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.

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.

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.