Starting a New Adventure

In December of 2011, I finished my bachelor’s degree and resolved to give myself a year before making any big changes in my life. I wanted to spend some time figuring out what I really enjoyed doing and where I wanted to go next. Along the way, I realized that the part of my job I enjoy most is project management, and I decided to start a master’s of science in project management in the fall of 2013. I had planned to finish that before making any other big changes, but circumstances have caught up with me, and in the best possible way.

My work at the university, as many of you know, is not easy. I’ll leave the understatement at that, and go on to say that after talking with my boss in both January and June of this year about how I needed to see some changes in both the number of hours I worked and the type of work I was doing, I decided to start looking in June for a new job. Last Monday, I was offered a position for which I have been interviewing for almost two months.

I’m crazy excited about this job. The company for which I’ll be working is Adaptavist, and I’ll be a remote-work consultant specializing in Atlassian’s Confluence and JIRA and combining my technical knowledge with project management and communication skills. It’s a small, agile company that looks to have a fantastic work culture, and their methods and priorities align with mine.

They’re based out of the UK, so I’ll travel there for a week-long orientation sometime in the next month or so, but most of my work will be from home. We’re not moving away from Springfield, and I’ll be continuing work on my master’s. I’ll still be on-campus at Missouri State regularly to go to the rec center or other events. It’s going to be strange being just a student, but I look forward to that experience.

I really appreciate all the people I met and all the experience I gained at MSU, but working for Adaptavist is just about my dream job. Three years ago, I started thinking, “What do I really want to do?” and now I’m going to start doing it. Between that and Meta-Manage (which has sadly languished while I’ve devoted more attention and energy to seeking a new job, but which will get going again very soon), everything is just great.

My last day at MSU is Friday, October 3rd, and I start working for Adaptavist on Monday, October 6th.

Returning to the Library

Did you know that people I work with read my blog? Hi work people!

Subsequently, complaining too much in an incredibly public location would be unwise, and I shall refrain from doing so. Let us just say this much:

Last week I was asked to return to the Help Desk (call center) for a week to help out. They’re understaffed at the moment and the two people left over there have been scrambling to get end-of-year things done, so I covered the phones and email while they focused on those other things. The work was frenetic and I was back in the thick of things–when something went wrong or there was some bit of news, I was one of the first to know. Moving and Shaking occurred.

Today I returned to my office in the Library, where instead of playing with tech and talking with customers (which, to be honest, I don’t enjoy a whole lot), I worked on schedules and management related stuff. It was equally busy, especially since I wasn’t here last week, but also different. There is far less communication between my peers on this side of the house, and since I’m away from the heart of Computer Services, I’m a bit out of the loop on things.

My job, despite a grueling six months (or perhaps because of it), is getting better. Another way to phrase that is that it’s getting easier, which is helping me cope with it and subsequently feel better. Do I miss working in the Help Desk, and/or would I want to go back? I certainly miss the staff there, with whom I interact far less now, and I enjoyed the work a fair amount (though call center stuff was always 50/50). But I also recognize that the work I do now is important and really helping people. I’m striving to improve our customer relations and how we interact with and train our staff, and I expect 2010 to be a year of great developments for us. I was glad to be back in the Library, but I’ll admit, I do miss the Desk a bit.

No idea what 2010 will hold. This will be my fourth year in Computer Services User Support as a full time staff person, and every year I have no idea what’s going to happen. At the end of every year, I look back and marvel at everything we’ve done and am rather surprised. It seems that there’s a good chance that 2010 will be awesome, though, and I look forward to finding out what crazy stuff we’re going to do so when I look back in 2011 I once again think, “Wow, I can’t believe we did all that.”

Winter in Missouri

I always wonder what people from other places think when they come to Missouri State University. They visit and have their orientation/registration over the summer, when the flower beds are all in bloom, our humidity is turned up to eleven, and the Ozarks is nothing but green oak trees and blue sky. They come here in the fall, when it’s even more hot and humid, but then the leaves start to turn and, let me tell you, this was one of the most beautiful autumns we’ve had in quite some time. And then they get through their first semester and winter hits.

When the students return this weekend, especially if they’re coming from the coasts, they may be in for a surprise. The temperature’s been hovering around zero the last few days, and the windchill was apparently around -20 Fahrenheit when I walked in from the parking garage today. If you’re an international student from the Caribbean, or from India, or just traveling here from Arizona or California… is this what you expected?

Business As Usual in Missouri is weather you can’t count on. Things can change in a matter of hours with fifty degree temperature swings, snow storms one day and tornadic thunderstorms the next, and an abundance of beautiful but deceptive sunshine. For those of us who grew up here, we’ve come to expect and even appreciate it.

I’ve only once heard someone from outside the Ozarks share their opinion on our manic depressive weather patterns. She was a student from South Africa, a place that Americans consider with awe and a bit of trepidation, mostly because it has the word “Africa” in it. We assume it’s all kinds of dangerous and challenging to live in, but she was perplexed at why anyone would live in America, let alone Missouri. “Back home we have to worry about crime and other things,” she said, “but here the very country tries to kill you! There are tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes and floods and droughts… every year! Why would anyone live here?!”

Why indeed. There are certainly places on the earth’s surface that are more peaceful and safe to live… but for the same reason we can’t imagine why someone would continue to live in Israel with all the strife there over the last… however many millennia, we can’t imagine living anywhere else. America is my home, and I really like Springfield. We get the occasional tornado, but compared to a lot of other places, it’s pretty OK.

At least, to me. I’m not sure our longer distance students agree.

Dropping Out

It may take me another 2+ years to graduate from college.

I’ve been a bit frustrated for years now. Though doing things I enjoy, I feel like my life and passions have been on hold so I can do the responsible thing. I want to finish what I start, and I want to help people, and I want to do it right. I basically put college on hold for two years to co-lead FnC–I couldn’t take upper-level classes at the time because I didn’t have enough time for more intense study or research. Then I got a full time job so I could afford to get married and subsequently start a family. Throughout it all, I’ve tried to balance school with the goal of getting a degree, and all along the way my writing has been on the back burner. It was what I ultimately wanted to focus on, but these other necessities took precedence.

Now I’m trying to finish my degree so I can move on and do what I want. I thought I just had another semester and a half, another seven months, and then I’d be done. I’d have a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with a minor in Creative Writing at the end of Spring 2010.

I was a double major (RS and CW), but today I dropped my second major down to a minor so I could graduate sooner. At the same time, I really examined my degree audit. For years, I’ve scheduled classes based on the general education and major/minor requirements, making sure I met each one. I took every night class I could that met those requirements because my work really doesn’t like me taking day classes. Since there are no night classes left to take, I began my last four courses before completing my degree, taking them during the day.

But it looks like I don’t just need four more courses. There’s a subsection on my degree audit I missed that states “40 hours upper-division credits required.” I have eighteen, with three more currently in progress. I need nineteen more.

I’ll get six next semester with my last 500-levels. That leaves me still needing thirteen. At six hours a semester, that’s three semesters. Conversely, I could try to take nine hours during one semester (on top of 40 hours of work), but most 300-levels that would satisfy this requirement aren’t offered at night at Missouri State and I don’t think my work would be quite that flexible.

What’s worse, I have no classes left to take that actually matter. They would have to be absolutely random, unrelated 300-level classes.

The thought of being in school for another two years is devastating, primarily because I just don’t think I can do it. I have been in school for so long, and I’ve been wanting to finish something for so long, that the thought of not finishing is heartbreaking. And yet, I can’t see myself putting my true desires on hold for another two years just to get a piece of paper that doesn’t matter.

I have three desires in my life.

  1. Be a father.
  2. Write.
  3. Serve God (which I think will involve learning about and teaching spiritual warfare).

Number 1 is waiting until April’s education is complete and we pay everything off–we can’t afford to have kids until then. I’ve put number 2 on hold for years because there was always something else to do first. And while I’m trying to do number 3 more, it’s hard when I have to work 9-10 hour days because of work+class and then do homework (reading and essays) in the evening.

What does getting a degree do to advance those priorities? After next semester, I will have already taken every class required to get a BA in Religious Studies, I just haven’t taken enough “upper division” classes. I won’t be furthering my education by taking another five classes, I’ll just be paying the University more money and time to give me a piece of paper that doesn’t go towards advancing my priorities.

I have been in school for twenty years at this point. And it has been inarguably valuable. But do I really need to do more?

I do not want to be defined by a college degree.I want to be defined by what I do with my life, and perhaps that’s where my desire for completion comes. I lack definition, and getting a degree would have given me something while also marking the transition to pursuing my passions. So I could spend another two years in college to get a degree that gives me a label, or I can actually do something. I could write the book of poetry I dreamed up in the shower this morning, and return to my scifi novel, and actually finish a fantasy fiction short story. I can start experimenting and learning how to live and write about it. I could take up photography.

In a sense, I don’t want the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting the BA, because I don’t feel it is justified. What does that piece of paper prove? That I stuck it out? That I delayed my life another 1.5 years?

How much longer do I have do walk on this treadmill?

I have been looking forward to the end of next semester for years. Looking forward to finally having time to write, to being more involved with the church, to starting attending a small group again, and to figuring out how to live.

What is there besides school? I’ve been in school since I was four years old–I have no experience outside of it–and I wonder what’s out there. What else could I be doing? What would life be like?

I could live, instead of just waiting to live.

I’m not doing anything. I go, I do enough to get the grade, and I wait for them to hand me a piece of paper. Is this what life is supposed to be?

I’m going to meet with my advisor tomorrow to see what she says, but I doubt there’s any way around this 40-hour rule. And if it comes to that, is there any point in pushing myself through another two years?

And for those who are inevitably going to post, “Get your degree! It’s so worth it!” please, tell me why. Why is it worth it? Note that I already have a secure, full time job paying a good amount more than average for Springfield, and I’ve already learned everything the degree is intended to confer. Note that a degree in religious studies has no direct application to anything I want to do. I don’t intend, nor do I foresee, going on to graduate level studies, and if I did enroll for a graduate degree then I think it would have to be as a full-time student, not someone trying to do it while working full time (and if that were the case, I could finish up my undergrad in a semester or two). Note the above priorities.

I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I were really engaged with what I feel God is calling me to. I can’t see any reason to delay any longer.

What is happiness, peace, and fulfillment worth? Would a degree make me happy? Would I be happy if I let that goal go? I don’t know… I really don’t. Like I said, the thought of not finishing the degree–my thoughts going round and round for the last five hours–are stunning. It’s hard for me to accept the thought of not finishing. But the thought of going for another two years, for having been in college for nine years to get a degree to hang on the wall, and for no other purpose, is even harder to accept.

I’m going to brush my teeth and go to bed. God, be with me. Help this all make sense.

Criticisms of Class

Our first essay in my religion class this semester is to write some sort of response to the reading so far. We’ve gone through almost 200 pages about theories of religion and our class format is for the teacher/presenter (students are actually teaching each class, one chapter a day from a different student each day) to walk through an outline of the chapter, summarizing its key points.

The paper, however, is not supposed to be a summary. Recognizing I’ve missed 2.5+ weeks of class, I asked somewhat timidly what the professor was looking for in this paper. It’s not supposed to be a summary, but summarize is all we seem to do.

The professor screwed up his face, seeming flabbergasted that I would ask such a question. As my peers responded in kind (looking as if I’d asked what only an ignoramus would), he asked in a somewhat condescending tone, “Didn’t I put the assignment on Blackboard? Isn’t it all out there already?”

I didn’t know it was, and apologized and said I’d take a look. Opening Blackboard, I went to the assignment and read it.

In this essay, discuss the 19th century theories of MĂĽller, Tylor, Smith, Frazer and Marx. Begin by spending about three pages summarizing the theories of each thinker concerning religion. The challenge here is to identify the essential ideas and concepts of each theory and express them accurately and concisely. Conclude your essay with a critical analysis of each theory. What do you consider to be the major strengths and weaknesses of each? Be sure that you make clear why a strength is a strength and a weakness a weakness.

Be aware that each chapter concludes with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a theory.

So… how is this not summarizing?

I hate being made to feel stupid without valid justification.

This 500-level religion class, though infinitely better, is frustratingly similar to the 100-level history class I’m dealing with this semester. In that class, the Asian instructor essentially covers nothing but names and dates. These names are occasionally given the barest context, but that context is sadly lacking. The purpose of studying history, to me, is to analyze the events, the inspirations, the motives, the whys and the hows. We’re not even getting a good timeline because he jumps around the globe and back and forth across centuries so we can’t even do a comparative analysis.

I don’t know how many thousands of dollars I’ve given this university for what essentially amounts to book recommendations. If not for reading the books, I’d have gotten no real education at all.

Browsing in the Basement

There’s a tornado warning in Springfield, so we’re down in the basement. This is my first tornado here [Missouri State University – Cheek Hall – Computer Services] with the MacBook, and it makes the whole experience a lot more pleasant. Instead of sitting down here just cooling my heels, I can obsessively refresh Twitter, check the weather, and bring up videos on YouTube.

In addition, it’s the first serious storm since we moved into our home, so April’s in the basement with the kittens. That makes me feel way better than I have in previous storms because I know that she’s safe. Unfortunately, I also know that the storm is dropping 3+ inches of rain, and our basement has a small leak in one corner.

At any rate, the tornado warning is in place until 9 this morning, and we’ve been down here since 8:10 a.m. or so. Without coffee. There are worse things, but not many.

I’ll update this post later with more updates, like when we get out of the basement. The latest I’ve heard is quarter-size hail, lots of rain, and 60-70 MPH winds. There’s a tornado in Republic (about 30 minutes drive from here) and it’s headed towards Springfield, was supposed to be here about 10 minutes ago.

If God wills, I’ll update again shortly.

Update:: Of course, by virtue of Murphy’s Law, as soon as I published this the warning was cleared and we were allowed to go back upstairs. I don’t trust it though. Springfield tends to blow the sirens at the slightest provocation, so I grabbed coffee as quick as I could and got things done so I’m ready to go back to the basement if need be.

Cell reception is terrible, so I could barely get a hold of April. Things appear to be fine at the house.

Update 2:: Yep, back down in the basement at 8:48. Wind’s blowing so hard that we can’t hear the sirens.

Update 3:: 8:56 a.m. and we’re back upstairs, and supposedly it’s done now. Whee.

Update 4:: 9:01 a.m., back in the basement. Tornado on I-44 at the 83 mile marker, wherever that is. Lots of damage in Republic. April called and said something got torn off the neighbour’s house, maybe the rear siding. It’s in their back yard now. Hope it’s not our siding…

Update 5:: 9:09 a.m. Pat, the building coordinator, tells us that Springfield is just recycling the sirens and the threat is pretty much gone. He’ll come by and tell us if we need to go back to the basement again. Back upstairs for now.

Update 6:: 11:50 a.m. and I hadn’t really planned on updating this further. The storm has passed and now we’re just surveying the damage, so I didn’t think there was any need for me to go on. However, they just taped off the front entry way to Cheek Hall on the Missouri State University campus, where I work, because a tree “shifted” during the storm and they fear it might fall over.

Our Help Desk Call Center is right next to that tree, so we’ve taken what precautions we can to keep people safe. The tree looks solid to us–no damage visible on the ground, so the roots haven’t pulled up or anything and the trunk appears un-cracked–but we’re going to take as few chances as possible.

April sent me some pictures of our neighbour’s back lawn and our front porch. It looks like the neighbours lost some siding, which really sucks. On the bright side, they rent, so the landlord has to deal with it, but they just moved in a couple of weeks ago.

img_5978 img_5984 img_5985

Update 7:: It’s 1:50 p.m., two hours later, and the tree out front of Cheek Hall is still standing strong. I had a very pleasant walk outside during my lunch break with the sun shining and the birds singing–it is amazing to me how easily nature rebounds from these things that frighten humans so much.

I’m anxious to go home in three short hours. I’ll try and take some pictures around the neighbourhood and the park and post them.

Update 8:: I went across the atrium to visit Brenda and noticed they were cutting a tree down. Apparently, they were referring to a different tree than we thought–the one we thought they were saying had “shifted” is just fine, but one just a bit further east is now being excised. I’m really hopeful they’ll plant new trees there to replace it.

Too bad I don’t have a camera here.

Twitter

About 8:11 a.m. | Tornado spotted in Republic. Missouri State University is in basements and such. Tornado estimated to be in #SGF by 8:25 a.m.

About 8:15 a.m. | April and the kittens are in the basement at home, which makes me feel a lot better. As for me, I’m 15 feet underground; can’t hear sirens.

About 9:10 a.m. | Apparently, the least safe place to be in a storm is Fairgrove Elementary. http://tinyurl.com/ou8k59 #sgf

About 9:13 a.m. | According to our building coordinator, #SGF is just recycling the sirens. We’ve been allowed back upstairs indefinitely; ignoring sirens.

About 9:30 a.m. | Fair amount of limbs down on the Missouri State campus :- Always makes me sad. Not going outside to inspect the damage yet, though. #SGF

About 10:30 a.m. | RT @donwyatt #sgf Storm was serious. Pls use caution when you inspect damage. Downed power lines can’t always be seen.

About 11:32 a.m. | RT @donwyatt: #SGF Wal-mart on N Kansas/I-44 has closed. No power. Lots of debris in parking lot. http://bit.ly/Lbkkf

About 10:45 a.m. | Did a power outage at Drury knock out their web servers? Can’t get to their website right now to confirm class cancellation. #SGF

About 10:50 a.m. | Internet appears to be down at Drury University #SGF . People on campus can’t connect out, and I can’t connect in.

About 10:55 a.m. | RT @ChrisBrewerNL: Photo of damage from Fair Grove school: http://twitpic.com/4s7yp #SGF

About 11:26 a.m. | RT @donwyatt: #SGF Glendale HS update – SW corner roof of N wing damaged. No injuries. No damage inside bldg. http://bit.ly/Ipvet

About 11:37 a.m. | RT @AshleyReynolds: My grandparent’s farm was hit by a tornado this a.m. broken bones and barns down. I ask for your thoughts and prayers.

About 11:41 a.m. | Front entry of Cheek Hall closed b/c a tree “shifted” and they fear it might fall. Looks fine to us, but we’re taking precautions. #sgf #msu

About 1:47 p.m. | The birds are singing and the sun’s out. Almost couldn’t tell we had a storm this morning, except for all the downed limbs. #SGF

About 2:06 p.m. | Correction: Tree is totally being cut down. We thought it was a diff. tree that had shifted. Hope they plant new trees there. #SGF #MSU

For continued updates on this subject, I suggest searching Twitter for SGF. I’ve been following it all morning to keep up with what’s going on and it has been an excellent resource. For direct news, @donwyatt has been very informative and on top of things.