28.5%

As of Thursday, this is how much of graduate school I will have completed. After 9 months of work and many late nights, this is a sad number, if you ask me. But after this summer, that number will jump to 40%. And at Christmas it will be 55%. Then 70. Then 85. Then BAM. Graduate of graduate school. Gotta keep the eyes on the pryze.

I take a break from my last assignment of the year to write this. And while I would apologize for not updating this more this spring, I know how little that apology would do. So let’s move on.

This past Friday, my fellow first years and I participated in our final review for my studio class. For clarity’s sake, the term studio refers to both the building where we hold classes, the room itself where my desk and supplies and computer are located, and is also an actual course where we design things. An example sentence might be, “I went down to the studio (the building) today to work in the studio (the room) on my studio (the class) homework.” Toss that lingo around for size.

This semester my Theory and Studio classes have been working together, combining an emphasis on digital design and modelling with ideas of circulation, public space, and environmental psychology. We studied precedents of baths all over the world (mine was a hammam/Turkish bath in Damascus, Syria), mapped the downtown district, and did tutoring sessions with Revit (the 3D cousin of AutoCAD).  All of this came together for our final project, where we designed a public bathhouse for one of three possible sites in downtown Ames. Another classmate and I were the only ones to choose the smallest and most tightly bounded site, located right on the heart of Main Street between a children’s toy store and a bike shop. Since I’d never even opened the digital programs before, it took several weeks to get up to speed. In the end, my design featured a yoga studio and art gallery, therapy pools and saunas, and a roof garden. Here are a few sample renderings from my final presentation.

Needless to say, I’m glad this semester is almost over. It’s been a long, cold few months. It’s been trips to Minnesota, Iowa City, South Dakota, Virginia, Kansas City, and whatever else I cannot remember. It’s often felt like living in fourth gear while driving on the interstate–a roaring engine and poor gas mileage while maintaining speed and still getting there on time. But at what cost? I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the cult of Busy, about why I consistently pack so much into each of my days. Brushing teeth, getting mail, paying bills, getting gas, making meals, packing lunches, planning ahead, buying plane tickets, calling Mom and Dad, calling family, calling friends, underlining readings, returning library books, cleaning the gook out of the shower, making sure I have quarters for the meter, responding to emails, responding to responses to emails, going to lectures, solving bending and shear equations, watching software tutorials, figuring out said software, crying when said software doesn’t listen to what I say (only a little), budgeting for the next month…and so on. I realized I was in uncharted territory when my to-do list went onto a second page.

And yet, what is it all for? Why do I fill my life up to the brim? I’m not complaining about this (though you may infer that), since it’s simply the way things are right now. Life in school is messy and complicated and probably a little unhealthy. Maybe I move to keep things whole, to keep the legs churning so I don’t fall. Maybe we need to feel busy to validate our own sense of insignificance. But it’s almost over for the time being, and I’m grateful. I’m ready to breathe deep again, road trip to western PA, and fill up the wells again. Even if I have to start summer classes in two weeks.

Well enough of that. Time for the list of notables:

  • Winter threw a total cheap shot this past week with 4 inches of snow. IN MAY. You know something’s wrong when it’s raining, there’s still snow on the ground, but birds are chirping. Get over yourself, Iowa.

  • Surprise spring break in Virginia! A last-minute road trip and a one-way plane ticket were totally worth it. An unbelievable amount of fun. I can’t even describe how awesome that week was. My parents drove down a second time, just for the evening, to spend time with me and Marcy. And little Hannah started calling me “Uncle.” She also says “Shushybye” all the time and it’s supercute.

  • VEISHEA. An Iowa State tradition. In case you’re wondering, the name stands for the old school colleges at ISU–Veterinary, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics, and Agriculture. Hence, the name, coined an engineering prof named Frank Paine in 1922. He brought the pain (jokes!) to Ames (imperfect rhyme!). Who says engineers can’t be creatives? Besides the parade, the concerts by B.o.B. and Easton Corbin, the marching band, the miniature cherry pies (not that good), and the lumberjack exhibition, VEISHEA is a thinly disguised, institutionally sponsored excuse to go cray, if you happen to be sub-22 and into that kind of thing. My street was louder that week than it’s ever been, and I’ve never seen so many people on Welch Avenue. Iowa does know how to throw a party, though–complete with $9 giant turkey legs and fried Kool-Aid.

  • Surviving my structural engineering class, after much angst, confusing worksheets, and almost-screaming-into-a-pillow days. Somehow, buildings continue to stand up, even if I can’t exactly calculate the strength of a composite concrete column correctly or figure out the plastic section modulus of a cantilevered steel beam.

  • Ranch dressing + Frank’s Red Hot = scandalously good. You dip a green pepper in there, and you’ve really got something going.

  • Experiencing chislic, pluma moose, and an amazingly fun Easter in Freeman, South Dakota as a surrogate member of the Miller family.  It was awesome, yah.

  • That moment when your ear finally pops after being completely clogged all day. Thank you for clearing up, sinuses, after making me tilt my head to the left for every conversation so I could hear what was said.

  • The Nelson Atkins, at dusk.

    The Nelson Atkins, at dusk.

    Kansas City BBQ. One of my classmates got the sampler; we dubbed it the Meat Salad. OMG. Along with the Nelson Atkins Art Museum, you need no other reason to visit KC.

  • Attending my first drag show. You want to feel like you’re not in Ames, Iowa? Head there.

  • Playing soccer again. Oh, how I’ve missed it! A little part of me dies inside every time I get an email reminder about SVASL turf league, and how I can’t join this year. It’s universally one of the greatest things about Harrisonburg summers.

  • Penguins! Tearing it up. Steelers! Drafting big (I’m excited for how hard Jarvis Jones is going to sack opposing QBs). Pirates! Well, Pirates…it’s getting harder and harder to believe every year. But we dream on, Steel City. We dream on.

  • An internship in Harrisonburg! I am so grateful to have received an internship with Blue Ridge Architects for 6 weeks in July and August. I’d been dreaming about the possibility of spending time in their office, but somehow I’d never imagined it would work out. I’m so excited!

And in roughly 92 hours, I will be in experiencing one of life’s greatest moments–sitting in my wonderful living room in Boswell, PA, across from my parents and sisters and bros-in-law, playing with the kids before they go to bed, and discussing the exact schedule of fun for the Arts and Crafts Festival at JCS. And BELIEVE ME, there is a science and tradition to having a great time at the festival. And it always involves multiple strawberry sundaes and at least half of a BBQ chicken. My heart is beaming at the thought of how happy I’ll be, and my mouth is watering at the thought of the chicken. It’s that good. Believe it.

If you have any suggestions for good audiobooks, I’d love to have them. I’ll have 30+ hours to kill in the car in the next 10 days.

Cheers. I’ll eat a sundae for you this weekend.

Michael

One thought on “28.5%

  1. Monika says:

    you always have a magnetic way of writing, but for some reason i was particularly glued to this post. congrats on 28.5%, getting through the review, and enjoy arts and crafts, sounds fantastic. also. i highly recommend harry potter audiobook. got me through many trips to and from ohio.

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