Thursday, October 24, 2013

I'm a perfect square!

Hello to all fourteen of my loyal readers! Today, I am 6^2 years old!

This has definitely been a year to remember. I completed my PhD, and finally spent a full year single, after having been in back-to-back monogamous relationships since I had been 18.

You know how you can't really control what lodges in your memories? How you might plan an exciting day, and but you forget about it soon afterwards, but you remember for the rest of your life that one time you shared a PBJ with a flock of pigeons? Well, my highlights of this year, I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life.

1) I will remember how my friends and colleagues gathered around me for my dissertation defense. I had never been nervous in front of a crowd before--I grew up dancing in a professional company, I did speech and debate in high school, and I really like to teach. I can give spontaneous talks about anything, and my audiences are generally appreciative. However, that day, I was so nervous! I was thankful that I had a class to teach that morning, so at least that chunk of time was taken care of, leaving me less time to fret and jitter around my office. However, when that room filled with people, including long-term friends, colleagues I had only met in the previous year, department faculty and staff, and my own students, I immediately felt better and was able to deliver my presentation with no problems. It is customary for refreshments and snacks to be provided at a dissertation defense, and a colleague of mine made an entire beautiful sheet of four kinds of cookies! Colleagues came to support me who were neither engineers nor snow scientists. That meant a lot to me. So, from that I learned: (1) Always to attend talks given by friends. It might mean a lot to them. (2) The perfect expression to wear during their talks (look alert, smile slightly, nod your head every now and then). Also, when I returned to my office and promptly wrote thank-you emails, one response was "Your welcome." I learned to let that slide. If someone's done something for me that warrants a "thank you", I need to ignore a "your welcome." In fact, I developed a coping mechanism for that. I think of "welcome" as a noun. So the friend is saying, "It's your welcome. I welcome you to my kindness." See? :)

2) After my Catholic upbringing and years of sampling various religions, I finally committed to one and was baptized at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, right here in Fairbanks. I was asked to find a sponsor to be a godparent, who was already Christian and not my biological parent. Most of my friends are atheists or Mormons, so I had to think a bit and came up with the perfect person. My "Aunty" D who since I was 14 years old played music for me to dance to...

When I filled out the official paperwork, I was pleased that I now had an official tie to both Alaska and Hawai'i, my "other" home states. It's interesting to think that however diverse CA, AK, and HI are, they still have a lot of similarities, and that I am a child of the West after all. When I had first wanted to leave the Sili Valley, the other place I had been considering was New England. I'm glad now that I did not make that choice. I don't think I would have fit in as well there.

I'm glad I waited until I was not only an adult, but a middle-aged, adult, before being baptized. An infant does not freely choose, and neither does a child who has been raised in the religion all his or her life. I treasure my atheistic scientific training, and I love that the Mormon missionaries continue to visit me. But I feel things in Christian churches that I cannot deny, and so I chose the branch of Christianity that ordains women, hosts blessings of the animals on St. Francis' feast day, spoke out against South African apartheid, and accepted gay people as "children of God" and "entitled to full civil rights" in 1976.

It rained all day the day of my baptism. My pastor SF talked about the importance and the symbolism of water. After my baptism, he said, "You know, the Eastern Orthodox tradition says that you get your guardian angel at baptism. Pay special attention to Autumn and Linden tonight! The next morning, he took to Facebook (because of course) to share his thoughts as he prepared for a trip to the Lower 48:
"has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA where he will be this time tomorrow (except there won't be a birch tree out a window, singing golden praise to God), but he watched 35 years old Daisy, equally having no idea what was coming, walk into her Baptism and Future last night with eyes open with Wonder & Complete Trust, and he hopes that he can do the same, flying off into The Unknown this evening."

3) My long-sought year of being single finally came to fruition. I anticipated challenges and loneliness, but really found... surprisingly, absolutely none (well, none that I attribute to being single. Life itself always has challenges!). I attribute this independence to the years I was with DN, who traveled for his work about 70% of the time, and who was a workaholic and seldom left the office the other 30%. I grew to love my own company and to plan to see people and do things without him. I also learned to take care of my own home, car, and self. When the time came that I knew I had to leave him, the concept of "being on my own" didn't frighten me even one tenth so much as it would have years prior! Since then, I've had several other relationships, but I always knew that I could afford to keep my standards high, and I never cried or begged for this or that from a partner. If he freely offered what I wanted, great; if not, buh-bye! But since being truly single I have experienced the light, delicate dance of the Casual Date. I had always been plunged from one relationship to the next, almost always with people who had been prior friends, that at the age of 35 I had never had a First Date! In the past year, casual dates have been amusing, funny, perplexing, horrifying, delightful, and always eye-opening!

4) Being an engineer, my colleagues and friends have always been predominantly men. (It's also one of the reasons that despite having an absentee father and a handful of bad partners, I'd never become a Man Hater. It's impossible to hate almost everyone you know! There are bound always to be some good people in there that it's impossible to hate!) However, since coming to work in this research center, my colleagues have been intellectually diverse and mostly women. In the past, I had heard horror stories about mostly-women offices, but I haven't experienced much of it. I do know that some of my colleagues don't like each other particularly well, but they are professional about it, and I myself am juuuuust socially inept enough not to notice when they slight each other. So... lucky me! The office idiot gets to experience all of the camaraderie and none of the cattiness! Mostly what I feel for these women is that I feel embraced and respected. I told you how they all sat through my defense without understanding a word, right? But they look out for me every day, and I them, and it's often the little things that can push me over a difficult hump and back to the correct path. And... I'm not gonna lie; I LOVE when I get back from lunch dates and find them all hovering and giggling just behind the window. "Who was THAT?" and pumping me for details. I never had that as a nerdy, unpopular teenager, nor as an already-engaged engineering student in college. I'm getting it now, and it's fun!

5) I also quit eating like a glutton, while accumulating almost 30 points towards The Hunger Project! And... I had a personal record at the Equinox! Not a bad year!

Happy perfect square year to me!


Vanessa said...

Happy Birthday!!!

chris said...

Happy Birthday!

Debs said...

Happy birthday!!

mdr said...

Have safe, healthy and happy life in your coming years. Happy birthday and many many many many many many many ....more.

Anonymous said...

"Your welcome" is not so bad as, say, "Yore welcome".
Happy Birthday one day late.

Loyal Reader #8

Lisa said...

I hope you had a great birthday! Your blog is wonderful, so are the pictures that you post. I've never been to Fairbanks (I had family that lived there but never got a chance to visit) - it is a beautiful place.

mdr said...

Big thanks to Auntie D. Does she read your blog?

obifolder said...

As one of your loyal readers, I agree that you had a great year as indicated in your summary. I send you wishes for another, then another, then still more.