Sunday, September 27, 2009

Even Spiderman...

I frequently hear comments about myself. People say things like "Petey can talk with anyone," "Well, he's Petey - of course he can [insert action here]," and "Petey is always happy." Not knowing what to say, I usually content myself with a quip about people thinking that I have superpowers.

I'll leave the debate about superpowers for another day, as it is irrelevant to this post.

My point is that, superpowers or no, even superheroes can't do it all. Spiderman failed to save his girlfriend's life (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Gwen_Stacy_Died). Superman even died (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Superman)! And Petey absolutely cannot do it all - I have limitations.

I'll digress long enough to explain that although I am usually cheerful, I am not always happy. Even people who seem happy are not always happy. Please take time to be kind to everyone, including the people who don't seem like they need it.

I was up late doing homework the last couple of nights. As a result, I slept in a little later than I'd hoped to be up this morning. I got up in time for my busy day: I was going to start at 9am and likely have no breaks in church-related and other meetings and social events until about 7pm, with a short break around 5pm for dinner. I got up at 8am, which was enough time to be ready to go at 9am. As so commonly happens, something came up that I didn't expect and I didn't get any breakfast by my first appointment in the morning.

For those who aren't aware, I am hypoglycemic and am under doctor's orders to eat regularly and healthily. By 10am, I was already feeling the effects of low blood sugar and knew that I wouldn't be worth much to anyone - including myself - if I didn't get something to eat. The only optional event in my schedule began at 10am, so I bowed out of one of my favorite Sunday activities: going to a hospital to sing hymns to those who want them. Instead, I ate breakfast and wrote an email to my little brother, who is a missionary in Florida.

As much as I want to be a good student, serve others, and perform well in every aspect of my life, I can't do everything. I sure wish I could, though. I guess it's time to let go.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the other hand,

During my first year of college, I had four classes with another guy named Peter. Enough other people had classes in common with us that they had to distinguish between us. I became known as Pete the Loud. My friend (who is now my roommate) became Pete the Other.

I lived up to my nickname, although I tried not to be overwhelming. I'm sure I failed, but the people I hung out with seemed to like me well enough. By the end of the year, I thought of myself as a pretty popular guy.

The following summer, I reported to the Provo Missionary Training Center as I began my two-year mission to Brazil. Within a week of my arrival, I had two companions instead of one - and one of them (as far as I could tell) didn't like me at all. In fact, my district (class) generally seemed to dislike me. By the end of my nine weeks of training, I had started to think that I wasn't likable at all.

I thought a lot about it. I learned a lot. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, I have rounded off some of the rough edges that caused so much irritation to those who rubbed shoulders with me.

But this week, I started to notice some of the same things. People didn't seem to want to have me in their classes. I said something without meaning to offend and noticed that it seemed to bother the person I addressed. And lots of people, whose behavior had seemed entirely normal before, seemed now to be polite without demonstrating interest in my friendship.

I recognize that much of this could be in my head. I'm not concerned enough about people's opinion of me (especially if it's based on too few interactions for them to know me) for it to cause me deep anguish. All the same, it started me thinking about the things that I do and say that bother other people. Once I discover what it is that I do that's bothersome to my friends and acquaintances, I can begin to discover if these frictions are due to innocent personality conflict or my own character flaws.

I hope that my discoveries will help me to round off more rough edges. I hope that the people I know will have the courage to tell me when I bother them and help me to understand why my actions are irritating to them.

I also hope that we will all take time to express our positive feelings for each other, for positive feedback is sometimes as effective as tactful negative feedback.

I would like to conclude with a note of gratitude for those who love me for who I am now, foibles included. I am grateful to know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me despite my faults and who communicates frankly with me to show me what I need to change about myself. I have seen it before, so I know that as I give my best efforts, He will change me into a fundamentally better person.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stumbling into life aspirations

This summer, I knew that I had one year left in my undergraduate education and that the time to make a decision about my career was fast approaching. I've been torn for some time between two different career paths: teaching in a seminary and teaching at a university. I love to teach the gospel, so seminary teaching appeals very much to me. That said, I love teaching just about anything. I'd be able to provide more for my family as a professor than as a seminary teacher, and I think that teaching computer science would be a great use of my natural logical abilities.

Seminary teaching would not require an advanced degree, but computer science teaching would. Since I'm not yet sure which way I'll go, I've been preparing for both eventualities. That means that I took the GRE this summer and that I started to look into research opportunities, TAships, and signed up for the next seminary teaching class. I hope that as I try these things out, I'll have a better idea of what to do.

Besides the question of which career path I'd like to take, the route of computer science requires an answer to another question: what will be my emphasis? I enjoy many aspects of computer science, but although I tried to familiarize myself with many of the current topics in CS, I failed to find something that I was sure I wanted to study indefinitely. A research topic was the subject of much thought, study, and prayer throughout the summer.

I started doing some research with a professor who taught one of my classes last year. I wasn't at all sure what I wanted to research, but some of his work sounded interesting and I decided that I'd never know unless I tried. So I decided to jump in. I started my research in parallelization on Thursday.

Towards the end of my first few hours in the lab, a man came by and spoke with my advisor briefly. The two of them left shortly thereafter for some sort of meeting. Someone pointed out that the man who had just walked past was featured on a flyer in the hallway. His research sounded interesting, but I figured I wouldn't see him.

I left a few minutes later. I passed an auditorium as I was leaving the building and noticed my advisor speaking in the front. He was introducing Matthew Might, the man whose research had sounded so interesting. I slipped in the back and noticed another professor and friend of mine seated nearby and sat next to him.

As Dr. Might spoke, I quickly became fascinated. Fireworks began to explode in my brain: he was talking about something that really made sense - something that I could actually study for my whole life!

In the midst of the pyrotechnic spectacle, the professor seated next to me leaned over and asked if I would TA for him. I had decided during the summer that I didn't have time to TA, no matter how qualified I was or how much I wanted the experience. My initial reaction was that I had no time, although I wanted to accept. While still observing the shooting stars that seemed to originate from somewhere near the projector screen in the front of the room, I tried to come up with a way to fit a job as a TA into my schedule.

I suddenly realized that I would most likely be able to count my research as a class and drop another, thereby freeing up more time than I would spend as a TA. A brilliant, smiley-faced shape erupted in the sky, accompanied by a resounding cannonade.

I asked the questions, filled out the paperwork, and made the changes to my schedule that were necessary to accommodate all of this.

I'm tempted to think of this as happenstance, but I know better. The Lord heard each of my prayers this summer and answered quickly and powerfully. In so doing, He reminded me that He is watching over me and will always act for my benefit. I know that God loves me enough to show me wonderful opportunities. By extension, I know that He loves all of His children in the same way.

Explanatory note

I originally created this blog so that people who were a long ways away could know how I was recovering from a jaw surgery that I had about a year and a half ago.

I've since fully recovered and haven't been blogging.

I decided that it's now time to start recording the Adventures-o-Petey(TM) without limiting them to just the adventures that relate to particular medical procedures.

In short, it's time for Petey to start blogging for realsies.