Greetings from scenic,

Category: Diary
Tags: Thing I

Grounds in the Coffee Pot

This week has been taxing: I always seem to be caught off-guard, overwhelmed and overpowered around this point in the semester every semester, it's been this way for at least four years.

This semester I am taking the second term of my Senior Design class; in the Spring I was in the first term of it which is a low-stakes version of this class: focus was put on detailed design, prototyping, and risk analysis, and my group more-or-less drove itself, and though we didn't quite meet our goals for that first Design Day it was okay.

This term, however, it's different: by Design Day we're meant to have a fully working, demonstrable project. From the beginning it seemed do-able, and as team-lead I took special care to assign tasks and accountability and make clear, achievable goals. But it happened that I took on too much: my role had evolved from one facet of the project into doing the entire thing myself, from motors and computer vision to GUI integration and testing and circuit verification.

Around two weeks ago I gave up: I designated all the stepper and servo wiring to two other people in my group: and two weeks later here we are: absolutely nothing moves anymore (which is actually a degredation from when I was doing the motor wiring) and furthermore we're having significant troubles on every front except that which I am working on, the computer vision and GPIO programming. Actually I am the only one who has even logged into the Raspberry Pi despite it being the mantlepiece of this year-long project.

It's not as if you have to be a goddamn capital-P-capital-E Professional Engineer to wire this thing up: I'd just appreciate some effort on behalf of everyone because right now I feel generally worthless as a team-lead I feel like a failure overall; every approach I've taken to project management (objective-oriented leadership, directive leadership, etc. etc.) has not motivated this project one bit. It reminds me a little of the line at the beginning of that 20-minute droning track on GY!BE's F#A#∞ where he says:

The car's on fire // And there's no driver at the wheel

All this has made me aggressively apathetic about the whole thing: I am doing everything I can on my end to make this thing move but the fact of the matter is: this isn't a one-man show: I can't afford to take control of the whole thing (and I shouldn't need to) to make sure we have a demonstrable project in a month.

I should be used to this by now: the semester always goes like this: optimistic and bright, promising, then slowly more real and tangible and all of a sudden existentially frightening, terrifying. Since my sophomore year at least I've felt this way about school. Somehow I've always managed to push myself through the fear. Or maybe it's that time keeps on, regardless of me and my mortal terror, and that after the fact and after everything's settled I can stretch my hands and appreciate the semester as one more milestone in my college career.

I've never hated where I live so much: it's uncleanable, every time I clean up, spend the whole afternoon in some teary-eyed cleaning-frenzy and sacrifice what little free time I have to fold clothes, clean, wash dishes, wipe down the counters, clean the stove it's all suddenly gone to shit again: dishes pile up, clothes litter the floor, somehow the stoves are dirtier than I left them and it's so so frustrating that sometimes I just forfeit my efforts and cry instead. And when the tears dry up 15 minutes later nothing's really better; the sun's slipped farther down the sky, that's all, the sadness slips into the back of my throat and I learn to put on a neutral face and walk past the uncleanable mess, sad and lightly frustrated only to myself.

It's all so mediocore and embarassing: but I'm glad to give it a name. I've been so neat and organized and attentive to my own apartment and room that having to ignore the mess simply because I have neither time nor energy nor the help to neutralize it is so dissonant I can hardly stand it.

More so than so many years before I feel stuck, glued to one spot. As if now, suddenly, there's something keeping me from moving forward. Like car stuck in an oil slick on an episode of Wacky Racers I'm not going anywhere fast, I feel; this is a recent and new feeling for me. This feeling arises from the perceived fruitlessness of the effort I put into my studies and the absolute lack of free-time to study things outside my curriculum (e.g. Japanese, piano).

Strong feelings of guilt bubble forward when I use "free-time" to study the things I love because I could be, instead, focusing that effort towards the courses I am performing poorly in (not due to a lack of effort, but a lack of results for all my effort, frustratingly enough) and immediately I pick up my pen and pad of engineering paper and get back into it. My performance has made me feel less-than-dirt, as if I don't deserve the education I'm receiving because I'm too dumb to even perform well in the courses which define the very thing I want to have a career in not far down-the-road. God it's so vexing, I want to quit because it's making me miserable, slowly and daily, like a neverending onslaught of tiny little failures that chink and rust my armor until I stare at, through myself in the mirror.

On top of all this I must support my boyfriend whose mental health is worse than mine; the best you can say of his condition is that "at least it's treatable" which is only second-rate if you don't know how it should be treated or even what it is. He's super important to me, I just want to see him smile: I'll do anything I can to make that happen but sometimes when we're cuddled up together I'll start crying out of the blue and I can't make it stop for the life of me so I sit there sobbing, my tears on his chest mixing my black sadness with his confusion. Even I don't know whence it comes sometimes, only that the sadness comes often and always overstays its welcome. But I always want to be there for him, I can't help but feel I only make it worse being that much of a wreck.

Here at promontory of the beginning of my career, everything up in the air, everything apt to change. I realized the other day just how big every decision I make right here, right now, is: what jobs I put in for, what apartment we rent, who I meet and who I network with: all these little (seemingly) inconsequential things carry enormous weight in the frame of the next five years, probably more weight than any single thing will carry in the next several five-year periods of my life.

Eyes on the sky, feet on the ground: this is not something I feel often.

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