so I’ve started correcting myself constantly, even mid-sentence. I think it’s good that I’m thinking about the “little rules” that I so often break, but at the same time it’s probably annoying to try and carry on a  conversation with someone who can barely complete their sentences.
  • Spanish food is hearty and healthy. I’m still adjusting to the meal schedule but the food is great (and it’s nice to not have to find a million restaurants of varying quality and prices, like we had to for the first week). It is a bit more bland than some of my favorite foods, like Mexican or Thai, which definitely are a bit more strong in their tastes. I’ll have to go in search of some cayenne or something.
  • Starting to look at plans for my ~10 day break after the intensive month class is over. Ryanair is amazingly cheap, I can fly from Granada to Italy for like… 4 euro. I don’t have a huge list of “must-sees” for while I’m here, but I would like to see Belgium, Prague, Rome, maybe Amsterdam. Overall I’d like to stick to Spain, though. I don’t like the idea of spending lots of time in a place where I don’ know any of the language.
  • Before getting to Granada, I definitely felt like more of an observer than a participant in Spanish life. I’m starting to blend in a bit more and I’m sure that within a couple of weeks it will just come naturally to me.
  • Navigating streets and crowded areas is pretty strange – there really isn’t much of a concept of personal space here. I’m noticing little things I do to get out of others’ way that nobody else does, and realizing how funny it must look. I normally have great “crowd navigation skills” but here people have different fixed habits of which side to move to when you’re in someone’s way, and other things too.

Project Management is a Crock.

Actual test question:

“You are the project manager of a project that is executing. You are working on ensuring the application of systematic quality activities that were planned in the quality planning process, and ensuring that the project will employ all the processes needed to meet the requirements. Which are you performing?”
a) Quality Control
b) Quality planning
c) Quality assurance
d) Testing

For some reason, people with Project Management Professional certifications make six figures. Because of nonsense buzzwords like “ensuring the application of systematic quality activities”. I am calling foul.

Sometimes I hate being a business major.

Post-Break Motivations

Right now I really, really want to:

  • Kick the tires on FL Studio 8, which just came out
  • Build the new Deliver Me Seven website on WordPress 2.5, which is in Release Candidate stage and looks like an awesome update to the CMS software
  • Write out a couple of percussion pieces for the band (think 3 drummers, one bass.)

Notice anything missing on that list? Yeah, school kind of gets in the way of things. Grr…