Category Archives: Education and Career

Calling all catharses

My U-Pass expires today. A U-Pass is a fare card for the CTA, Chicago’s train system. It is a special fare card that never runs out of money. It was given to me by people at my school so that I would ride the train for educational purposes. They gave it to me at the beginning of the semester. It expires at the end of the semester. It expires today.

Oops, I forgot to learn!

Let’s see here. Got page of comic art published in filthy anthology: check. Coped with sudden and terrible breakup: check. Found new apartment: check. Moved to new apartment: check. Watched every episode of “Lost”: check. Spent enough time reading about “Lost” on the web that I could have watched every episode of “Lost” three times over: check. Likewise, but less so, with “Desperate Housewives”, “Arrested Development”, “The Amazing Race 6″, “The O.C.”, and “Survivor: Vanuatu”: check. Got very sick because I am unable to take care of myself properly: check. Read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, mostly on the train to and from school: check. Started playing Heroclix with friends: check. Dealt with minor addiction to buying Heroclix figurines on eBay: check. Designed a holiday card for pay: check. Attended classes with an acceptable or better frequency: check. Struggled with firmly embedded procrastination habits: check. Completed a semester’s worth of assignments to acceptable or better standards of punctuality and quality: a hefty check.

Nope! No learning! After that list, I’m hardly surprised. It was a pretty full semester.

I know that I wrote some cool stuff down in a notebook at some point… something about a business framework? Although if it were really all that great, people would be dissecting it on message boards for my enrichment.

I have one more U-Pass left, though. They’re giving it to me in January and they take it away in May. It could be my last hope. For learning.

Get my learn on

My third and last year of school at the Institute of Design begins tomorrow morning. I am both sad and happy about this. Sad because my life of unemployed leisure will be disrupted, and happy because it’s my final year and because really I genuinely enjoy learning new things. I am not apt to retain much with my memory in the current sieve-like state that it’s in, but at least I kind of feel smart when I learn and understand things, however temporary the feeling lasts.

Here’s my class schedule. The semester is divided up into two seven-week sessions.

A–session schedule
  8am-noon 2pm-6pm 6:30pm-9:30pm
M Research and Demo Comm Des Workshop  
T      
W     Structured Planning
R Research and Demo   Business Frameworks
F      
B–session schedule
  8am-noon 2pm-6pm 6:30pm-9:30pm
M Research and Demo Comm Des Workshop  
T     New Product Definition
W      
R Research and Demo   Comm Planning
F      

It doesn’t really look like a heavy load, but I’m sure I’ll be tearing out my short stubbly hair by the end of week 3. The major question is what my demo project will end up being, as that is presumably what will be taking up most of my time. I will probably know more by the end of class tomorrow.

I intend to treat the rest of my classes like roller coaster rides; that is, relax and try to have fun. And try not to projectile vomit afterwards, but go ahead if it makes you feel better. That kind of thing.

Who won the bet?

It took me all the way to Week 4 to oversleep and miss a class.

Hooray for irresponsibility!

A hunk of kerning love

As some of you may or may not know, I am now a student. Not a student of culture or of the world or of humanity or any junk like that; I am a student enrolled in an actual school, having paid tuition with actual money. Actually, the money is more theoretical at this point, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, I am now taking classes four days a week down at the Institute of Design.

That’s right! I’m going to be a designer. What kind of designer, you ask? Stop pressuring me!

I am very happy, though, that one of my classes is dealing quite a bit with typography. I have always found typography bizarrely fascinating. There’s your serifs and sans serifs and your em-dashes and en-dashes and your ascenders and descenders and it’s all just very interesting. Garamond, the typeface that this website has made famous, has been mentioned in class as one of the classics. It must have been due for a resurgence! But I have also been discovering the joys of such classic fonts such as Bodoni and Univers.

And who could forget Cooper Black? Nobody, now that Behind the Typeface: Cooper Black is here to tell the tale!

Lucas³

At school, which I just started last week, I am one of three people named Lucas in one relatively smallish program. I have continually heard comments along the lines of “Wow! Three Lucases!” or “So YOU’RE the other Lucas!” and I would like to alleviate the situation by taking a nickname.

“Luke” won’t work, because I already have a friend named Luke; “Hackett” is fine, I guess, but it’s not very creative; “Hack” is really my dad’s nickname. Since my middle name is Richard, I can have “Rich”, but I’m not really a Rich. There’s “Rick”, but there’s already a guy in the class named that. So what does that leave? “Dick”.

In a pinch, I can also go by “Luke Dick”. It’s one of those “Billy Bob”-type names, far more descriptive of the down-home country coot that I am than the excessively fancy and elegant “Lucas”. And plus, the presence of the name Dick will have people associating me with a penis, and I can’t see how that could ever possibly be a bad thing.

Luke Dick signing off. YEE-HAW!

And so forth!

I finally gave my notice at the library today. My last day there will be August 21. I will have been working in that position for twenty eight months. That’s a lot of months!

This clears up a few days for me to have a panic attack or two before school starts. Huzzah!

An unrare glimpse into the author’s psyche

My midlife crisis continues.

It is true that I have not really entered midlife at this stage, unless I plan to die at fifty or so, which I do not intend to do ? I plan to live a good century and a half longer, or at least until I pay off my credit card bills. At the same time, however, I figure that getting a midlife crisis out of the way early in life will clear up the schedule for a far more interesting midlife crisis down the road. Therefore, I am confronting my difficulties.

The first step in confronting one’s difficulties is to determine to some degree of accuracy what they are. The processes which are flawed or repetitive must be solidified, and not left as vague, abstract concepts. For instance: “I feel like my life is going nowhere.” Let’s toss this one into the garbage. First of all, “feeling” something doesn’t make it so. Second, “life” is too all-encompassing a term, and who says it is supposed to “go” anywhere? Why, just this morning, my life went to work. Clearly, that is not the meaning our wistful moaner wishes to ascribe to this statement, but if he could see through the gloomy gray clouds in his brain, he would see that his lamentation is overbroad.

“My career has stalled out.” You won’t catch me saying this ? I don’t have a “career”. I don’t know if I want one. In my purview, to define a career for oneself is to build a large brick wall around one’s world, to limit one’s options. For some people, this is probably a good thing, and I am not suggesting that I am superior to anyone for disagreeing; in fact, it may even bespeak a lack of maturity on my part. I am guessing that it is almost a universal truth that looking for a job is a tedious process, with little reward for the energy invested. However, on top of this I seem to be irrationally afraid of seeking employment. I am certain that if I put in the effort I could at least be considered for some position or other that would pay me a fair amount of money for my skills. But I neither have nor want a “career”, and so I drift aimlessly, thinking only about what I don’t want to do instead of what I want to do. Going back to school scares me also, but not quite as much, for some reason. Perhaps, then, grad school is on my horizon.

“I am getting old.” Everything is relative, of course. While I have left the demographic that MTV shoots for, I am still squarely in the range most advertisers are looking to sell to. But aging is a lot more than moving from one demographic to the next. Another part of it is seeing everything that you remember from childhood transformed. Tiny trees become giants. Giant trees die and get chopped down. Housing developments are built on top of all the dirt bike trails in the woods behind your backyard. Your ex-girlfriends from high school get married, have children. Your high school itself is for all intents and purposes torn down and rebuilt from scratch ? and then, after you graduate from college, suddenly you find that the landscape you became so used to has been altered as well. What of this nostalgia? Actually, I think I’ve come to terms with this one fairly well. Old memories are often worth revisiting, but to try to re-live the past will invariably result in disappointment. This may be why Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was received so poorly. (Or, possibly, it was a terrible movie. I didn’t think it was terrible, but then Natalie Portman makes me weak in the knees.)

Another important aspect of aging is the increasing attention one must pay to one’s body. For the last five years or so I have maintained the same basic diet and exercise, and only very recently have the effects of this regimen begun to visibly show ? in the form of, in my case, fatty fatty fat fat. The weak daily workout I have created for myself might keep the gut size in check for a little while, but certainly this bit of my life could stand a bit of revising. And illness ? I get sick a lot more often than I used to. It is actually a lucky morning for me if I don’t wake up feeling nauseated. It is unlikely that I am pregnant, but for now that is my only working theory.

I’m sure my sleep patterns are only exacerbating the problems. I go to bed between 2 AM and 3 AM most nights, and wake up at about 8 AM. It could be a lot worse, but I’m definitely dangling off the low end on the scale of recommended sleep ideals. I simply can’t get to bed any earlier, though, and I don’t really want to. I have so much trouble ending my day. As a result of this, though, I am basically tired all the time. Surely there is a better way to live one’s life?

But even after the identification of the problems comprising one’s midlife crisis, implementing solutions can prove extremely difficult. At the moment, I am nonplussed, and hoping everything sorts itself out. I am disappointed that I have not had any epiphanies or feelings of catharsis while writing this; but then again, if one lives one’s life in pursuit of catharsis, one is probably doomed to a lifetime of disappointment.

Damn it. I think I would like catharsis.

So what happens now?

My jury service ended yesterday. The nature of the case was medical malpractice against two defendants. After being presented with day after day of evidence from all three attorneys, the jury had all pretty much made up our minds by the time we were to begin deliberations. I thought it would be insensitive to annonce the verdict after only thirty minutes, so we managed to talk about it for another hour. In the end, we found for the defendants and against the plaintiff. The judge invited the jury to stay and talk to the lawyers afterwards, because we might have questions, and because sometimes the lawyers would like feedback from us as to what was effective and what was not. Several of the jury grouped around the three lawyers — who were at least well-acquainted colleagues, if not friends — and started to ask them various questions. In the course of this, I learned that the plaintiff had sued another doctor over this incident in a different trial and had won, so I did not feel too badly about finding for the doctors.

Then, I just sort of wandered away. I didn’t really have any questions, nor did I have anything particularly insightful to say as to criticism of performance, so I floated away from the crowd and I stared out that twenty-second story window one more time before I descended to ground level, hopped on the subway, and raced back toward my life of relative drabness — relative to the giant crowds and giant buildings and giant money of downtown Chicago, at any rate. I was to return to my job and resume performing my assigned occupational duties. But the experience reawakened in me a desire to do something more. That is why I want to take the GRE. That is why I have been tearing my hair out looking at the academic programs and application procedures of design schools all over the United States. That is not why I have been playing a lot of SimCity in the past few days, but not everything has a tidy explanation.

I believe it is safe to say that now, more than ever, I am standing squarely at the crossroads of life. Or, at the very least, I am sitting on the couch of indecision.

I work in a library. I am not and have no interest in becoming a librarian. I do not mind working in a library. It is quiet and there is not much pressure. Some days are busier than others, true. On the whole, though, things are pretty laid back, compared to, say, a newsroom. Or the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Or the Battle of Bunker Hill. Or university.

In high school, there was so much pressure to figure out what I wanted to do, largely so I could choose the appropriate college. I somehow made that decision, and then, in college, there was pressure to narrow down what I wanted to do, so that I could basically back up into the elastic band of the classroom, which would fling me in that direction come graduation. Then I graduated. At first, I was worried the elastic band had broken. Then I realized that metaphors are easily manipulated and are nothing to worry about. A more satisfying comparison is to say the band lost its elasticity, much like my underwear has lately. When the band was released, I did not fly forward. I just stood there. Am I saying that my education let me down, or failed to sharpen my focus? I am saying yes to both. I am also implying that my underwear will not stay up.

And now I am out of college and working in a library, and the word “career” gives me gas. I gave myself gas by typing it just now. But as I don’t fancy a library “career”, I do not feel compelled to excel in my work, and so the pressure is off. However, the result of this is that I perform my job very well. The things I would like to try, however, put inordinate pressure on me which makes me foul up or stops me altogether. Or perhaps I only perceive it that way.

Earlier this year, I applied for positions at a number of dot-coms. Of the ones that had the courtesy to get back to me after interviews, all cited a lack of experience on my part as the chief reason for hiring someone else. Now, they all differed in the details of what sort of experience I lack. Some said I had sufficient experience in task x but not in task y, and some would say the opposite. The positions were all similar, requiring similar skills and experience. The only way I can explain the discrepancy is by saying they are both wrong, that I have sufficient experience in neither task x nor task y, because I have been trying to do both while also maintaining an interest in tasks a, b, m, p, and q.

So continues the tragic life of a misunderstood genius.