Monthly Archives: April 2012

Thoughts On My Last Day As An Undergrad

The line on when the last day started is a little blurry, but let’s just call it 6am. After a quick five hours of sleep to take a break from not studying for taxes, I got a quick good night kiss from Brandon before he left to get his own quick five hours of shuteye. I frantically studied until 8:30, took a nap until 9, and then studied some more until leaving at 9:45 for my 10:15 final. No brush saw my hair, no shower was enjoyed, no clean clothes were to be found. I think I brushed my teeth.

I drove rather recklessly to campus, cursed Champlain College’s poor planning (why the flock would you decide to tear up half of parking lot 3 in the middle of finals week?), and screeched into a spot in the back. I ran up the steps of the Hauke building, rushed into Jazzman’s cafe for a chai tea, took the stairs two at a time up to my classroom, dropped off my stuff, ran to the basement of Ireland to print out a paper that was due the day before, ran to that professor’s final exam classroom to drop it off, and fell into my seat back in the taxes room at precisely 10:09. I flipped over the exam, and immediately hated my life. Thoughts of the freedom that awaited me after these two measly hours kept creeping into my brain, my ability to force myself to concentrate slowly drained away, and all of sudden I found my feeling of caring about grades, which has so constantly been my companion these last four years, floating past the window with the late April snow. I handed in my exam with more than a half hour to go in the exam period, drifted out the door, and sat in a chair by the window overlooking the courtyard. And sat. And sat.

I was still sitting when the exam period ended and my professor walked out. It was his last exam too – he was retiring after 41 years. I had had three classes with him – Cost Accounting 1 and 2, and Taxes, and he was phenomenal in all of them.
“What are you still doing here?” he asked.
“I’m not ready to leave.” He nodded.
“I never understood people who didn’t love being at a college. I’ve always felt that if you are not enjoying your time here, you are not doing it right. Why do you think I stayed so long?” We talked for a while longer, he gave me my exam grade (70 😦 ) and my overall class grade (A 🙂 ) before we shook hands and parted ways.

I delayed leaving for as long as possible, feeling a little teary, a little excited, kind of depressed, kind of liberated. In a word, emotional. I met up with some friends who were just finishing up their exams, and we talked for a while. I called Brandon to offer him a ride home as I was heading to pick up my Accounting Club t-shirt (Accountants Get Fiscal), and then ran into him coming in through the same door I was heading out of. (I realize this is rambling and probably boring, but I want to preserve this day forever, so bear with me. Or, you know, skip ahead or what have you.)

We headed down the street to see our friend Mike, who had been at the hospital the night before for what he thought was a collapsed lung, and what turned out to be a badly pulled muscle in his side. Then we turned to grown up matters: paying the bills that were due in approximately two days. This turned out to be a horrible, horrible shock. Turns out that in our complete stress and lack of sleep the last few weeks, as we would order takeout, buy coffee, buy beer, buy candy and anything else to make us feel better about the horrible hell we were living through….we spent all our money. I wrote a check for all the savings I had slowly managed to save up over the last year, and took Skipper for a walk down to the post office, feeling, if possible, even more emotional than I had several hours previously.

The next few hours were spent doing things I had actually planned to do after my classes were done – watch Once Upon a Time, create my NaNoWriMo profile and get super excited for November, and in other ways relax. Tomorrow (Sunday) Andy and I are playing a live show, so when I got a call from him that he had beer and his guitar all set to go, I walked the two blocks to his house and settled in for a nice, long practice session. Playing music with Andy is going to be one of the things I miss the most about moving away. I tried not to think about that too much while we practiced.

Knowing of my recent financial problems, Andy offered to buy me a slice of pizza for dinner to cheer me up, and, after getting a text from friends that they were at Das Bierhaus and I should join them for a drink (which they offered to pay for), I agreed to grab a slice on the way there. Mr. Mike’s pepperoni pizza is expensive, but worth it, and I savored the pepperoni as we continued to walk to Bierhaus, talking about everything and anything, as only good friends can.

Andy left me at the door to the restaurant, and I headed up to the second floor, still chewing my last bite of pizza, to find my friends Jordan, Allyson, and Andrew sitting on the comfy leather couches playing cards and drinking beer. We spent an enjoyable evening, slowly getting joined by more friends (Patrick, Ian, Erica and Jules – hey, this is for posterity) and talking over who had gotten jobs, how much they would be making, who would be staying in town. These conversations consume our lives at the moment, as we try to test out who will be doing well, where we lie in that mix, and which friends we will have to say goodbye to.

The night ended up at Rachel’s, as nights so often do, and, more importantly, it ended up with my closest girl friends. They were the ones I most wanted to see that night, feeling so vulnerable and depressed as I was, and they were the ones who made me smile. We made fun of Glamour magazine, talked about bathing suits for the summer, talked about our boyfriends, and who even knows what else. Just talked. Just were. Just sat together in Rachel’s living room and enjoyed each other’s company. I know we will only have a few more meetings like this, and I almost can’t bear that fact. I have never been happier in my life than with these people I know right now, and moving away from them feels like losing something irreplaceable. Sam will be heading home to New York state, Rachel to New York City, Liz staying in Burlington, and I will be….well, I don’t know where yet, exactly, but not here.

People always say that college is so easy, that college kids should never complain. But the truth is, college is what you make of it, just like the rest of life – there are always going to be those people who skate by, put in the bare minimum effort, and spend the rest of their time partying or watching reality tv. But for those who put in the time and really wanted to get something out of it, college was really, really hard. Most of us worked at least one job, had internships, and took five classes, not to mention extra curriculars like student government or clubs. Was it fun? Yes, of course, it was the best time of my life thus far. But was it easy? No, absolutely not. And one of the hardest parts about it is the instability: I have lived in four different places in my four years here, not to mention the move back to my parents’ house for the summer months after my first year, and that takes its toll. And now, after only four years in this place that I have grown to love so much, I will be moving again, and this time far, far away. It feels like a loss, a death, a grief that knows no words.

I am incredibly excited for the journey that lies ahead, and I know that with Brandon by my side it will be an adventure. He brought the ferrets with him to Rachel’s that night when he came to pick me up around 2:00am, and I watched him play with them and chat while I avoided getting ready to go. It felt like a mini version of what was to come: he and Skippy and Boots gently helping me pack up my things and get me bundled into the car to take me away, take me home. I tried not to get emotional as I left (the beer wasn’t helping), and I was glad that it was Brandon I was leaving with. Next Saturday, as we all walk across that stage and accept our diplomas, we can take them knowing that we worked our butts off to get them, and that we made some lifelong friends along the way.

I love you all so much, and it has been – and will continue to be – an honor being your friend.

Some favorite college memories, in no particular order:

Wii Just Dance in Rachel’s living room

Ugly sweater party

Hannah and Andy

Rachel, me and Liz in Dublin

Andy and I playing music in a pub in Doolin, Ireland

Patrick, Sam and I at the Giant’s Causeway, in Ireland

Brandon and I on a horse-drawn carriage ride, Montreal

The birth of my nephew

My cousin’s wedding

My sister’s wedding

Me and Brandon at my sister’s wedding

My sister’s graduation

Building a computer with Ian and Liz at the Boston
Science Museum

Bowling with Liz and co.

Hiking to a Lake Champlain sunset with Ian, Liz
and Patrick

Bankus spirit

Bankus haunted house

Cliff-jumping at Bolton Falls

Swimming in Lake Champlain

The Bankus Mocktail with Ian and Liz

Bankus shenanigans

Conquering a Vermonster with the gang

Spring Fling with Ian and Liz

Bankus Thanksgiving

‘Camping in’ in my dorm room with Ian and Liz

Bankus Halloween

My sister’s wedding

Ultimate frisbee

Meeting this guy

Moose Pond with the family

Emma’s graduation again

Holidays with the fam

Frisbee – in Ireland

Platform 9 3/4

The south of France

London

Meeting the Lord Mayor of Belfast with Allyson

The Weasley sweater I knitted for Liz

The Quidditch World Cup in Middlebury

Bankus snowman

Working with these folks

Buckingham Palace/seeing the
Queen of England

Getting Skipper and Boots

Freshmen class photo

Senior class photo

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Filed under college, Graduation, Last Day, Memories, Thoughts

Observations On Management

Senior Show, the event where we will showcase our final game (my huge Capstone project), is happening Friday. Everything is a complete mess, half of our game is broken with no hope of repair, and the question “will we be done in time” is still up in the air. My team has collectively put in over 3,000 hours on this project over the last eight months, all while taking four other classes, working at jobs or internships, and trying to figure out what our lives will be after college. We have been trying to create something beautiful, meaningful, and functional out of nothing, all while trying to create the same out of ourselves. Will employers want us? Are we ready? Are we going into the right field? Will we be happy? These and a thousand other questions swirl around in our brains as we beat our heads against the computer screen, trying not to freak out and scream “why won’t it just WORK?!”As the producer, there is only so much I can do to help. I am the manager, not the creator, and so when we realize that Player 2 can only move objects two feet before they snap back to their original position, all I can do is encourage, pat a back and say “just keep trying, I know we’ll find a solution soon.” The inability to ACT and do something constructive that can directly assuage the problems we are having makes me want to tear my hair out. All I can do is wait, and watch, direct, and pray.

I always thought that being a manager sounded like a pretty sweet job. When it comes down to it, what do you actually DO? Well, I’ll tell you. You stress. A lot. And you inwardly panic but have to outwardly appear calm, cool and collected. You have everything riding on other peoples’ work – something I find extremely difficult – and you have to trust that they are going to deliver something awesome, on time. Believe me, this doesn’t always happen. You have to keep the team together through setbacks, burnout, exhaustion, sickness and disagreements. You have to keep an eye on dozens of moving parts all at once, all while trying to figure out why so-and-so is working on Thing B, when you asked him to do Thing A two days ago and now he’s saying “oh, I just thought this was more important.” Deep breaths.

Me, keeping calm like a boss.

Being a manager means being ‘on’ 24/7. I remember things while I’m at work and covertly text a question about that hugely important thing that I haven’t checked in on in three days, all while my heart is beating fast at the thought that I’ve ruined the entire project with my ineptitude. I jump out of the shower with shampoo still in my hair to write down the idea I just had about the trailer. I go to the school dance and boogie down the whole night with my phone in my hand, in case there is a criss. I carefully balance shielding the team from the executive producers and letting them know of our struggles so they can help us.

The mental strain of managing is something that I never expected. I didn’t expect to become so invested in this project and these people. To care so deeply about their joys and sorrows, their pains and triumphs. I didn’t expect to feel like I was on tenterhooks, lying awake at night, unable to turn off my overly stressed and underly sleeped brain. I didn’t expect to be up until four am only to get up at eight am night after night, desperately trying to fix problem after problem with no time and the words of my executive producer “effort is not rewarded, only results are” ringing over and over in my head.

Here’s a picture of an adorable ferret
to make it all seem less dire.

This has been, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. I have spent almost 200 hours on this project this semester, in addition to my other classes and my job. It’s all coming down to one night next week, when I will have to walk out onto a stage in front of hundreds of people, with hundreds more watching on their computers at home, and try to make our game sound as good as I can. There will be nine industry recruiters watching me, judging my every move, and deciding whether they should circle my name on their ballot to indicate that they would like to interview me. My parents and Brandon’s parents will be there, expecting I will make them proud, believing that I will be awesome. The pressure is crushing, the stress all-consuming. I hardly know what I will do with myself after this project is over, indeed I find it difficult to imagine a time when I will not be thinking about this, worrying about it.

But at the end of the day, I have my team around me. I know they have worked their hearts out, and I know that they have come together in ways they never thought they could. They have faced problem after problem, faced getting cut multiple times, and some days realized at midnight that the game as we know it is not going to work when we needed x, y, and z done by 9:30am. They always found a way around these problems. They discovered fixes that have never been done before, pushed the technology farther than it was designed to go, and now are able to present what they’ve learned to the gaming community at large. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of people, and I couldn’t be more honored to have worked beside them. For better or worse, we will hand in that build on Wednesday at noon, give the best presentation we can on Friday, and finally be able to look back on our memories of this project with fondness and relief.

Some teasers of the epic game that is to come:

Gemini XIII

Solar Panel

Hydroponics

The Common Room

Our game poster. Not going to lie, I get a
little thrill when I see my name on it.

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Filed under college, Gemini XIII, Management, Senior Team, Stress, The Game, Thoughts