Back On The Grid

In the past half year, I’ve posted three times. That just won’t do. I’m back on the job. And while I risk this commitment falling through before it even starts, since I don’t have a pipeline of posts just waiting for me to click Publish on, I’m bursting with topics I’ve wanted to write about, but haven’t been disciplined enough to find the time for.

So many things have changed over the last half year.

Nobody Knows The Answer

So after fumbling around for the first couple weeks, I’m starting to become more comfortable with this whole independent thing. I just needed a kick in the pants and a change of mindset, provided to me quite serendipitously.

This past Thursday, as I wrung my hands in agony, waiting for technical difficulties to be sorted out during the internet install at my apartment, missing meetings I had booked, I was pretty sure I was screwing up not two weeks into the job. Dealing with situations on my own and being responsible for all my actions (or inactions) are definitely key components to making it in the real world. The minute the tech was done, I rushed back to the office, just in time for a Program Manager specification writing ‘bootcamp’, where I hoped to wash away my time management sins from earlier in the day.

It was during that seminar that the eye-opening line came, “Nobody Knows the Answer.

Alright, so it was in the context of designing a feature area, but I think the lesson holds true for life. Nobody really knows the answer. Guidance is one thing, but looking for someone to hold your hand, while you walk along the path of life, is not the best idea. Those uncertainties I’ve had? Others have them too. Don’t expect others to know what’s best. Do the research, and make a decision. That’s my advice to myself.

Speaking with some friends, both at work and outside, I’m beginning to realize I’m not the only one mucking my way through.

A Wall

Alright. I think it’s time for the one week update. I’ve had four days of real work and a day of orientation at Microsoft, and things are settling in nicely. I’ve been given my responsibilities (and they’re going to be fun, to say the least!), become reacquainted with the team and am preparing to write real commitments for the upcoming fiscal year. Genuinely, I’m very excited about this next year. I think the products coming out of the company will make a dent in the marketplace. Of course, getting a free Windows Phone is pretty cool too.

I’ve moved into an apartment, completely unfurnished, which has been a change from my university experiences. Household goods have never been on my radar much, so buying pots and pans, furniture, cleaning supplies and so forth is a bit foreign to me. It’s been interesting finding out approximately what that something should cost. Yeah, this is the real world. University life has been so sheltered in comparison.

And I think that’s the one thing that I’m beginning to discover. I’m now fully independent; everything that needs to be done, I do myself. I now chart my own life and decide the wisest choice of action. It’s intimidating and there’s no ramp. It’s just a big wall I have to climb.

The Best

A guy, whom I’d not seen since first year, gave a talk today in my Entrepreneurship class about the company he started a year ago. He’s my age and already off doing great things with kik. It was an inspirational talk, and got me thinking about my life goals.

I think this ties back to my rant/rambling on New Years Day 2010. I have this begrudging sense of dissatisfaction. I feel like I’m taking the easy way, the boring way out by accepting a full time position after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time at Microsoft last semester and it is a fantastic place to work. But perhaps that’s the issue? It’s just a job? It’s not living life (however you want to determine what that really means) and doing something I’m super passionate about.

I grew up being at the top of my class, and while there was a setback at the beginning of my university career, I regained the top spot again this past semester. Being the best I can be is a great goal, but there’s also a part of me that simply wants to be the best, full stop. Sounds ultra jealous and perhaps selfish, but I’m competitive. There’s no reason to deny that. It’s part of what defines me and drives me to overcome challenges I’ve faced throughout my life. But there’s always someone better. The other day, I was reading Wikipedia articles on the Ivy League schools and their prestigious alumni. Glancing at the University of Waterloo page only made me feel small, insignificant.

I need to find my own direction. I need to make the best of my situation. Enough with reading about others’ successes. There comes a time when one needs to find their own success and be the best in some other way. All I’ve done is try to emulate others, but that needs to stop. Time to drive.

Goals For a New Decade

I’ve determined that I’m a thinker-drunk. Last night, as I gulped down drinks with close friends in anticipation of the new year and decade, I contemplated my life and the direction it’s taken in the last few years. I’m close to completing my engineering degree, have a full time position waiting for me upon graduation, and will be moving onto the next phase of my life. Things seem pretty good, but they aren’t.

Fulfillment. I believe it’s missing.

I came back to Prince Edward Island for a week during the holidays, and immediately slipped back into the group of friends I went to school with for upwards of 12 years in several cases. These were friendships developed through a near lifetime of classes, competition, hanging out, and numerous other experiences. I put a lot of effort into my personal relationships and was rewarded with a very close group of genuine friends. Short of my parents, I feel like these are the people I can rely on in any emergency.

Back when my life was on Prince Edward Island, I participated in numerous extracurricular activities and derived fulfillment from the caring of others, of friends. I knew that network was worth working for and despite some tough life lessons, those people brought meaning to my life. For the past four years in university, there has been little that I would consider meaningful to that extent.

My parents told me before university that I could have two of three things there: friends, sleep, and a good degree. I scoffed at the thought. I valued friendships so much after my experiences on PEI. I couldn’t imagine not continuing that through university. Now that I’m looking at my last semester at the University of Waterloo, I can conclude that friends and a bit of sleep were dropped from the list. The people I spend the majority of time with in classes simply aren’t the type of people I’ve become accustomed to from my time on PEI. The time and effort needed to strike out to meet more people was spent on work and studies. Despite my dismissal of my parents’ comment, it proved accurate. Perhaps the issue is that I’ve been spoiled by my friends from PEI. I’m not sure you can find that kind of friendship without going through 12 years of common life experiences day in, day out.

For many years, even into my university career, I thought I was going to end up doing something great, something unique. Now with graduation so near and a full time position locked up, I feel like I’m giving up on that and entering the drudgery of the rest of my normal life. This is it? I look to friends in psychology or arts or education and wonder if they won’t be more fulfilled by the paths they’ve chosen. Many still don’t know what they will be doing in 4 or 6 months, but it almost seems like that would be better than plotting out the rest of my life in corporate America. I’ve become so… typical. They’re the ones striking out, ready to do crazy, exciting things. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Microsoft. If I end up taking the offer, I hope I can find meaning in the work I do there. My greatest fear is not that I won’t perform – I am willing to give more than everything I have, as evidenced this last semester – it’s that I will question what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m having these thoughts earlier than most. Chasing promotions and money already seems a bit boring, and, sorry to use the word so many times, meaningless. This past semester, I didn’t have much outside of work to live for, so I lived for work. My friend commented that towards the end of high school, I became much more balanced in my work-life balance, but over the past several years, I’ve slipped back into a work > all mindset. I cannot disagree with his assessment. Back in high school those friends were a big part of my life. I’ve since filled the void with work and study.

My friends hoped I wouldn’t engross myself with work and turn into one of those awkward computer science people. I need to find something that brings me joy and fulfillment in the new decade, outside of my job. This is the decade that will likely shape the rest of my life. I will make difficult decisions in my career and, who knows, perhaps even find that girl that I’ll settle down with.

I’ve always been extremely goal-oriented, so it seems appropriate to set out some measurable ones today. For the 2010’s, my goal is to apply my skills in the computer and business fields to aid NGO’s that I feel strongly about. I will give time in order to be more involved than simply donating financial aid. I will make an effort to meet people through these organizations, and see if I can’t find meaningful relationships outside of Prince Edward Island.

This is the decade I stop emphasizing work over all else and try to find some meaning in my life. Welcome 2010.