2015: Sticks and Buckets

Having published an overwhelming three posts in 2014, it’s time for a summary, right? As I watch Ryan Seacrest hand his coat to Taylor Swift, and wait for the ball drop, I’ll use the same basic categories as 2012 and 2013.

  • UN Member States Traveled: 1. I didn’t leave the United States of America.
  • Flight Miles: 11,027 over 17 segments. Comparing this to 2010 or 2011, let alone 2013, is an order of magnitude. On the upside, US Airways silver status yielded 10 upgrades on US Airways from 8 eligible flights, including 2 for my major professor. I won’t have any statuses in 2015, so I’ll have miles or coach.
  • CV Improvements: Three conference presentations, one session organizer, 1 instance of journal reviewing.
  • Class Grades: A in my final actual class, with a surprisingly frustrating 99.5, and S’s to maintain my 4.0 at Georgia.
  • Facebook Friends: 198, 10 less than one year ago. I added about 20 new people, but culls and individual removals lowered my count.
  • Kisses: 0.

The TV just showed several more kisses than I had in 2014, or this decade for that matter. As in 2013, I had more than zero dates. Again, more than one potential woman was involved, but nobody aligned in the trifecta of shared values, chemistry, and location. Because I should be moving in August, the window for potential marriage relationships has likely closed for a while.

Looking back, how did I perform on my three goals for 2014?

  • Strive at work to go to the moon: I knew it would be a tough year when I saw my office door on the first day of the semester. In late 2013, the College of Education had a “rebranding”, spending money to get a new logo. Whee. Each door got a new label. My department decided to label my office, along with others, a “Graduate Assistant Office”. Yes, it costs a small amount to reprint signs each year, but every other department considered students worthy of names. Mathematics and Science Education does not. I’d like to say this highly symbolic decision was the worst work action of the year. That would be a lie. Some problems were my fault; others, not so much. As work demands increase, my view has shifted, which I’ll mention in future goals.
  • Cultivate more attractive desirable qualities for women: I didn’t lose weight or gain muscle, though I believe I’ll weigh less on my 40th birthday than my 30th. Better eating habits – mostly avoiding candy – have cut down on acne outbreaks. One side effect of my root canals was a reduction in tooth discoloring, though really I still need a front tooth crown once I find the cash. As for non-physical qualities, I received some positive feedback about my gentlemanly actions and emotional support, but those are secondary. As I was reminded on December 31, without “chemistry” (sexual attraction) dating doesn’t occur.
  • Praise others to accept the gift of life: This went pretty well, the best of the three goals. Brightness begets brightness. I supported a lot of people, even defending students to other instructors. Portrayals focused on strong aspects of people. I didn’t appreciate people who gave negative descriptions and avoided them a little. At the same time, I maintained my reputation as someone who pulls no punches at work. Work is work, not life, something people don’t always understand. Kind is not the same as nice; I can critique and still appreciate the positive actions of a coworker or acquaintance.

Completing the PhD is my primary responsibility in the first half of 2015. Thus, I view life in terms of that journey. It’s not pretty. In the fall, I read a great figurative description, which I adapted a bit.

Some people call the PhD process a marathon. Perhaps, but running marathons have aid stations and people cheering for the runners. The PhD has no pre-constructed aid stations; you have to find or build them yourself. Instead of cheering, people watching try to trip you with sticks and throw buckets of crap on you. If you finish, you get three prizes: a fancy paper, a stick, and a bucket.

Right now I see lots of sticks and buckets, but no aid stations. I hope to receive the gift of support. We shall see.

What can I control? What are my two goals?

  1. Get the Paper. As I’ve told other folks, the point of the dissertation is to complete the requirements and get the PhD. Not much else. Yes, I know I’m disenchanted. Academia holds little mystique. I’ve seen too much. People don’t become professors because they’re good at management. I intend to remain an academic because I want to teach and do projects. I was very fortunate at Bellarmine – and I sent a thank you card to my old workplace. Here in Georgia, I just need to run.
  2. Be a Good Man. Despite what some people claim, faculty have lots of power. Grades have power on students’ lives. Whispered comments about reputations, or written comments in recommendations, can have more. In a few months, assuming I have success on an interview (well, assuming I have an interview, but let’s be a little optimistic), I’ll become part of the faculty. I’ll be The Man. How I handle my responsibility, what I do with my power, that defines my honor. (Honour, if you’re from a Commonwealth land.) Over the past year, I’ve realized that in my self-worth, honor matters quite a lot.

JRR Tolkien, a great man, gave Gandalf a wise phrase, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Maybe tomorrow will be my last day; maybe I’ll live until 90 through a generous gift. I have to continue to decide, for now, in the land of sticks and buckets.

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network: http://adam.twelvefruits.com
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