Thursday, October 6, 2011

In a Blink

Hey again everybody,

There has been plenty of discussion about Steve Jobs in the last day or so and in the interest of not duplicating the thousands of articles and memorials I would like to talk about a somewhat related but personal take on my feelings in the last day.

These sentiments have presented themselves fairly often recently for me, with finishing up my masters degree very soon and figuring out how to start my adult life, I've been able to reflect on the many changes coming to my lifestyle in the months to come.  In recent weeks I have come to the realization that I am 23 years old now. This seems obvious, but it's actually something that hasn't really occurred to me in a while.  Considering that the odds of my living past 90 are extremely slim, this means I've made it a quarter of the way through my life.  Looking back at what I've accomplished so far does make me quite proud of how far I've come, but I have also come to realize that I have many ideas as for what to do with my life, but have executed very little of the overall plan.  From the time I was quite young, it was always expected that I go to university, and since I loved learning so much it seemed like an obvious choice.  I will always enjoy learning, and if I was given the choice of perfect career for me now it would be incredible to go to medical school or become an astronaut, though neither of those are really realistic choices.

I have always thought this, through all of my schooling and any time in life. I was always pretty sure I could go out and get whatever I wanted if I worked hard enough, but you cannot just go out into the world with no reputation and be hired or start your dream job.  People need to know what you are capable of before they decide to trust you to make decisions on your own.  It would be incredible to work at a company like Microsoft or Apple and I'm sure I could do an excellent job there, but just wanting it isn't good enough, no matter how hard you work.  Actual achievement takes more than that.  I have been told that I'm a fairly good writer, and in every endeavour I do my best to be the real me, which means that I always have to consider my impression on people.

Many, many people are extremely self-conscious, and I am not going to try to pretend that I'm not exactly the same as them, but I do approach situations differently than most people would.  I make mistakes like the next person, but I live with the mindset that if I am the real me all the time, I can still earn people's respect for it.  Nobody is perfect, and anybody who tries too hard to be will often be disappointed in themselves.  I know that I can't always give everything my best shot, there will be situations where I will be lazy, or make a bad decision which will wind up costing me opportunity.  I refuse to dwell on these decisions and their consequences, instead dealing with the problems which come from them and ending up a stronger person for it.

In the last year or so, I have set myself down a path which has been the result of some of these decisions.  For example, I am trying to learn computer programming, and have been for almost a year now.  When I first took the plunge I still had a fairly good understanding computers, both in how they work and how to use them to their full potential.  The main problem I have is that I keep trying to learn, because this is what I was trained by almost 20 years of education to do.  What I have so far failed to do is actually apply this knowledge to solve my own problems.  Since computers have been around for a few decades now, a lot of the hard work in programming is already done.  What remains makes it quite easy for newcomers to essentially pick up lego bricks and start building.  However, I have so far been unable to actually use these pieces to create something new, instead ending up using what other people have done for my benefit.  It is very difficult for me to comprehend why I have been unsuccessful so far, but I do intend to keep trying.

Another important point about adult life is the idea that as I am aging, everybody around me is also aging.  While this is extremely obvious when you have been away from your family and friends (as I have) for almost a year, gradual changes in people you seem on a regular basis are very hard to detect.  Many people I am friends with who I met in university are now full-fledged professional adults.  This happened quite gradually, for example I knew when people were graduating but it never really occurred to me that this meant that they were no longer in school and were finding jobs and careers.  I realize in talking to these people now that many things I take for granted no longer apply to them (such as student bus passes, student cell phone plans, etc.).  The thought of joining this world baffles and terrifies me, but it is also kind of exciting.  I know that nobody in the world is sitting watching my progress ready to offer me a job the second I finish school and I could continue on the same path I'm on unemployed and eventually either find a job or descend into hobodom.  I wouldn't really like to be homeless, but at the same time I don't intend to make a career out of something I don't really love.  What I really need to do is get out of the mindset that I am a student with no direction in life, and go find a compass.  I will never be found if nobody out there is looking for me.  Now that I am on the verge of finishing school, I very much need to find myself something new to try and really dedicate myself to it.  Only then will I find what I'm really meant to do.

If you haven't seen the video of Steve Jobs giving the 2005 commencement address at Stanford, I highly recommend it.  Beautiful, moving stuff.  I guess I have a lot to think about.