Never Gonna Quit

I wake up early and take my time getting ready. I pack my lunch, drink my carrot juice and bounce out the door and make the 25 minute commute to school. I park in the “commuter lot”, which is farther away from my classes than parking at the local grocery store near campus. There is a little rabbit who lives in the grassy area next to the space I like to park in. I see him everyday hopping and nibbling on grass. I want to catch him. Everyday I talk to him and work on gaining his trust…..I make the trek across the various other student parking lots, roads, buildings, and green space to get to classes.

I’m having fun being a student and every day I think about how happy I am to be at a school. I make sure to pay attention and take notes and read ahead and study, because six months ago, I really didn’t think I would get here.

To supplement my studying, I’ve taken a couple part-time jobs. I am teaching science experiments in elementary after school programs under the alias “Lanthanide Laila”.My other part time job is, once again, working at the YMCA.

Sometimes Lynn and I cook together and finish making dinner at 4 pm. We laugh at how ridiculous it is to cook and eat dinner before 5 pm and settle on the couch to watch YouTube clips on our projector. Sometimes we practice our instruments. Our girl band/variety group is called “Simon’s Bender”. Last week we sang karaoke.

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I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

And All That Math

The first and second weeks of class have come and gone. My adviser and professor for a course titled Natural Resource Economics is a man by the name of Dr. Coal. Dr. Coal loves coal and tends to talk down about other minerals why he lectures. He’s a quirky man who skips from side to side while discussing the course materials. I don’t take notes, but rather write down funny things he says.

“If you’re interested in a subject, the worst thing you can do is go buy a textbook……boring as sshhiiiit.”

“Hit ’em over the head three times and things just stick.” -On how to write an effective essay.

“Screw Canada!”

“I think in stories, not math.”

“Let’s imagine you fell asleep and it’s 2 years later.” -On when to harvest your forest and invest the money.

“When I was younger and a little bit hipper, we used to go to this club in Seattle. They had two rooms: 80’s music and 70’s music. It’d be like, which room should we go to? Let’s go to the 80’s room and dance! So we go to the 80’s room. Then its like, well we can’t dance in here because it’s so crowded! Let’s go to the 70’s room. Then we’re like, oh its not so crowded in here but this music sucks. Eventually it gets to a point where they equally suck or they’re equally cool. And that’s just like economics.”

“I will look the other way and pretend you’re not doing something illegal.”

“So, if you like forests, you should be wasting paper….. That thing on emails, ‘Please consider the environment before printing’…. Yeah, those people are idiots. It’s like No, I’m  printing every freaking page. Because then people need timber, and they plant forests.”

As you can tell, I’m learning a lot in my economics program! Seriously though, I have to review and take actual notes after class.

Simon Bender

Lynn and I are settling into a beautiful roommate-ship. We have a shelf in the center of our loft displaying our sunglass collection. Though it started as a joke, the sunglasses are always put in place and easy to find. We both have an unspoken and agreed respect for novelty.

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I put a little telephone wire bowl next to our front door and we’ve both been putting our keys in it. Now both of us, who are prone to misplace things, always know where they keys are.

the key bowl

The key bowl

I prepare food while she’s at work and suddenly have been inspired to try new recipes. Lynn says, “For someone who ‘doesn’t cook’, you sure know what the @#*& you’re doing”. Thursday, I made Pad Thai and we watched TV, played our instruments (Lynn is a rather talented guitar player and singer), and talked about life. I got a little over zealous trying to tune my violin and broke the A string. Today I will be getting it replaced.

Is the sudden urge to cook and organize and be creative a coincidence? Or is it maturity? We decided it’s neither, but rather the spirit of our predecessor in the loft, a man by the name of Simon Bender.

The mail is delivered into little mail boxes near the entrance of our building. Larger packages are just set below on the floor. For several weeks, Lynn keeps seeing mail for our unit addressed to a one “Simon Bender”. Usually this mail gets a note on it “Return to Sender”. However, the postman does not abide. Last week, two large cylinder containers came addressed to Simon. We were curious. We opened them to see what the hell is Simon up to? Neither of us could find this character on Facebook or LinkedIn or anywhere else on the internet.  Simon, if you’re reading this, I have your mail. Please contact me.

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The cylinders contained Grateful Dead posters.

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One came with a note, “Simon, Sorry I can not pay that much for a non-mint condition”.  We pieced together the clues and decided Simon made counterfeit posters and sold them out of this very loft. We now joke about how “Simon Bender probably sat right here and made this design.”  Anytime we do something out of character like clean, organize or cook, we say “Simon probably used to do this in here all the time”. He is our inspiration and explanation of all the possibilities.

Hit the Ground Running

I recruited my dear friend (We’ll call her Sherpa) to take off of work and drive a U-Haul trailer with me to Denver. I packed the 5’x8′ space with all my boxes and small furniture. We drove. I remembered the first drive I made to Denver back in March after I’d just come home from Qatar. This drive was much different. In March, I was so saturated with emotions and uncertainty, the drive was like a therapy. This last weekend, the drive had so much purpose and anticipation. As Sherpa put it, “Your holding period is over.”

She also said: “I can’t believe I ever considered NOT eating at McDonalds” This was in reference to our Double Breakfast stop where we got donuts AND McDonalds.

After 14 hours, we arrived in Denver and started unpacking the trailer. I am now living in Denver with my mentor, Lynn. It’s exciting to get to know her better and also exciting to be a student again with a roommate. We are sharing a large loft space, with no divisions or separate rooms, so it feels like a very mature version of toddlers having to share a bedroom. We are researching options to bunk our queen beds.

Sherpa and I spent the weekend and Monday exploring Denver. We came across this interesting piece of highway art.

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Before coming to Denver, I decided I need to have a part time job whilst studying. The summer off taught me one thing: I like to entertain myself, and I often overlook how much things actually cost. It’s in everyone’s interest if I get a job to support my traveling habit. I started looking and applying for jobs before I came out here. I applied for a job teaching science in after school programs, a job making pizza’s in the suburbs, and a job supervising sports officials at the YMCA. All three of these jobs yielded interviews.

Me: My passion is really pizza.

Mom: I wish it was cleaning.

Before coming to Denver, I decided I needed to join a soccer league. On day three of living in the city, I went to practice in the park with some players on my new team. I feel I’m so busy already with job interviews and social activity. I remembered the time I sat offshore and researched places I could live and activities I could do if I just didn’t have to be on a rig all the time. It’s really amazing to be able to live out something I used to day dream- however simple. It may sound so simple, but I really used to day dream about playing in a sports league.

I went to my new school to scope out the parking situation, have my student ID made, and most importantly get some apparel to show my enthusiasm to the world!

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Another fun fact about starting school at Mines this fall: The university just named a new president. This president just came from Arizona State, where he was the Dean of the Engineering schools. This man was my dean at ASU during my undergrad. I reached out to him over the summer to congratulate him on the position and express how excited I was to be under his leadership in this new chapter of my education. He reached back and asked me to be a part of a “Lunch With Students” program, where we have lunch together.

I’m getting settled and very excited for classes to start.

I Think I Love You

I don’t know you, but you make me tick. I don’t see you, but your presence is shrill.

Like an extension of my imagination, I had feel for myself that you’re really real.

You’re real and you’re talented. Calm and furious, I can’t explain how you intrigue me.

You’re illusive and you’re categorical. Wild and serene, I can’t get enough of you.

You make me think I have nothing to say. Silently roaring, you make me think.

I have nothing to say. I think I love you, but I don’t know you. Beautiful stranger! Are you real?

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Existential Flee

With less than a couple weeks to go before heading to Colorado for school, I decided to flee. I flirted with the idea of taking one last trip before needing to renew my passport. I flirted relentlessly, going so far as to complete a booking and let the computer screen time out. I looked up different travel combinations to get to and from London. I did this for a couple days, testing the travel reward points on my credit card account.

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I first booked a train ticket from Manchester to London. Ahead of time, these tickets are a small fraction of the standard rate. After booking a non refundable train ticket, I thought I can’t let that 20 GBP go to waste, and went ahead and confirmed my airfare as well.

It’s not a habit. It’s cool. I feel alive. If you don’t have it, you’re on the other side. I’m not an addict. Maybe, that’s a lie.

That little escape has put me back home with just two days to go before I will move to Colorado. I’m anxious about starting school. I’m excited, but I’m nervous. I’d rather be in England pretending I have nothing to do but travel carelessly about.

Sometimes I think sitting on trains.

I spent my last night in London at the same hostel my sister and I stayed in a year ago. I can’t believe all that’s happened in that time. I took a train to Manchester the next day. I wondered if it is even possible to regress. Does a personality evolve in a unidirectional fashion? Does it move fluidly between characterizations like a dance? Or back and forth or like seasons?

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In two days, I will be moving. I wonder if I’ll be the same, unidirectional development. Or, I wonder which period of my life will l be the same as. Will I have the urge to flee. Will I have the intensity to settle. Will I still stare out the windows, watching trees go by between stations. Because honestly, I went to the UK and my mind was blank for a week.

You say you got nothing, so come out and get some.

Book Four

I’m ready to make this public knowledge.

I’m going back to school!

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The process of deciding to look and eventually applying to this program dates back farther than most realize. Since you all are probably uninterested in reading my amazing admissions essay (you’re missing out), I will disclose lesser known and more personal details here.

Before going to Arizona State, I researched many other colleges and universities. I applied to several smaller schools, one of which was the Colorado School of Mines, a little but well respected engineering school. This was sort of a fantasy exercise, as I knew deep down the whole time I would attend ASU because I’d received a scholarship. Sometimes, its just nice to pretend to weigh your options anyway.

While studying at ASU, I really felt like I should go to graduate school. It’s just the next thing you do, right?  However, once I learned that employment is also a respectable option, I eagerly pursued that. A Master’s degree sounded nice, but realistically, I had stopped going to classes years ago and was ready to move on from student life.

You’re all well acquainted, or should be, with my life as a working woman. What you may not know is that I was constantly saying goodbye to friends who chose to leave the company, were transferred or let go. One particular friend left the company to go back to University of Cape Town for a Master’s in robotics. Do you remember that time I went on vacation to South Africa about a year and a half ago? The trip was life changing in many ways-  I met and interacted with amazing, diverse and intelligent people, took my first PADI course which turned me on to a new travelling hobby, soaked in so much culture and knowledge…. but the most instrumental thing was being inspired by my friend doing a Master’s there. I wanted to get to where he was- thoughtfully working towards something more and trying to change his sphere of opportunity. I left South Africa feeling motivated to make changes. I believe this is also what turned on my compulsion and at times obsession with traveling. When you travel, you see and experience things which trigger you to make decisions. 

This inspired me to research graduate programs and job boards. I looked at South Africa, United Kingdom, Norway, and other random places people suggested. I wanted to go back to the US; I wanted to keep living abroad. I just wanted to be anywhere but Qatar. I’m sure my family remember these times as I would call home, miserable and deliberating what to do with myself. Through this mental exercise, I discovered I don’t want to be an engineer in the conventional sense. I do want to stay in the energy sector. I searched universities in the USA. I stumbled upon a program at Colorado School of Mines which seemed interesting. The program involves studying 8 months in Colorado and 8 months at the French Institute of Petroleum outside of Paris. The degrees offered are “Petroleum Economics and Management” and “Mineral and Energy Economics”.  So- petroleum and energy related, but not engineering necessarily. I began working on my application and essay several months before the application even opened. In December 2014, I had submitted my application for Fall 2015. I put it out of my mind and went back to work.

In February 2015, I was laid off. In March 2015, I was accepted for the dual degree program. My parents and I deliberated the cost benefit of going to school or just moving to Houston and finding another job. This was again, a fantasy exercise, as I knew deep down the whole time I would go back for a Master’s degree. Sometimes, its just nice to pretend to weigh your options anyway.

And so, I move on to yet another phase of adulthood. I’m packing up my room again, this familiar task which seems to characterize the journey through my 20’s. I hope you all like cold weather.

Perhaps this is also the time to mention I will be transporting my belongings in a little U-Haul trailer hitched to my vehicle. I recruited/tricked a friend into making the drive with me and helping me get settled in Denver. I had a dream last night that I crashed the trailer because I was driving on the sidewalk because I was too scared to drive in the street.