I look at my calendar:
October 31st, 2013
I’ve been living both precariously and vicariously now for over two months in Golden, and it feels like a lifetime. Though mathematically speaking, it shouldn’t feel that way.
Look at the time the human race has dominated the face of the Earth, infinitesimal to the actual life span of the planet. It’s the same feel here. While not that much time has passed, simply a fraction of a year when I am going to be spending the next four years of my life here, it already feels like a lifetime. The most surprising thing is that no two days feel exactly the same.
In high school, it was day in, day out. I fought through the same boring and tough classes each and every waking moment of my life, down to the last 15 minutes I spent on homework before exhausting myself to sleep. Now at college, I have nigh infinite freedom to do what I want, when I want. There is a running joke among students at Mines, simply, “What is free time?” As the engineering science and mathematics can get so involved it feels like your entire life is sucked into a black hole, of which you must calculate the gravitational force and whatnot. The classes certainly do not get easier, but I’m pretty sure life does.
Two months away from my home. My nest. My mancave if you will. It’s frankly unnerving at some points. At the end of my CSM 101 class (basic introductory course,) our teacher asks, “so how are you guys doing? I see some of you look really sick and tired. Are you living?”
It’s a fair question. Of all the things I asked my Dad before I left for college, the one thing I neglected to ask, the most important tip above all other advice was how exactly do I make it on my own? The short answer is you cheat. Now, let me qualify this before you go off frantically copying on your next math exam. By, “cheating” I only mean securing the help of all the resources available at college: your friends, your teachers, your TA’s, everyone. Call in an air strike if you have to. The one thing I noticed is that if you try to solo everything in college, you WILL fail and you WILL not enjoy your life.
I saw a pretty interesting youtube video where it noted that prolonged excess stress can lead to extremely negative health consequences, such as reduced immune systems and high heart-rate, but there was a natural hormone that directly counteracts these effects. Aptly named, “the cuddle-hormone,” this chemical is produced and released when a person is in the friendly company of others. It’s pretty obvious how far I would’ve broken down without the help of my friends. Physics homework takes an inordinate amount of time, anywhere from 3-6 hours of intense calculations and complex conceptual questions each week. With a team of determined students, though, ravenous to get homework done, anything can get accomplished.
Just in the month of October alone I did quite a lot. The first was the orchestra hectically prepared the silent movie, “Nosferatu” which we played in Bunker theatre on a spooky Friday night. It was awesome being back in a pit again doing performance music, as I was quite familiar with that stuff in high school. As different as it is watching a musical is to a movie (a silent movie at that too), playing the music for it is essentially the same. It was cool that some of my friends were able to come to the movie, but most of the floor peaced out for whatever Friday events they had going on. It turns out that night I came back to operational base Maple (since I am unsure if I should call it home yet) I found my floor partnered with women’s leadership in a painting session. I worked up this fancy bit:
Never thought I could pull off half-decent art as that, but it felt satisfying. Not as satisfying as shooting and producing my own minimovie, though. For Halloween, the mines activity council put on a Minimovie festival, and our entire floor gathered together to make the most epic music video a collection of engineers in training have ever done.
We lost the contest by THREE votes. I was severely disappointed again. The grand prize was $300 cash that we could have put back to the whole floor, but just because a few people didn’t want to spend just a little bit of time on a Wednesday night to come out to Hallowfest since they had, “a chem lab due” or various other homework, we lost (to the soccer team of all people! Might I add that most of the entries had vertical frames with awkward black bordering.) This may sound selfish to say, as a majority of the floor worked on the video together, but personally it felt like I lost. The original conception of participating in the film festival was my idea, I had bought the camera(previously already), and I had ignited the spark in people to want to work on the video. It lead to my friends Jordan and Madeline transform themselves into directors where they pulled acting and music together. It was a total collaborative effort, and when there was not everyone at Hallowfest I felt like it had to be my fault. For one, I myself almost didn’t go to Hallowfest! Disappointed was the only word that could describe me. Not anger, but disappointment.
The reason I truly felt saddened at this defeat was these were the very reasons I used to blame why I had constantly been missing going to church. At Mines, it feels like I have a mountain of work to do, but on Sunday all I want to do is sleep. Life was absolutely getting harder. On top of that, last week was hell week, with three consecutive tests one day after the other.
Fortunately, I still had a little hope to cling on to. I had thankfully passed all of my tests with my sleep schedule renormalizing itself after a barrage of crazy caffeinated induced insomniac nights. I’m dropping old extracurricular activities/ pass times for new ones, and there are still a million more things to do at CSM.
I always knew I wanted to study engineering, get a degree after high school and become somewhat successful. My life had been mostly linear up to this point, with a clear path set before me which was easy to follow. Now faced with the first important decision of my life, it was not obvious what exactly I should do. What type of engineering should I study? Where will I be going to school for the next four years of my life? I cowered at the thought of all this uncertainty and trembled at what was to come.
One night my Grandparents and I were dining at a local Mexican Restaurant, “El Azteca” which was right down the road from High School. Conversing with my Grandfather, the Colonel, about all the different options of colleges I was pondering: University of Maryland, College Park, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Rice…my grandfather casually interjected with an idea of his own,
"Have you ever heard of the Colorado School of Mines? Ever look at petroleum engineering?"
Nope. Natta. Zip. Never heard of. Living on the East Coast my whole life and never actually studying geography I couldn’t fathom the true distance Colorado was in relation to Maryland. I knew it was out west, but never knew exactly far out west. It’s really far.
Talking with my Dad, the great Navy Captain with years of experience teaching Academia at the College level, he told me that all ABET certified colleges offer good engineering degrees, and in all honesty getting an engineering degree at school x really won’t make that much difference in the long run against getting it at school y.
So why pick CSM? It was extremely far away from home, in an area and state I am completely unfamiliar with, with people I have never met before. Ultimately it came down to three points:
1.Have a music department. I have been playing the cello for well over a decade and I could never give up that part of my life. Upon flying out to Golden to visit I was astonished to hear the different ensembles play—student ensembles— at the visitor orientation.
2.Have Study Abroad Programs in Germany. All throughout high school I studied the German language, and while I was uncertain on whether I actually wanted to study across the ocean in a foreign country, I at least wanted that option.
3. Be completely fill with new people. Earlier I mentioned that it was slightly intimidating to leave all my friends, but while I am not sick of the friends I’ve known my whole life, I knew I wanted to branch out, experience new things, and especially make friends with new faces. Even though CSM is a state school, the campus is filled with diversity with students from all over the nation from Alaska, Texas, surrounding states to Colorado such as Wyoming and even foreign exchange students as well. One of my best friends here at CSM comes all the way from Alaska, and it’s just cool to think about young students coming from polar opposite ends of the US to study here in the mountains.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, probably the greatest part about choosing to go to Mines was getting the opportunity to live in Colorado. The entire state is gorgeous, with vast mountain ranges to climb and ski on. I’ve lived next to a horse farm for 10+ years of my life, right smack dab in the sticks, the part suburb part country area of Maryland. My neighborhood was equidistant from both Baltimore and Washington DC (1+1/2 hours by car,) but that’s nothing compared to being able to take the light rail into Denver. It’s cool visiting the giant city on the plains but literally everything I would ever need as a Freshmen in College is in Golden.
Mind you, college took some getting used to, and frankly I’m still working on it right now, but the more I get acquainted the more I get to love it.