This is the post that I've been waiting for and dreading for a long time now: my farewell to college and, more importantly, the end of my life as a student dependent on my parents. It's really difficult to believe that it's all over so when people ask me how I feel about graduating, I kind of want to say that I'm shocked. It doesn't feel like I went through much but when I think back on it and consider the person I was and the things I knew before coming here I realize that it really was a monumental experience. I don't think that I could've hoped for a better college career at a better University. Sure, I could've gotten a 4.0 or the bad things that happened could've not happened, but a wise man once said that it's the challenging times in our lives that build character, not our successes. So if you're looking to go to UT, you'll easily find a glowing recommendation from me.
I feel like the most important thing that I learned in Austin was the power we all hold within ourselves that we don't even know about. There were several classes where I had bad grades and didn't think I'd make that A but I pulled through in the end. There were so many projects I wanted to give up on and I pushed forward. How did these things happen? I think I've been reaching for a goal that drove me amazingly far. People who do bad in school aren't necessarily stupid, but rather they lack ambitious. It's unfair to say that they're lazy because I think that we're all lazy deep down inside. I like being productive just as much as the next person, but I also like sleeping and watching TV. The reason that the former won out is because I still have this vision for my life that I'm going to accomplish something incredible. UT CS teaches you that anything truly is possible. If you can crank out a compiler in 3 months and write a file system from scratch and program image searching and survive a 3 hour marathon exam in Automata Theory and brave the cold in Taylor basement then you have even more untapped potential within you. The lesson isn't how to code, the lesson is how to learn to be a better you and how to persist against all odds. Still, I did learn a fair bit about computers and programming in the process ;) In a field as rapidly-changing as computer science, I feel like UT definitely gave us all the necessary tools to continue to learn and explore and discover and just be creative. It's amazing how much creativity it requires to acquire a CS degree (take Number Theory and Network Security if you don't believe me).
The next most important thing I learned was the value of strong interpersonal skills. If you're going through schools just blindly making your As and watching TV alone at home in your free time, then you're doing it wrong. I used to think that networking was something that business students did and making use of people you meet is shady. I was afraid to ever ask anyone for help in getting an interview for fear that I wouldn't have truly earned the position. To the contrary though, life is full of serendipitous meetings that you have to appreciate and (reasonably) exploit. It's a 2-way street, of course, but having a strong base of friends is so important not only for maintaining your sanity and having fun, but for advancing your communication skills and gaining contacts that could serve you well later on in life. After all, where would Steve Ballmer be if he didn't befriend Bill Gates? When it comes down to it, teamwork is something that permeates our life in every aspect. My degree is not the sole accomplishment of my hard work and whatever talent I may miraculously possess, but the collaboration of the support of my friends and family, the colleagues who provided me with advice and study groups, and so much more. Without teamwork, you can only get so far. I learned that, too. Whenever I did something collaboratively (not a test, mind you, but studying or programming or whatever) I got it done faster and did better on it most of the time. You have to collaborate with smart people, which I had the good fortune of meeting many at UT, but it's definitely pretty amazing when you do. I'll never forget the amazing harmony J Higs and I had in our pair programming assignments where we'd bounce ideas off of each other and before long we had disassembled this intimidating problem into something more palatable.
I'm so glad that I got as involved as I did at UT. I was an officer in Natural Sciences Council for 3 years and an operating officer in Association for Computing Machinery for about the same amount of time. I learned so much about being a good leader and interacting with people and management and so many other things. I highly recommend this to those of you just starting out your collegiate journey. Fuck the frats. There, I said it. Those parties blow, the girls who go to them are often shady, and the guys are often pigs. Not all of them are this way, by any means, but there's a certain point at which I just can't take the superficiality of it all. Don't be part of a system, become your own person. When you join student organizations you typically get the freedom to do that while expressing yourself in a way that furthers the cause of a large group of people. There are strictly social groups: I had a ton of fun in Texas Latin Dance and went to plenty of great parties that way. Also, these clubs were much cheaper and are marketable in an interview situation. I can easily say that I would not be as capable as I am today is leading, managing, communication, and dancing without the aid of these 3 organizations. There's so much out there at UT to explore, so why not get out there and get your hands dirty? College is so much more than the high grades: I can tell you from experience that all good grades will get you is a foot in the door. You still have to sell yourself, which is so much harder when all you have is good grades. Explore your hobbies, do more in your field past the classroom (engineers: build stuff, programmers: do open source, everyone: do research, and really establish what you love to do. At the end of college, it's a requirement that you have a general idea of what you'd like to do or else you're in for an even longer struggle (which does build character, but that's aside from the point here).
I shed many tears when I thought about leaving Austin, and I shed even more when I finally left it. What a fucking amazing place. I spent several years literally praying for the day to come sooner when I'd leave Houston and live my own life in Austin. I know that a part of my love for it stems from that, but it's so much more than that. Austin is a city that becomes this benevolent character in your life. It's like nothing I've ever experienced before. It's like how the island in Lost is a character on the show. You have to expect the unexpected, indulge in the offbeat and strange, be endeared by the local/indie charm, and take in the beautiful sights that barrage you constantly. I know it doesn't have quite the backdrop of Seattle, but the hill country and the people and all the little things really add up. I take no pleasure in the act of leaving Austin, I will miss it dearly. Sure, a part of that is the fact that I have to leave some people I really love and care about, but some of them are leaving, too. I decided last October that I had to move on with my life and try something new lest I always be afraid to accept change. This move is the biggest change I've ever had to endure, but it has to happen whether it's now or later.
The memories that I take with me as I close this chapter of my life are priceless and there are a ton of them. I hope to never forget them. In this semester alone I shook Barack Obama's hand, saw one of my favorite hip hop artists live, went tubing on Lake Travis, saw one of my idols speak (Bill Gates), threw my most successful parties, tried my hand at actual research, performed a dance in front of a large group of people (I've wanted to do this for many years), and I made the motion to raise the roof as I walked across the stage at commencement. In the past four years there has been so much more: I went to my first music festival, I met my first love, I saw the Dalai Lama speak, I saw some of my favorite artists perform (Coldplay, Audioslave, Common, The Roots), I got an offer at one of the top technology companies in the nation (this was something I dreamed of every day until that moment), I had the happiest days of my life (my brother's wedding and the offer/my first date), I smoked my first cigar and my first hookah, I met my best friends, and so much more.
There's no question that I'm going to miss the people I have to leave behind the most. There's way too many people who have influenced me for me to get anywhere close to acknowledging them all, but I do want to take a shot at just a few...
To my parents: you taught me the meaning of strength and sacrifice, and I will always appreciate that. The financial support you gave me showed me that you really cared about me learning. Some parents think they teach their children a lesson by making them suffer through working and doing school at the same time, but I'm glad that you realize that I already understand this. It made a huge difference, trust me.
To BB: I still remember when I talked to you and Kory after a party at Metro and asked if you felt like something was missing from college, like you hadn't found your place yet. Ironically (or coincidentally, I can't figure out which to use here), you guys helped me find my place quite well. I could not have asked for better friends, and I will sorely miss our movie/game nights. You have to come visit me in Seattle.
To my love: there are no words I can put here to thank you for all you've taught me and shown me and helped me through. My appreciation for your being in my life is far larger than you can probably imagine. You will always be a part of me.
To my CS buddies: thanks for being good guy friends. There are a lot of guys who have bad guy friends and end up in bad stuff and feel ostracized and alienated. I always felt right at home with you guys, and we had a lot of fun together. I imagine that our journeys will collide many times in the future, so don't lose touch, please.
To my brother and sister-in-law: your support has been endless, and I always appreciated that. God only knows how much money you've spent on me! Shawn and I get on each other's nerves every once in a while, but such is to be expected from siblings. ;) I will sorely miss lounging about in your house and playing with the bubba.
I'm sure that this is not a goodbye to any of you since you're all required to visit me! Make no mistake about it: I love you all dearly. There are other people who have been close to me over the years and I appreciate you all, too, but I'm running out of time here.
I want to leave you guys with some pictures from the weekend. I would leave you with pictures from the past 4 years that I like best, but that would be far too difficult. I hope you all have a great 4 weeks, and I'll try to report back soon. I will miss everyone.
|From Convocation a...|
|From Convocation a...|
|From Convocation a...|