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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Incoming Freshman: The Checklist to As and Honors

You are about to embark on an life-altering adventure at Kick-Ass-And-Take-Names State, the number #1 higher education institution for your potential career in Microbiotech-Entrepreneurial Law with minors in Post-modern art and Chinese philosophy. (I am only half-kidding.) You arrive as a hot co-ed or Geek Squad president of your ultra-cool high school with all-state accolades in football, bungee jumping, and Douchocity. To say you need help with college does not calculate in your 2350-having SAT score head.
But you would be wrong!

So, here's a few things to do before you go to I'll-be-making-$100,000-cos-I'm-smart university:
1)  Buy your books early and read 20% of their contents. The first suggestion, you can usually find out what they are via online setups at universities, or via the local bookstore(s). Make sure you get the right edition, right author, right title -- ISBNs usually help here  -- or you better know Kierkegaard inside and out. Go to Alibris, Amazon, or whatever cool outlet actually gets them to you reliably and CHEAP! Second, read! It is important to take the 3 weeks before class to get cracking on the books - skim 4 or 5 chapters and read shit that seems important. Take notes too - that too takes practice.  Try it out - like being a virgin all over again!

Goal: Save possibly $100-200 on your weekend-before-class, book-buying peers, be ahead in class from day one, and actually learn a habit that will carry you well onto Grad School: read up over the summer.

2) House me. If you are well off -- and most of you are not (loans don't count) -- but...if mommy and daddy are, and you have 2 or 3 real friends, who seem capable of responsibility (meaning: they won't flunk out after a year or flake out either), maybe buying a stake in a condo or cheap house can work wonders. Think about it: your buddies pay your parents rent - at a better rate, than a DORM - and that goes into your stay at the university for 4-5 years. Now, it means too flipping the house, 4-5 years down the road. But if the 'rents know finance, and can rely on you (and their assessments of your friends too), it could be a good deal. It also means you have to maintain the place. No 10 keg parties with ganja odoring around like a Pink Floyd pig at their once-wild light show concerts is permitted. (See Left) Sure, party, but be a neighbor too. Mow the lawn. Actually take out your own trash. Vacuum.  Maybe indoor painting or some shit when your not getting high or drunk, like a responsible adult does.

3) Begin to tell the truth. College is about exploring the depths of your passions...bla bla bla. Look, you should like what you are majoring in, but bullshitting your resume (and yourself) around town is not going to work for too long. Oh, and fess up to your past - you were not the darling you thought you were, nor the stud of the high school. Be real -- and learn some humility. The sooner you learn how not to lie to everybody (and yourself), the happier you will be. Girlfriends. Boyfriends. Yep, they count. Might be exes, but 'ems the breaks. Professors: NO excuses! They are not going to buy your lack of completion of assignments because you were really too busying trying to see if you could jam your social calendar in between psychology and calculus assigments.

4) Time Management. You get a schedule of classes, the marching orders for all your days. Problem is, you basically find out you got a lot of weird gaps and little motivation to do a routine outside of it. Break this. Wake up same time 5 out of 7 days - Monday thru Friday. (See, I'm fun!) Set your life around the earliest class, find a routine that involves books, a quiet place, and preferably, a same-sex study buddy that studies. (Or: if you are liberated from the dorm closet, an opposite sex stud bud.)  After you learn how to put this 3-week routine - the time to learn a good habit - you will have learn how to gain time, get shit done, possibly to the improvement of your other activities. (Exercise anyone???)

5) Organizations. Join only stuff you will do. Resume builders are not joining every club or interest you may have. One club only. (At least until junior year.) Greek organizations - oh, that's not giving, that socializing - so unless they are tied to schoolwork, forget them too. (GDI speaking here. But they have a purpose; but not recommended.)

6) Organizing and Budgets. Yep, you are an adult - 18 and Life to Go. Best get a money program to keep track of your finances and put all your life important stuff in the latest wiz-bang technology. Actually, find a way to be both tech-friendly and paper-useful together. That way, things will not end in tragedy when you drop the cell in the toilet, or your laptop is bound for Guadalajara menos tu.

Secondly, you need a way to keep all the important papers and the other junk you will collect (like beer cups for Schooner night) organized. Start early. Make logical files and consolidate mercilessly, both in paper and on your computer. Do you laundry -- unless mom is a crier for dirty underwear -- and donate shit that does not fit, a.k.a. the Freshman 15. Make a pact to not end up on a episode of Hoarders. The earlier you learn habits that stop chaos in your life, the better off you will be - might even be financially better off than mom and dad.

7) Fun is not a beer and boyfriend/girlfriend. Look: having a good relationship is easier once you know what you want. The author here knew not what he wanted until he was 25, 26...and that changed too, funny how that does. So at 18, you are likely as fickle as a reality TV star that is picking through 25 potential mates in the hopes some magical karmic fate strikes while a camera rolls and the money is good. Shit, you can have a few nice times without a SO. And beer: well you'll drink. Hopefully, not to excess (ha ha) but keep in mind that most of the people, like 98%, you hang with in this activity will not be around in any meaningful way after college.

So that's my advice.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A 2012 Mid-Year in Review: A Year Without Mom

I have not been writing very much lately. It has dawn on me that my skills as a writer may not reach a level worthy of recording every silly thought or review of a situation. Just seems irrelevant to pop online to talk about whatever movie, legal case, political issue, or economic turn happens to catch my fancy for the time it takes to organize some coherent thoughts. Other matters are more important than the contributions one makes via blogs.

Today, one year has passed since my mother's death and funeral. Obviously, it runs through my head a lot. July 4th is my grandfather's death to remember too. So while others prepare for food fests, live concerts, fireworks, tracker pulls, horse showings, and whatever else makes the Fourth, the fourth, I will likely ride my bike around campus a lot and watch movies for my own way to get through the holiday.

The year since has been one of reorganization and reality. I got into to Purdue again, achieved my best GPA ever and semester honors, and will take the GMAT in August. I moved to West Lafayette, and currently, paint apartments and bust up plaster that needs work while spackling over the rough spots too. My life too needs more spackle (and walls of plaster) in places we've discussed before, many years ago on this blog.

I spend most of my time alone. Have not made good friends yet, not for lack of trying. But again, as always,
past experiences and realities just are...there. A line from the movie, Hoosiers, by Barbara Hersey's character regarding Gene Hackman's plights before coming to Hickory to coach basketball: "A man your age comes to a place like this, either he's running away from something or he has nowhere else to go."
At Purdue, a little of both is probably true of me.

I saw this course as the last go at school and whatever that might bring. That there can not be much to gain from staying on a paper route, hoping I'll get ahead, and knowing it never did get me (or my mom) anywhere in the decade plus of time we both dedicated to that task. That I also have no where else to go and no one left in my life to share it with is true. This is due to a fear of intimacy.

To be clear: In the last moments and months of my mother's life, I found a closeness to her even as she could not always make clear her thoughts (dementia and cancer.) Being relied upon, and counted to do the right thing, is never easy. I made mistakes and stress was in every decision. Yet, I did my utmost to give my mother as much of a happy time as we could afford. (Her favorite: going to PETSMART to pet the cats. We went about twice a week as it was nearby.) Simple, frivolous to many I suppose, but it was something. Book stores too were treat. Shopping at Target. Watching the Cubs...

But outside of that one relationship (the easiest one to be closest, for many people, but not all), I have no real close relationships. Just superficial acquaintances and meager work connections that end at the juncture of mutual interests and quitting time. Years ago, I discussed this from the woe-is-me, victim-is-me standpoint. I was who I was then; flawed and failed and flailing around for answers. It was after the first time I seriously attempted to tear down a codependent, fear-of-rejection/intimacy wall as a recovering alcoholic in 1999-2000 while in a community organization. Later, I was duly burnt by pursuing an unavailable woman; reacted very badly to her salt-in-the-wounds rejection; was punished rightly for my bitter and spiteful words in retaliation; and had to accept lies told (to buttress the legal case) on top of that. And then...life had to go on with the damage done.
Now, I have tried to be more open, yet guarded also, since there are others out there that are just as hurt and
just as willing to repeat their cycle of re-victimization. So while I can hope to make things work, I realize what are the missing pieces to the puzzle: intimate relationships. What is worse - I have never seen them in operation in my own life. No happy intimate relationship while in any romance. (14 years since I've even kissed a woman.) Barely a friendship to count on. For some, I can hear, "well, you need to give more to others." 

The last six to eight months, in various ways, I have made strides on this area. At least dozen fellows, for various reasons, I have tried to advise in long form. Work-related, life goals, self-improvement mantras, or titles of worth, or just general encouragement in pursuit of the long-term. Sometimes a few minutes, others, maybe 1/2 to and hour in social atmospheres I probably should not be in - bars. Advise, not, "This is what you should do...period," instead just stories from my own failings... Yet, while worthwhile, it lacks. It's not fulfilling long-term. Still does not solve my own personal issues. But, I try.   (And for contrast: I've tried a couple times to talk to ladies. Not very successful at all - nor were they open to advice - in fact, plenty of know-it-all ladies must attend Purdue. Wisdom: the outcome of failed experiences. Or: You can learn a lot from a dummie. )

That said, you have to Run Your Race. (See Below.)

So, that's the year in review, mid-year. We will see where I am next year.

Will I still blog, if infrequently?
Will I be in an MBA program?
Will I make a contribution of note?
Will I cross a rubicon in my evolution towards a more whole and satisfying life?

I realize some may not like Joel Osteen, but a few bits here in Run Your Race are worth listening to:

1) 20:25-22:30 Saul & High Maintenance People
2) 24:15-25:30 The Old Man, the Boy, and The Donkey, People Pleasing
3) 25:35-27:15 Dreams Untold (Joseph, Mary)
4) 11:55-13:00 The Pit: People Pleasing, Ignoring Advise