The longest night draws ever nearer, presaged by earlier and earlier nightfall. Through this dark I drove to take my engineering exam.
The bleak skies overhead were washed out by clouds, and the new moon offered no illumination for the long, lonely drive to school. The drive went smoothly, despite being the most dangerous activity I partake of in my mundane life.
Then came the exam itself. Only four problems, each tricky in their own ways. I spent half an hour contorting my mind around each problem. Thankfully this time there were no blindsides to the problems: they tested what we already should have known.
After finishing, I drove home near to the middle of the night – well past my bedtime. My accompaniment for such a crescendo to my semester in university? Pleasant music to stave off the fierce headache that kept me awake even longer past my bedtime.
The present season of my life has been about necessary sacrifice.
That is to say, I decided on a course of action that will bring me closer to my goals. In the choosing, I also accepted the cost associated with bringing it into reality: my precious time, energy, and sanity. All have been expended in this pursuit of my engineering degree.
This quarter it turned out to be a success, landing me an A+ grade.
Of course my family was unsurprised by my final grade – they expected it of me. Often they expect it in the way that invalidates all the work and care I put into achieving my success.
No matter how well prepared you are for finals, you always need to cram. It never ends. There is always more you can do. I spent days in preparation of finals, and placed myself under such immense stress.
This time, it was worth it. I succeeded where I could have failed, and I'm temporarily free of the class burden.
Yet I intend to return, again and again, to take ever more classes. This has been but one season of sacrifice of many within my lifetime.
As long as these bursts of classes stay contained within their few months, I will be fine. I can sustain myself with alternating breaks and classes, and I will slowly and steadily make my way through university.
Returning to Hobbies and Writing
Now that I am relieved of the burden of that engineering class, I feel ready to return to my hobbies. Writing most of all, particularly for this blog.
I also have two novel projects I do on the side for fun. During November when I was most stressed, I managed 11,000 words for one of them. That's a fifth of a NaNoWriMo, whilst working and attending night classes!
Writing is my escape from the stresses of my life, so that should be no surprise. I enjoy the act of collecting my thoughts for putting them into words, and I'm compelled to share stories with my friends.
Creation is sacred, in all its forms.
It's why I love engineering so: the act of driving an idea to completion and actualising it. Yet the same is true of arts and crafts, in my eyes.
I've missed being able to create art in my daily life, so I'm glad that this engineering course has come to a close.
Resting on my Laurels and Financial Independence
One of the open source projects I maintain recently underwent a renaissance, which precipitated a refactor of all its code. In short, I redid all the work from scratch.
In those meditative periods of coding at the dark end of the day, accompanied by the comforting glow of my screen, I had plenty of time to reflect on what it means to rest on your laurels.
I had not touched the project in years, so I asked myself "Am I doing everything within reason to serve the community?"
The answer? A mixture of yes and no. I balanced my personal life and needs against those of the community. Largely this ruled in favour of my personal life, since the project was at a stable place of "good enough." It functioned well enough for daily use by everyone.
Yet I could have done more, and developed more features. I could've studied what users needed. I could've continued to serve them – gone above and beyond my modest success.
This notion underpins my thoughts on financial independence.
Yes, I could achieve early retirement. That is a worthy goal for a lifetime, but what then? Once you've retired, what else are you going to do? Rest on your laurels and luxuriate in your freedom?
For many people, the novelty of such a time abundance wears off they grow glutted with it. They want to do something – anything! – to improve themselves or others.
In my case, I'm compelled to give back to communities I care for. I might take sabbaticals to assuage my specific neurodivergence, but overwhelmingly I need to do what I can to help others.
It's not enough for me to be applauded by others, to impress strangers and be celebrated. Soaring reputation means nothing if I do not feel worthy of it.
Worthiness only comes when I can rest easily at night, content in the knowledge that I am doing everything in my power to better myself and others.
The Longest Night, Winter Solstice
My household's main seasonal holiday is WinSol. As the longest night in the northern hemisphere of the world, it is an appropriate time to bundle up with friends and festivities. Food, chatter, stories, and games are all welcome ways to pass the time waiting for the warm sun to return.
This year we had a quiet arrangement with homemade apple cider, tiramisu, and carne asada burritos. We played board games, chatted, and most of all relaxed.
This WinSol has been a valuable break from the stress of my mundane life. It's a resolution to a brutal year.
From here on out, the light will return more and more until summer comes. Hopefully that is metaphorical too, and that I will be restored to my usual vibrant self with this new year.