Yoknapatawpha Crossing

Inspect, Sir or Madam, my sleeve…

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Things have gotten to a point where I am truly and sincerely irked at many of the obligations I have. When I first began working as an A/V tech for the college, it was interesting. I got to fiddle with a bunch of crazy equipment, my boss didn’t treat me like an idiot and gave me a lot of responsibility, and I got to drive the awesome old red van around campus. The fact that I did, and do, get paid peanuts for the work is rather beside the point; the job was appealing because it was flexible and on campus. I do still value it for these reasons, but in the past year the job has become rote and annoying, and I have developed a habit of shunting it to the side whenever possible. You can only set up speakers and microphones so many times before it loses its charm.

I’ve experienced the same problem (on a much shorter time scale) at the Flat Hat. This job was initially appealing because it required (I believed) a minimal time investment and consisted entirely of mindless work, for which I would be well-paid. This is true, but as I became better acquainted with the position, it became clear that doing a good job would require a slightly greater time investment, and would consist of work that was indescribably boring but was involved enough to demand attention. I stopped enjoying both of these jobs some time ago, but I do still enjoy receiving a paycheck, and so have continued to suffer them. But they require time, and time is the thing that I’m least inclined to give them.

The real problem with devoting time to these jobs is not the jobs themselves, but what they’re keeping me from. It has reached a point where I am starting to get some (very general, non-specific, vague) ideas of what I want to spend my time on, and these ideas do not include recording a capella performances of mediocre college groups or tallying the advertising accounts at the school newspaper.

When I say “what I want to spend my time on,” I’m not talking about a “Gee, I think I’d like to sit down and read this book for a while” kind of feeling. What I mean is that right now, at the beginning of this semester, I am fired up about my classes and about learning this new material. I’m cracking open my textbooks and thinking, “God damn, this looks really interesting. I want to really sit down this semester and get a good handle on this.” I’m working through a problem and becoming extremely involved in writing a routine to build a B-spline approximation to a function. And I know that it’s horribly, horribly dorky, and I don’t care. Previously in my “college career,” classes and math were things that I did because I was good at them and because there was a nagging feeling in the back of my head that it would all pay off one day; they weren’t things that I was inspired to do in and of themselves. But for the past couple of semesters, math has become something that truly grips my interest; it has become something that I very much want to devote my time to. Population diffusion models? Lay that shit out. Hermitian matrices? Give me a heaping spoonful. It is to the point where I am, bless my little head, excited by all this.

The fact that I am excited is itself exciting, and also frustrating. Exciting for the obvious reasons: I’ve found some things that I am deeply interested in, and that I (would) happily invest my time with. It’s exciting because the longer I study this subject, the more certain I become that I’ve found a niche that I can be happily productive in, and that applying to continue studying this subject in graduate school was the right choice. It’s frustrating because the world at large is essentially ignorant of my newfound direction: random part-time jobs continue to impose themselves, professors continue to assign work, and I don’t have the kind of time that I want for devoting to geekier pursuits.

This is the source of the dim view I currently have of my jobs and other responsibilities. What were initially pleasant and profitable distractions have become merely distractions that I could do without. These are temporary problems, however, and knowing that I’ll be shedding many of these obligations as the semester progresses makes it easier to put up with them now. In fact, I really have so little to complain about it’s laughable. In spite of everything, I fully expect this semester to be a wonderful end to a wonderful four years.

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Written by Daniel Grady

January 31, 2006 at 10:14

Posted in Uncategorized

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