Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Things I miss about being an Undergrad.

So, it's been about 4.5 years since I got my ScB, 1.5 years since I got my MSc, and 1 year since I started working at Satori. Seems like an ideal time to look back on the halcyon simplicity of college, right? Here are a few things that I really wish I had appreciated more in 2000.

(1) Getting enough sleep.

I was just about the only well-rested student I knew in college. When other people (who stayed up past midnight regularly) would complain that they seemed to spend lots of time working withotu getting anything done, I occasionally suggested that they try getting more sleep. Hah.

So, in grad school I developed some bad, bad habits -- staying up past midnight, sleeping in erratically, etc. (I like to blame my girlfriend, who refused to get up before 9-10am when she was a student ;-) ) I started to sort of get a handle on that, and then I got a full-time job.

The problem here is this: you know how they say that to figure out how much sleep you need, you should sleep until you wake up naturally and feel rested? If I go to bed at 9PM, I wake up naturally at 7-8AM or so. That's -- count it -- 10-11 HOURS OF SLEEP. As a student, I had the luxury of sleeping 11 hours straight (since I had no social life). As a working drone with an hour-plus commute, that would leave me with 3-4 hours to fit in all my non-work activities (like, say, eating; personal hygeine; etc). The fact that I tend to get heartburn if I lie down within 2-3 hours of a meal, and that I usually have to cook my meal before I can eat it ... well, this just isn't gonna work.

So, to get enough time to actually live a bit outside work, I end up curtailing my sleep schedule to "only" about 7-8 hours. I know that's enough for some people. I wish I was one of them. The result for me, though, is that I go through most days feeling dazed, tired, sleepy, and with an on-and-off headache. I can generally hold it together well enough to get through the work day (although yesterday I collapsed on the couch halfway through), but once I get home I lack the energy to do anything but feed myself and idly browse the Web. Trying to do anything intellectually challenging (hence interesting), like say learn Cantonese or category theory, is right out. (I can just about say I want to eat, and I got as far as power categories before getting horribly tired and confused)

(2) Breaks.

One great feature of college is that you get time off of it. In addition to some random vacations during the semester, you usually break for several whole weeks between semesters, and then break again in the summer. Even if you have a summer job, this is a great way to recharge the batteries.

In the working world, I get exactly 1 day off per month -- if I want a decent-sized break, I have to go several months with no days off at all (except the paid holiday day every other month or so that the company gives us in its beneficience).

(3) The cafeteria.

College students like to make fun of cafeteria food. They don't know how good they have it. You get three hot meals a day, plus you don't have to do ANY cooking or cleaning up? Sign me up!

When I get home at 6:30 PM and I'm starving, the first thing I have to do is get out the raw ingredients for my dinner and toss them in a pot, then gnaw on some cheese or something to take away the hunger pains until they're done. By 7:30, I might have some food in me, hopefully. I'm thinking about switching to a frozen-food diet (ew), although that doesn't help clean the dishes.

(4) There's no commute in college.

To get to work, I have to walk 10 minutes, ride the bus for about 30-40 minutes, then walk another 20 minutes or so. In the evening I have to do the reverse. That's 2-3 hours of my life sucked up by just getting to work and back. If my brain wasn't too fried to study any of the interesting books I've optimistically purchased (see (1) and (2)), it might be bearable...but when I just want to get some food and rest, it really sucks. And it sucks especially when I have no good alternative (living in Seattle is EXPENSIVE, and it would give Kate an even worse commute in the other direction).

(5) Having the time and energy to study topics or write software just for the heck of it.

This really incorporates all of the above. It seems like all these factors conspire to suck my time up, then suck up the energy I have in the little time left to me. Meh. For instance, right now (at 9PM) I am getting very sleepy and should get to bed, yet I've done nothing since I finished eating (at 7:30PM) but skim Lambda the Ultimate and a few linked articles sites (slowly) and write this blog post. Blah.

Lest I give the impression that I completely hate work, let me add that there is one very, very important thing that I enjoy about it relative to my student, free-software-hacking days.


I believe this one is self-explanatory; and so far it still makes up for the rest (I wonder how long this will continue). It's too bad I can't get paid to just sit around doing whatever I feel like and then giving it away, but then it's also too bad I can't wave a magic wand to get a pony and a few dozen acres to keep it on.