I've always been pretty bad at being a traditional student, but I've also always been pretty good at figuring stuff out on my own. For example my senior year in high school I found myself in a Calculus class that assumed I had learned Trigonometry. I hadn't but rather than drop the class I learned trig in a week (instead of a semester). Over the years I've gotten better at teaching myself things. Eventually I learned that my biggest barrier to success wasn't my abilities, but emotions. Without a syllabus its hard to know how well I'm progressing, or really have any clue how soon I will know the things I want to know. I have to be my own coach, and cheerleader much of the time. I got into the habit of work as an emotional boost. It makes me feel better to know that I got closer to my goals. Sometimes though if something is stressing me out then I will work to try to make myself feel better, but the work will just stress me out more, so I will try to cure that with more work... This got to the point where my whole body tensed up, and I got sick for over a month. Still though I continued learning, and I've started learning how to lower the pressure I put on myself while still getting things done. I've also started putting emphasis on doing things just to relax. I made a major milestone in my learning at about the same moment that I learned my grandpa had died. If I had learned he died a few minutes later my last post would have been about my success instead of his death.
Grandpa's service on Saturday was amazing. There was a Hawaiian quartet of guys singing, playing guitar, and ukulele. Songs of the islands, and of love. Hula dancers. Yodeling. Many people talking about the huge difference he made in their lives. My grandpa lived a good life, and that has gotten me thinking about how I want to live mine. I've been working on parts of it for years, and now I think I have some idea of how I want to put them together.
Just got a text message from my aunt followed up by a call from my sister that my grandpa died. I went, and visited him yesterday. He hadn't been awake in days. His mind has been mostly gone for over a month though. The last time I talked to him when he made any sense was the family get together for my birthday in mid March. I've been slowly grieving as his mind slipped away. I'm really glad that I spent a bunch of time with him in the fall when his mind was still there. I'm also glad that I went to the 50'th Pacific University Hawaiian Club Luau about a month ago. It's amazing the community that he helped get started. I'm really going to miss him.
I'm moving. I've been wanting to move, and not just because I can't afford my current place.
The fact that I can't afford my current place is a problem as far as moving, since moving costs money too. Once I'm moved for a month or two I will be good because the new place costs so much less, but I don't know how I'm going to pay my first months rent + last months rent + deposit yet, and I need to pay it in about a week. I think I need about $400 more than I have, but can probably pay it all back within two months.
Time to call my grandpa I guess.
I just read through a bunch of friends posts. Apparently while I wasn't paying attention not only did one person start a relationship they went on to get married, and have an incredibly cute baby boy. Another person seems to be a college professor now. A few of the people I have on my livejournal I still hang out with regularly, and so the news isn't so surprising. I know there are tons of the friends I hang out with in real life that are here in livejournal land too, but I haven't looked for them maybe I should.
I've been working on a big change for how I live my life for about the last month. In the ongoing struggle that my family has had to hold itself together since a bunch of people died about three years ago I've become aware of how weak a lot of the connections are. Although I can't remember ever not knowing most of the people in my family, I mostly know them through little 5 minute conversations a few times a year. This isn't just a problem with my family, but with many of my friends too. I've gotten pretty good at meeting new people, and getting to a good base where we are friendly with each other. What I want though is something stronger. I need one to one conversations. I've gotten to know a bunch of my friends better in the last month. And finally yesterday I sat down with my cousin Jamie. It only took about 30 years for this to happen. It turns out she is as awesome as I had suspected.
I've been slowly calming down. Had an emotional freakout. Perhaps brought on by talking to a man who said he has been homeless for the last 6 years. Such a different point of view on life. He didn't seem attached to stuff so much, but had had his backpack that he didn't like the color of for years. He was attached to a girl across an ocean. I can understand that. Perhaps I understand that too well, and that is why I freak out.
I've had other random encounters with people who have given me the best advice that they could. Saturday a woman was warning people about how her ex fiancé was using people for money, and worse hurting their feelings in ways that will take a very long time to heal. I used it both as advice for how to avoid people taking advantage of me, and for how to avoid hurting other people's feelings.
Another one was a man who told me about his mistakes, and how his family still loves him despite all of that. He told me to care about what I already have, and nurture it, not worry about the parts that were missing. To be the person I was meant to be. He wanted me to learn this 20 years sooner than it took him to learn.
Another man told me that if people could focus, and work together we could do almost anything, especially for good, but people don't have enough community, and our efforts are a jumbled mess that does much bad as a result. That we can be good, or evil, and we need to learn to work together for good for the sake of the little ones.
I think most of these people weren't used to being listened to. Some of this stuff was jumbled in with bits that I'm not sure was sane. Still though when distilled out when I take the time to really listen to people I find that they will share at least one golden gem with me that might change my view of the world. Changing how you see the world can be rather stressful as it is full of surprises.
Trying to learn technology at a crazy pace so that I can get get projects done that depend on such technology before deadlines.
Also reading about building social networks, as in making friends. I wonder if this book will help me as much as I think it might. I've made quite a few real friends in the bike community, but most of my contacts from the tech scene seem like fake friendships. I realized recently that trying to become real friends with people who aren't really interested is a little bit like spamming.
I think I need to write more, and more often.
I really want to get back to microcontroller programming, but I feel that I need to get the technology I'm cramming learned, and deployed first.
Right now I am very sad. Dr. Williams, one of Catherine's grandpa's is dying. I don't know how long I have spent at his house, but I'm sure that it is over a month. I could easily find my way around in the dark. He was very kind to me. He also helped heal many people, and furthered the science of medicine in his long career. Although us humans do more to shape our destiny that any other species we know about we still have many problems we can't solve. We can't heal everybody of everything. I've had several bouts of crying tonight. For the man who is dying, for Catherine and her families grief, for the memories of my own family members dying. It is hard to take. Somehow though knowing some things are bigger than me makes me feel better about it though. I stopped to watch a freight train on the way home marveling in it's immensity. Everything I have ever needed in my whole life thus far could probably fit on a single train with lots of room to spare.
I don't really know how much I control destiny, and how much I'm just controlled by it. That's okay though. It means that when I work hard to control destiny in a good way, and it all works out I can take some pride in that. It also means that when things go wrong it might not be my fault since I am as it turns out not all powerful. If I was no one I loved would ever have to suffer.
Right now my love goes out to Catherine, and everyone around her.
I'm sure many of you already know that last week I lost my job again...
But I really hated the job. It wasn't right for me. Maybe this is a good thing.
While working there I learned a lot about myself.
* Maybe I really am Talented, and Gifted
* My biggest obstacles are emotional
* I can overcome my ADD, and stay focused if the project is interesting enough
* Stuff that draws on my creativity tends to be the most interesting
In elementary school they started sending me to TAG class once a week. It was a whole day of doing unusually interesting stuff. I think it was on Wednesdays. They told me that I was different. That my opportunities in life would not be like other people. I could do anything I wanted. This expectation they instilled in me at an early age has yet to be realized. I've watched so many people who are theoretically less capable than me achieve so much. I asked myself why I kept failing.
There are a few answers to that. One of the easy ones is that I have ADD. ADD makes a lot of things a struggle. Anytime I need to focus on something it's hard. So many things to think about competing for my attention. The creative flood always seems to be there drowning anything else. While this is a continuing challenge I have discovered that it could be a source of strength rather than a source of sorrow.
What I now think is my biggest challenge isn't that at all. It's emotions. Emotions rooted in how I was raised.
There are a few side effects from being gifted. The first is that a lot of things that would be hard for most people are easy. Because they are easy we don't really have to try. There is no struggle so we never learn how to deal with struggle. When something is hard the reaction is that since we can't "just do it" that it must be impossible. We give up. Worse is that everyone expects us to really shine at the hard problems. Since we're "gifted" we will probably figure it out first.
Another side effect of things being easy is there is a tendency to put minimal effort into everything. Why spend an hour doing a great job on a homework assignment that doesn't solve any real world problems when we can spend 10 minutes on it, and then the rest of our time doodling, or running around outside.
I managed to incorporate both of those dysfunctions into my core being. I put minimal effort into lots of tasks, and give up at the first real challenge. Then because people know I'm smart, and expect more out of me I feel bad about letting them down. Being ADD adds an extra monkey wrench to the whole equation.
Stress, and the ADD brain...
Years ago my psychologist told me about a study where they did brain scans of people with ADD. They found that stress would cause the brain to shut down. What does this mean for me? It means that when I get a task I fist expect that my gifted brilliance will quickly conquer it, and as such I don't put much effort into it. When it's harder than that the next reaction is a bit of surprise that it wasn't easy, and switching on full power thought to solve the problem. When that fails it starts being stressful because people are expecting more of me, and I've learned to expect more of myself. As the stress increases it becomes harder, and harder to even think about the problem. Then the ADD brain adds one more twist. It starts presenting me with other things to think about. Lots of them, and they are all easy to think about.
So when I'm presented with a challenge my reaction has been to have my emotions turn wretched followed by changing the subject. Unfortunately life is a challenging problem which is why for a long long time I was depressed, and didn't get a whole lot done to improve my situation. Life improved gradually, and last year I discovered a way out from the depression that has plagued my life since at least elementary school.
The way out was pretty simple. When my mind changed the subject to something more pleasant I just ran with that. I didn't really realize that was what I was doing. I just started going to every activity I was invited to. Fun distractions filled my life. My mood improved, I made a lot of friends, but little was done to improve my career, or fix any of the other life problems I had. Every minute I spent at work became a minute I wanted to leave so that I could be happy again. I stopped tolerating the unhappiness that was associated with trying to solve challenges at work. My job suffered. I lost it.
For a while I was happy. I didn't have to solve problems that triggered my automatic unhappy reaction. As I ran out of money, and started to deal with my problems I got really unhappy. They weren't just problems that caused stress there were a lot of them, and among the most stressful of the problems I ever dealt with. Just as I was starting to realize how much emotions played into my situation I got a job. The problem wasn't solved, but at least I knew about it.
The job added a new problem. The extreme commute time involved. To make a multimodal trip of cycling plus transit to get to work took an hour, and a half. I stopped being able to reasonably distract myself with interesting activities because I no longer had the time. I started waking up soaked with stress induced cold night sweats. I replaced my sheets, and blankets with beach towels to reduce my misery. This lasted for weeks.
Then something happened. I was given a miserable task, and following my normal methodology I tried to go for the lazy solution. I thought writing a program to do a task would be easier than a boring repetitive task. Although it ended up being a vastly more challenging project than I imagined it to be I kept seeing the "next step" as a relatively easy task. I kept this up for a week, and then another. Suddenly I found that I could turn a miserable job into a lot of small, and mostly fun tasks. Unfortunately I knew my employer was more interested in my doing things the miserable route than the fun, and creative route.
A few minutes ago I weighed in at 201 pounds. This number is 72 pounds less than when I started bike commuting. This is especially significant in that 70 pounds was my initial goal as I thought that would be when I was about fit. My fancy fat measuring scale says that I am not quite yet fit, so perhaps I have another 10 pounds to go, but I'm most of the way there, and feel soooo much better on a daily basis.