Of course, I am talking about the semester. As I came in today, at 8 AM, the parking garage was empty, and I was wondering if the clock in the car wasn’t wrong. Then on the way to the coffee shop, I saw the sign that said today was the first day of the semester break. I first thought today was the last day of the semester, but no, the semester is past.
I am alone in the office/lab so far, and the four potted plants that me and my labmate got the other day from the UCF environmental society’s giveaway are in full bloom. It is a nice, warm day.
This past semester was good, as far as I am concerned. Completed two papers, got tickets on a plane to Las Vegas for a conference, defended the candidacy proposal, completed a website for the lab and my professor – in short it does seem like something was achieved. 6 of the 16 or so weeks were absolute killers, with about 80+ hours of work being put in each of those weeks. Almost an equal number were troublesome, in that, despite the best effort, not much got done in those weeks, and I was moony, frequently spacing out entire mornings. I would love to be more “regular” in my hours and the rate at which work gets done, but there is this thing, deep inside of me, that fears regularity.
Polash, a friend during the Bachelor’s degree had something to say about the same. We were returning on our bicycles from a visit to Nair’s Mess (a “mess” is a place where you can have a proper lunch/dinner — how appropriate!), and were passing through the staff quarters on the way to the hostels. We saw a Lecturer (a professor, perhaps) riding on his bright blue Bajaj scooter, with his wife seated behind him, a kid in her lap, and another kid standing up front on the scooter.
It is not unusual to have 4 people ride on a scooter, in fact, it was almost the norm. The time I was born was the time the government publicized the “Hum Do, Hamare Do” (we two, ours two) programme, and family planning and all that jazz, so the average Indian family had two kids, and together with Mom and Dad, all of them would fit on the one scooter. It is such a common sight and yet I can’t find an image on google. Remind me to take a picture of a family on a Bajaj the next time I am in India. It was so common that Bajaj ran a print ad with a pic, and the punchline “Chunnu Munnu Di Papa Di Gaddi” (Chunnu Munnu’s Papa’s Vehicle). Alright, so that was enough of a digression.
Now, when Polash saw the family, he said, “How regular! The family out for an evening of fun. I hope I don’t grow up to have a family like this one. The prof will likely never quit teaching here, and would have settled down to living with his wife, and kids, and should be able to predict his days down to the last hour.” Now Polash was not the typical Indian (oops, Bangladeshi). He used to say, “Give me all the troubles and pain Man has to go through, so I will have experienced life,” and other such equally cliched things. He was always the aspiring Devdas.
What he said, though, struck a chord with me. I am scared that my life will be too regular. It is not that I fear tranquility, I fear stability across the board. Change is what keeps me going (during my undergrad days, this was literally true — small change bought tea, snacks, and often food, too). I would love a job that would have me move every two-three years, or in which I could go places every now and then – where I meet new people, and non-regular people at that. Maybe you can replace “job” with “career” in the previous sentence. I read about the job at WorldChanging and spent a good ten minutes imagining the possibilities. I have given up trying to explain to myself why I am an engineer – not that I am not good at it, or dislike it, but if I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t still be an engineer, I would be working to save what’s left of the Earth’s resources, beauty, and diversity, through direct action. For the moment, I love what I do, but think I might love something else more. So, like a married man contemplating adultery, I feel guilty about having thoughts of alternate lives I can live.
I saw Office Space recently, and that explains the “If I had a million dollars…” whine in the previous paragraph. It sucks to be done with a third of your life, and yet have no clue about questions like:
- what am I really good at?
- what would I like to do a couple of years from now?
- how the hell is this world going to sustain itself?
- am I as happy as I possibly could be?
If I don’t stop now, I will feel bad at the end of the day, and break quite a few small resolutions I have made – all directed towards making myself more organized and regular. My irregular work habits generally work fine, but seem unsustainable. I don’t know if regularity is really as bad as I think it can be, and have decided to find out by being regular. I figure that this will also give me some time to regularly pursue other things, besides academics — time that has been steadily decreasing.