Pittsburgh: A Retrospective

My life has been nuts, what with a new job, moving about 600 miles, and trying to find an apartment (and eventually a new car). The result, at least as far as you readers are concerned, has been a whole lot of nothing from me, and therefore a very quiet blog. Well, I can’t guarantee daily posting anytime soon, but I’m going to try and get back into the swing of writing. We’ll see how difficult that ends up being.

The most important thing I’ve been thinking about over the last couple weeks is what sort of place I am in my life right now. This is related to moving, if only because the stage of life I’m in right now is different than the one I was in even in February. I have just left a nearly six-year period of my life that is defined by two things: college, and Pittsburgh.

My time in Pittsburgh, and more specifically my time at Carnegie Mellon, was a period in my life where I was incredibly socially active, operating on a relatively high stress level, and overall, happy. Being a student and a fraternity brother meant that I had easy, compartmentalized facets of life that I could take part in and derive pleasure from at my leisure, extremely easily. Looking back, it’s easy to see participation in Buggy or Greek Sing or any number of other things as a lot of work, but like the social calendar in college, most activities I did at CMU were popular because they were discrete ways to invest effort in one end and get a significant return. This is how I know CMU was an excellent college choice for me; everything they offered me was something that I, being the person I am, enjoyed but more importantly felt a real sense of engagement and accomplishment doing.

Outside of fraternity life, there was my secondary social life, which itself had two components: my other friends, and my relationships. My other friends were mostly friends I gained from gaming, and unsurprisingly, these friends end up being some of my closest. As far as I’m concerned, the more you work at something, the more you get out the backend. That’s not to say I don’t have close friends from AEPi and other places, I do. But I already know from the effort I’ve been putting in to gaming online and other avenues that I have put more effort into these friendships than many others, and I’m reaping benefits.

And then there were my relationships. All three of my serious relationships at this point were affected by my time in Pittsburgh. My first one ended because I left for Pittsburgh, my second one only happened because I was at CMU, and my third ended because I left Pittsburgh. In every case, defining relationships (especially their conclusions) in terms of location is a harsh simplification, but it gives perspective nonetheless. My time at school was a growing period in terms of how I approached relationships, and after all the relationships, hookups, and abortive attempts at either, I can say that starting this next stage of my life unattached (but far more experienced than before) is going to be the right choice. Coming to that conclusion, admittedly, was not exactly an easy process. Nevertheless.

And then, there was the fact that I was in school. In the last six years, I earned two degrees, took nearly 500 units of classes (166 credits, roughly, in most other university systems I’m aware of), had two internships, one campus job, one patentable invention, and a non-peer reviewed publication credit. Quite a bit of stuff. And amidst all that was at least one crisis about my grades, a separate crisis about what I wanted to do with my life, and a decision (that only took about a week to come to) to attend grad school. And now, after all that, I’m not an engineer. Huh.

And this, this “not being an engineer”, circles back to why it’s important to consider my years at CMU, why I was there, and what they got me. In short, what they got me was why I was there. Though I doubt CMU has any monopoly on teaching torsional stress (or any other purely mathematical topic), there was something about my experience that made me a better thinker. It wasn’t just the brutal coursework, the resources available for said coursework, the direct social access of Greek Life, the unique experiences afforded by the schools own idiosyncrasies (Buggy, anyone?), the college environment in general, or even being surrounded by nerds all the damn time. It was, however, all of that. As I now move laterally from the specialties professed on my degrees, and face the daunting task of starting again social-life wise, there is some small measure of comfort that no matter what I end up doing, the things I learned in the last six years or so really matter. Not only will it make my life easier, it’ll give me a good understanding of what I need to do to continue my growth as a person throughout the next however many decades I’m alive. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

Expect to see at least one more post this next week, and don’t be too surprised if it’s right back to talking about RPGs.


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