Nope, this is not another movie review. Instead, I’m currently in Harvard’s Geological Museum building (part of the Harvard Museum of Natural History and Peabody Museum of Archaelogy and Ethnology complex). I’m here after hours, as I sometimes like to be, working at the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE). That’s where my concentration offices are based, so it’s my academic “home” on campus. Taking the efficient, friendly staff as a given, I really like HUCE – it’s a posh, comfortable new space with all the amenities a student looking for a workspace could hope for, including an almost-always-empty computer lab which outranks most of the computer labs I’ve ever used with it’s pitch-perfect mix of aesthetics and functionality. I really should bring my camera with me sometime – I especially like the view of the chemistry labs in the next-door buildings from the meeting room at the Center – very graphic and colorful, plus it’s fun to watch all the grad students in there running experiments late into the night. I’m sure my grad-student friends will relate to this, minus the “fun” part, perhaps.
So I’m here working on my senior thesis, which is becoming increasingly and delinquently behind schedule. This Intercession period between semesters is really one of the final opportunities to devote substantial, uninterrupted time to the project. Hopefully I’ll make enough progress to ensure that firstly, I don’t become one of the 1-in-6 students who never completes their attempted thesis, and secondly, that I have a good shot for honors.
Although to be honest, graduating with honors somehow no longer seems to matter much to me, despite the fact that I am still hoping for, and working hard towards Latin honors. In truth, while I’ve always somewhat wished that I could be better motivated by extrinsic honors and motivations, somehow the goal of showing a perfect score or having nice things to put on a resume never seemed sufficient to drive me enough to actually memorize multiplication tables, or to give up extracurriculars in order to concentrate on inorganic chemistry. At least that’s what I’m saying now – this could all just be cognitive dissonance trying to rationalize away the foolish recklessness and laziness of years past. Nonetheless, as I’ve reasoned before, in the end I’ve had pretty much everything I’ve ever truly wanted, in essence if not in its originally conceived form. I’m very much thankful for God’s grace in all that, of course. But focusing on what that potentially means about my internal, probably subconscious, mental calculus, perhaps the key thing is to figure out what I really want and why.
It’s probably true that I already tend to perform far too much meta-analysis – what is experience worth; what does this choice mean; how does this development fit into the bigger picture? These questions can be tiring to ponder, especially when few people want to listen to you explore them – of course they have better things to do, and analysis takes time, time which could be spent, easily and profitably (ostensibly) on other scheduled tasks and amusements. Never mind that, for me, much of such analysis leads to a “everything-is-meaningless” or “everything-is-equally-meaningful” (potentially) conclusion that is mainly distinguished from existentialism or nihilism by cheerful optimism and, more importantly, faith in God’s benevolent, omnipotent and active existence.
Coming back to the thesis-writing, this aforementioned general inability to ignore the possible larger implications is hampering my ability to write, among other issues. As I was telling Lorraine today, it’s difficult to think of this as “three longer final papers” or some other more manageable and less intimidating framework. I can’t avoid the sense that what I’m writing about is important, and the end product should actually represent the best possible analysis and recommendations I can produce. It’s easier to be flippant about opinion pieces on ancient history or literary analysis, or even term papers on morality and public policy; in those cases it almost doesn’t matter what you think since the effect on the world will be close to nil, one way or another. But that’s not the case when it’s a piece of work that has a chance (albeit small) of being taken seriously and affecting the world, and shaping your future research and career (considerably larger chance), and will ultimately be a sort of calling card for your beliefs and analytical abilities. Throw in the predictive component of what I think I will write (and everyone knows the pitfalls of trying to soothsay the future), and maybe my apprehension will appear less immediately irrational.
On a happier note, I think I made some good progress today, although I didn’t write anything substantial. And now I shall go read some more.
Earlier when I went to the bathroom, which is just past the slick “climate change” exhibit , the motion sensor lights didn’t detect me, so I proceeded in near-darkness. You can see how familiar I am with this space. Anyhow, I was especially impressed that both the motion-sensor flush and the motion sensor taps came on, even in the dark, with no special effort on my part. How’d they do that?? Anyone who understands the technology, feel free to enlighten me.
The problem with having short hair, which I’d completely forgotten about, is that after a mere four weeks it looks straggly and ready for some professional maintenance.
I refuse. No thank you. I told myself I’d wait till after June. Ok, maybe I’ll see about fixing it for graduation. Maybe.