Transferable Skills

A few weeks after coming home, I realized that life here has also progressed. Some things are the same, many are different. The songs on the radio are different. There are now “express” highways in addition to the normal highways. For example, you can take the exact same road in two options: express which is has a toll, or normally. My friends are doing great and have exciting changes in their lives as well. My sister just finished writing a 179 page PhD thesis about her lung cancer research, which is probably more pages than I have managed to write in the last four years of blogging.

I’m older. My parents are older, and most notably, my grandfather is older as well. I realized I have to make spending time with him a priority. So, after my month long ‘victory lap’ around the Western US, I went down to East Texas for a few days, a routine I hope to maintain weekly through the time I am here. It was awkward when he was confused or didn’t understand what I was saying. It was painful to watch him shaking and cringing as he slept for 16 or more hours a day. But I stayed at home, sitting beside him as much as I could. I found that as a result, I also slept close to 16 hours a day. I became a little lazy, not leaving the house even to do run necessary errands. I just sat with my grandpa, watching NBA playoff games and trying to engage him in conversation as much as I could.

Ironically, the few days spent inside the house, not seeing the sunlight, reminded me of being offshore. I didn’t get the itch or urge to leave, just sat and let the time pass. In the oddest of ways, maybe the most valuable skill I picked up while working as an engineer offshore was how to JUST SIT. As I sat for days and weeks waiting to get to work offshore, a mental tactic to quell the anticipation was to often think to myself I was NEVER going to work, but just sitting for the sake of sitting. Now as my grandpa heaves in his sleep and the single most exciting part of the day is sharing an ice cream with him. I find I’m comfortable sitting just to sit. I’m sitting just to spend time with a great man.

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Plugs and Sparks

I understand now why it is called the “Golden Coast”. My car maneuvered the cliffs along highway 1, playing a leap-frog style pattern with the other cars stopping to take pictures at turn out patches scattered along the road.

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Thirteen hours after leaving Palo Alto, I arrived in San Diego, where I met my dear friend from college, and a fellow displaced former Whataberger employee enjoying his fun-employment vacation in Pacific Beach.  I hiked, I ran, I played. I ate burritos and I let the sun have its way with me. I did some whale watching and saw no whales. I went to the zoo. In recent years, I don’t enjoy zoos so much- they really seem a bit archaic and frankly, depressing. As the San Diego Zoo has such a great reputation, I figured why not check it out.

The San Diego Zoo, ladies and gentlemen, is totally worth all the hype it gets. While the entry fee seems a bit steep, its worth EVERY PENNY. Debbin, my fellow funemployed warrior, and I meandered into the zoo on a Monday around 10 am. As dictated to us by Debbin’s San Diego host: Step 1- ride the zoo bus tour, sit on the top level, right side. Step 2- Take the lift to the top of the zoo and work your way down the hill. I believe no simpler advice has yielded such rewarding results. I was equally in awe of the zoo animals as I was the zoo’s infrastructure. There are concession areas at every turn, stocked with pretzels with cheese and churros. The bathrooms are plentiful and hardly ever with a wait. The Zoo’s intricate road system often leaves people standing in the center of the park holding their maps upside down, confused and sad. There are zoo volunteers and employees appropriately dispersed throughout the park to placate the masses of confused and eager zoo goers. There’s outdoor escalators and moving sidewalks which take you through animal exhibits. Seriously, I can not stress this enough, the San Diego Zoo is amazing. During my day, I finally realized my life dream. My pie in the sky fantasy career apex is to work for a large company, plan the annual investor conference as an overnight zoo retreat at the San Diego Zoo. Presentations will be held in the zoo’s two movie theatres.

I left San Diego for Phoenix. Similar to the flat plains and grazing cattle scenery in North Texas, the Arizona desert strikes a chord with me. I get into town where I know all the roads. I drive around Arizona State’s campus for nostalgia purposes, and take myself to the Chipoltle near campus. I remember when this place opened and gave away free burritos. I’m finding the people I’ve kept in touch with the least are the ones I now have most in common with. We talk for hours and hours. We share stories and perspectives fluidly as the time seems to stand still. Occasionally we break to reminisce old stories, laughing until we cry.

There’s a particular feeling I’m learning- it emerges in a flicker and disappears. It appears in the following structure of conversation.  1.You take turns talking about some intense experiences you’ve been through and how it’s changed how you think about or approach life. You sit and listen for several minutes uninterrupted. You talk several minutes uninterrupted.  2.You tell a more lighthearted or funny experience, you listen to their funny story and laugh hysterically, as if you were there.  3.The hilarity reminds you of a time you were together, someone mentions “remember that time….” and you both contribute your specific memories to the event or time period. You laugh until you cry, and you look up at your friend, through teary eyes you dab or wipe away.

The end of the sequence is an exhale, where you’re just looking at each other. Sometimes there’s a slight head shake. That’s the moment the feeling sparks- complete respect and admiration for this person who is truly your friend. Its a delicate understanding, just listening and unassuming to all each other’s experiences, talking freely and laughing as if the years don’t matter.

Gushing Confession

I just wanted to see what it would be like. I drove myself across the Bay Bridge to roam around near by UC Berkeley’s campus. This has been my dream school for some time. I drove around the campus with my windows down. I found a micro-brew nearby that’s open all day and sat at the bar for a burger, hoping to spy on some students. One sat adjacent to me at the bar, reading intently on his laptop screen. Ah-ha! I thought to myself, A student in his natural habitat! After opening conversation with this young man, I discovered he was a student at San Francisco State, but a local of the Berkeley area.

After my lunch, I went hiking at Tilden Regional Park, behind UC Berkeley campus. [I got pulled over for running a stop sign, and was let off with a friendly warning and a trail suggestion.] I imagined what it would be like to live and study here and frequent this park. The hills covered any suggestion that I may be in a metropolitan area. As I looked right and left off the trail, all I could see were trees and grassy areas inhabiting the rolling hills. With my earplugs in, I waved my arms around and skipped side to side, basking in the solitude of this park. I made it to the top and looked out over the bay. Up there, one can see the buildings in downtown San Francisco at the end of the Bay Bridge, The Golden Gate Bridge shining through fog and mist, and the San Rafael Bridge, all connecting masses of green land, together they frame the Bay. It’s simply beautiful- and I think about myself. Yes, standing atop this hill and soaking in all this scenery, I think about myself. I pretend the years never happened and I was a UC Berkeley student, having seen this sight dozens of times.

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