Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's the Final Countdown

Snippet of typical finals-week conversation:
Person #1: "And then it... duh buh buh buh."
Person #2"Ah.  And how is that sleep you've been getting?  Plentiful, I trust?"
Person #1: [clearly confused about the concept"... sleep?"
You can only power through finals week.  It's pretty miserable-- the deadline looms, there's never enough time, and as the hours you can spend in guilt-free sleep dwindle, a haze gradually eclipses your common sense*.  You calculate: will the clarity sleep affords be worth the time you won't be working?

So you take the mood lifts where you can find them.  Right now, for me, it's this:

It may not be a musical masterpiece, but each time it plays, it returns a chunk of my missing perspective, and I am deeply lucky that K puts up with me repeatedly queuing it in Amarok**.  So, bit by bit, my last days as a college student slip away.  There are worse ways to do this.

*A keen observer might have caught me stroking a small patch of my desk earlier today, looking for my touchpad.  My desktop has an ergonomic mouse, not a touchpad. Also, I hate touchpads.

** He developed a fondness for the song while he was playing Saints Row 2: it's an in-game song, and silly things happen when it plays.  I won't spoil, but if you don't want to play an over-the-top disturbingly violent game, you can almost certainly Google it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dead Week

Fortunately, I'm not actually dead-- just buried under a mountain of homework.  Regular blogging will resume after I've finished this pesky "homework required to graduate", because I've got some things I'm saving up to say.

snow clumps along the side of paths
It looks like a prank.

Meanwhile, have a picture I took after our April snowfall.  It melted, mostly, leaving neat rows of snowballs along the sides of the pedestrian walkways.  My initial thought: "Someone has FAR too much time on their hands and a really big freezer", before I realized that the neat lines of snow resulted directly from plowing the paths.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sleep and the End-Of-Semester Crunch

I went to sleep last night.

I feel like this shouldn't be a big deal.  In fact, the CDC recommends that we --humans-- do it every night. But I'm blogging about it, not tweeting, and blogs are not a place for quotidian updates.

So, why is sleep a big deal for me? I'm a college student.

The usual rule of thumb I see for the amount of time you should spend on a class, outside of class, is somewhere between two and four hours out of class for each hour you spend in class.  Actually, usually, people call this time "studying", which is interesting, because I never use this time to "study", I use this time to do great piles of homework, and there is rarely time to study the material after I've finished doing the homework. Using this calculation, because I am taking 17 credit hours (on paper), I should be working on school work about 70 hours a week -- somewhere between 50 and 85 hours, including class time (but excluding travel time).

chart of number of hours spent studying every day based on recommendations
This is how long you "should" spend studying, based on how many credits you're taking.
Now, sometimes the estimate figure works.  For example, one of my professors assigns a problem set weekly, unless there is an exam, and a project every two weeks.  Each problem set takes about three hours.  Each project, however, takes three hours of lab time and another nine to write up.  This works out to the nine hours of allotted work per week.  In another class, the professor assigns a one-page writing response due every day.  I spend, regularly, two hours writing each.  There are some miscellaneous other assignments 

These are the classes where the work is regular, I can apply the number-of-hour guidelines and set up a routine.  I love this kind of class, because the feedback tends to be regular, there are concrete things I can do to improve my work if things aren't working, and it isn't a disaster if I don't get one assignment done.

Then there are project-based classes.  I have a couple of these this semester.  Projects, by their nature, work better when one sits down for twelve hours to complete them.  That kind of work session is much harder to schedule.

One such class that I'm currently taking requires that I shovel manure for two hours a week.  I also write a weekly progress report.  That makes up three or so hours of regular work (excluding travel time).  We also present roughly every other week.  However, the rest of the work is hugely amorphous.  Some weeks, I've worked thirty hours on this class.  Others, I've spent my time on other projects, shoveled manure and felt guilty in class when the professor urges us to, in addition to the regular work, push to do all of these other things.  Who would like to volunteer an additional hour a week to feed the other (food) digester?  I wouldn't, but should I volunteer anyway?  Who will write the additional report for this conference?  At what point am I allowed to say "Professor, I spend twelve hours a week outside of your class working on your classwork, you need to stop assigning so much work" or "Professor, I spent thirty hours on your project last week, and I need this week off"?

Anyway, I'm doing my best to keep up with the workload.  There are things I don't get done.  And, with the project classes, I haven't received a grade since very early in the semester.  I don't know if I'm passing, and I'm scared that I won't graduate.  Worse, I don't follow the recommendations all the time. I don't work eight to twelve hours, seven days a week, on school work.  I work around eight to ten* on weekdays and get probably four hours a day of actual work done on the weekends.

This produces an end-of-semester crunch that, this semester, is compounded by interviews. I had an interview that took 14 hours of travel time alone last week.  I have a conference next week that'll take eight hours of travel time next week, and the proceedings will take about six.

So, I've slept a bit less than 4 hours a night for the last week. I had work I should have been doing last night, too, work that, if I fail to complete it, I might not graduate.  Sleep, the kind where I get all eight hours and wake refreshed, is a guilty pleasure for me.

I had some last night anyway.

*On average.  There are days I wake up at six and work until midnight (18 hours), and there are days that I pretty much go to class (2-6 hours, depending on the day) and that's it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I had an interview this morning.  "We have a lot of different sites," said the interviewer, "but we're looking for people for our New Jersey site at this time. Does that work for you?"

"That sounds fine." I replied.  "Will you move the people you hire after they complete the training period?"

"That's an option, but we don't like to force people to move."

I love the times when I can write a thank-you note more because I have something to say-- something I'm really, truly thankful for-- than because it is the Thing To Do.  Not that I'm not grateful-- I am-- but there are only so many ways to say "thank you for taking the time to interview me, and incidentally I'm pretty awesome".  So it's brilliant that I can tell this particular interviewer that he made me feel excited about his company and that I think a policy that lets people start a life directly after university is fantastic.

At three-thirty, I start the drive to Worchester, MA for another interview tomorrow.  When I tell people about it, they say: "That is a long drive."  It is, but I'm thrilled-- I get to play grown-up for a night, get to escape my university (however briefly).  Oh, the work will come with me, but I'll be in a hotel room and not in our second bedroom, scattered with textbooks and the memories of late nights.  I'm still young enough to find this novel.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hi Internet! So I hear you like cats!

My fiancé has a cat.  Her name is Hoover because after he and his brother rescued her, she meowed incessantly and ate everything off the floor, even the things that were not food. 

Hoover the cat hides behind the curtains.
Hoover, demonstrating the art of camouflage
Now she meows a lot, but not all the time, and only eats food off the floor.  And catnip.  (One time, K tells me, one of his older brothers, failing to understand catnip, simply took the top off the carton and set it down on the floor.  He says he's never seen Hoover out of it so much, either before or since.)

He and another brother found her under the house they were living in at the time, meowing.  She was malnourished and dehydrated, and they could see where her ribs had been broken and hadn't healed properly.  At that point, they decided to adopt her.

I don't know whether she'll move in with us when K graduates. Every time we visit his family, we hear stories about how everyone is sick of Hoover waking them up first thing in the morning, Hoover meowing all the time, Hoover picking fights with Claire and Otisfield, the two Maine Coons that live on the other partition of the house (it's been oddly renovated, and they use it to keep the cats separated).  Every time, they suggest we take her home with us, and when we remind them that our college rental doesn't allow cats, they threaten to pack her in whatever bag we've brought*.    I interpret all this to mean that they'll really miss her if she ends up living with us.

K loves her, though, and the house Hoover lives in has four other cats in it (and K's formidable mother runs a feral-cat soup kitchen on the porch).  She doesn't trigger my allergies, and so, while sure I'm not equipped to take care of Hoover on my own (she has some serious quirks), I'm ready to learn should the time come.

Does anyone have any tips for dealing with quirky kitties in the interim?
*If they tried, they would be busted before we'd gotten twenty feet.  She really is that loud.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In Defense of Dandelions

On several occasions, when I was young, I brought my mother a bouquet of the yellow flowers I found in my yard. Together, we filled a brandy snifter with water, added the short stems, and put the resulting display in a place of honor: the center of the dinner table.  It would remain there until the blooms wilted, usually only a day or two later.

dandelions in bloom
Stock photograph from here via Google.

I must have learned that dandelions are supposed to be weeds from a book, perhaps one where the young protagonist obtained summer employment in a dandelion-pulling enterprise, because my parents never cared about whether our lawn had dandelions or not.

After we moved when I was in third grade, our lawn boasted patches of brown dirt and brown grass. Occasionally, there would be a patch of purple-and-green ajuga-- my mother's nemesis, as it spread rapidly and encroached on her carefully-tended patches of shade-loving flowers.  Every spring, my father would embark on another project designed to coax grass to grow in spite of the shade, and there would be patches of turquoise grass seed that we were cautioned to leave untrodden to grow.

purple and green ajuga leaves
The previous owners thought the ajuga was pretty, and it is. It's also a menace. From here via Google.

I only cared about where I could walk in bare feet. The patches of soft sand, the smooth stones, the mossy bricks, and the hated ajuga were kind to my feet, but the grass was always too prickly, and the rain-ridged dirt camouflaged acorn tops-- which were, in turn, better than the asphalt, which absorbed the summer sun and required young feet to run over it on tip-toes.  I avoided the forbidden patches of grass seed in hopes that lush green foot-friendly grass would sprout.

Someday, my fiancé K and I will have a lawn, too, and I don't care what it looks like.  I think that like my parents before me, I'll leave my lawn to (mostly) its own devices in hopes that one day, I will get bouquets of dandelions from my own children.  I've considered putting in patches of chamomile and other herbs, suitable for small feet to step on, if I can figure out how to encourage them to grow without invading the neighbors' yards*.  After all, if I wanted a perfect bright green lawn made out of chemicals, I would put in Astroturf.

*Ajuga, I am looking at you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Philosophy. Also, a picture of a flower.

First off, on my way home from class today, I saw a pretty red flower!

lone orange tulip
Red flower, suffering from the ill effects of Camera Phone.

If you only come here because occasionally I post pictures, you can leave now, because I'm going to talk about the things I learned in math class from a philosophy professor.

This semester, I get to take MA 451: Introduction to Mathematical Research.  It sounds really spiffy and academic, but it's really about surviving the professional world (as a mathematician).  My mileage with this course varies from class to class, because I've had some "survive the professional world" in my other major and some more in the professional world itself (albeit as an intern). On Fridays, class consists of an outside speaker, about whose presentation we then write a response.

Today's speaker, Dr. Bill Vitek, took advantage of our professor's absence to give a talk about establishing lifelong values instead of the talk about professional ethics we were expecting.  In my opinion, this greatly improved the quality of the talk*.

He talked about a book: If Aristotle Ran General Motors by Tom Morris.  I haven't read it, but he went on to talk about the four points of what he called, in his slides, "A Moral Compass for the Ages": truth, beauty, goodness, and unity.  This resounded with me, as when I was writing an outline for my life in 2008, I put together a set of four postulates of my own to guide me through my plan, through my life.

In light of this new information, I've updated them a bit.  A quick note about the words "stuff" and "things"-- I don't just mean actual physical stuff, like hula hoops and Nintendo DSes, but also the intangible things like new theories in nuclear physics and good parenting.

  1. The world is the way the world is. For good or for bad, it's what I have to work with, and I choose to work toward an obtainable improvement rather than to fight for an unobtainable ideal. So, while I would love to see every government implement a solar-powered farm system run on robot labor that provides food to every person who asks, practically speaking, I'm going to get (or create for myself) a job and donate money to the Heifer Project
  2.  People are, generally speaking, worth caring about. They are not perfect, or lovable, or even good, but generally they're trying to do their best for themselves and their own, as best they can, and that's both laudable and understandable, even if it lacks vision.
  3.  No one really wants equality, and everyone deserves a chance to win. If we build systems where people have the opportunity to win doing neat, useful stuff they love to do, we can fill the world with better neat, useful stuff.  Kickstarter, for example, is a way that people compete for resources to fund neat projects.  Not all the projects win, but I am (for example) looking forward to getting our copy of this game, because it looks all sorts of fun.
  4. Absolute demand may be infinite, but people do not need to fill every demand to be content. There are lots of people in the world who like a lot of different things. That said, no one likes all of them (and that's okay).  Personally, I'm not a big fan of bell peppers.  Capitalism seems like a pretty good way to sort out who gets which things.
They've served me pretty well, and I think they each incorporate elements of truth, beauty, goodness, and unity. I think it's a pretty reasonable platform on which I can begin to build a life.
*Let me summarize the talk I expected so I don't leave you hanging: "Plagiarism is bad, don't lie to make yourself look good, plagiarism is bad, safety is the most important thing, and plagiarism is really, really bad.  We mean it about the plagiarism."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can I have a recharge, too?

I found some new mom blogs via Pinterest today!  Exactly what I don't need when I have a goal of "getting some actual work done", but I took a couple minutes anyway.

I found this. I could summarize, but I don't think I can say it better, so here is a quote:
"When we left the program, I talked to my son about “recharging.”  I explained to him that sometimes Mama needed an extra hug or kiss and sometimes he might need one.  Recharges are non-negotiable.  If someone needs a recharge, everything else stops and we wrap our arms around each other and squeeze until we have enough power to last us a while."
Can adults do this if there isn't a kid involved? Is this too cheesy for people who are supposed to be all grown up and "know better"*? Because, sometimes, life is scary and confusing and lonely for people who are over four feet tall, too.

*I am not a fan of "knowing better" when it means I have to pretend I am some sort of mistake-proof never-forgetting super-creature of infinite energy. I'm not, guys.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Some Books for Children

Books!  I love books.  My mother is fond of telling the story of the time in third grade when the teacher asked us what we'd like to be when we grew up. Lots of doctors, astronauts, police, fire fighters.

I wanted to invent a book you could read in the bathtub*.

Today I found a list of a bunch of books to read to children under 10 via Offbeat Mom. It hits some notes I might not hit myself, which is neat, because I read tons and tons of books in my youth, and there are new books on there.  NEW BOOKS. I love new books**.

The comments add, among books, favorites like Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising), Ms. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series, "My Father's Dragon", and Diana Wynne Jones.  Maybe not all of these for the before-ten set! But that probably depends on the child in question.  The Offbeat Mama post adds Tamora Pierce and Patricia Wrede's "Dealing with Dragons". I'd personally add Daniel Pinkwater and Diane Duane's "So You Want to Be A Wizard".

In conclusion, I can't wait to be in a semi-permanent home so I can begin the Scouring of the Used Book Stores for All the Books.  And then, I won't be able to wait until I have children, so I can read them All the Books.

On a related note, does anyone have any tips on how to dust books and bookshelves?
*Current solution: Kindle in a plastic Ziploc bag.
**Anyone have recommendations? I may be in a place where I can get a library card soon!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Whipped Cream Makes Everything Fancy

I love whipped cream's ability to make everything instantly more special.  Whipped cream on coffee?  Fancy caffeine.  Whipped cream on ice cream? Fancy dessert.  Whipped cream on pancakes? Fancy breakfast.

It's pretty easy for us to forget about Easter: we're both in college, we don't get time off and can't make it home, and neither of us are currently involved in organized religion*. Still, it's a special day, and I decided we should do something to recognize it, even if we only remembered because my phone popped up a little notification.  My solution?  A easy-to-make fancy-looking dessert through the magic of whipped cream.

Here's how I did it:

  • Obtain chocolate pudding.  We made ours from one of those little boxes of powder, but pudding is pudding in this case.  Put the pudding into mugs.
  • Crush up Easter-themed egg-shaped malt balls and put them on top of the pudding.
  • Top with whipped cream and an Oreo.
I am pleased to report that they were delicious.

*Disorganized religion is more our cup of tea.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

How Fluffy Animals Make Everything Better

This semester, Saturday is Manure-Shoveling Day.

Let me explain: one of my majors is a combined degree in interdisciplinary engineering and management.  In your last semester, you take a rather ambiguously-defined course in which you're supposed to work, in a team, on a senior design project. When that semester rolls around, your adviser sends you a list of projects, you pick your preferences, and after all the responses are in, you get sorted into a project.

I'm working, along with a team of other people, on a small-scale anaerobic digester project.  In theory, it's a really neat project-- you put all your organic waste in a big tank, the anaerobic bacteria work some bio-magic, and hey presto, out comes liquid fertilizer, solid fertilizer, and methane, which you can use to generate heat/electricity.  The process is also supposed to deodorize the organic material, so if you spread it on your garden, the neighbors won't complain.

In practice, we have an experimental digester, and the process is less magical and more smelly. Surprisingly (to me), collecting the manure from the cow enclosure is actually kind of nice.  The cows at the farm are pretty relaxed-- they come over to you to say "hi" before wandering off to do their cow business, and I'd never before realized how sweet hay can smell over manure.

The miserable part comes once you get out of the cow enclosure.  The wheelbarrow gets stuck on ridges or in the soft ground on the way to the digester.  Once you've either carefully avoided or muscled over the obstacles, you arrive at the real obstacle: the digester itself.  It lives in a little shed.

Somewhere during the design process, the person designing the manure delivery system assumed that manure behaves mostly like potatoes. The person designing the digester tank, on the other hand, assumed that manure behaves mostly like water.  In reality, manure behaves mostly like sticky goop of varying consistencies with bits of hay stuck in it.  In short, the digester doesn't quite work for any consistency of manure slurry-- the hay clogs the manure input, the manure conveyor doesn't convey the manure to the input slot six feet above the ground, and the heater that keeps the manure the right temperature for digestion doesn't heat the tank evenly because the manure doesn't circulate like a liquid.

In order to keep the digester working so that we can get some data out of it, we have a number of workarounds for all this.  We have to avoid hay clumps or pick the hay out of the manure with the shovel. We have to pitch the manure up to the tiny six-foot-high opening, and then when it inevitably sticks to the side, we have to stand on a bucket and use a stick to actually prod it into the tank.  We have to mix the digester for fifteen minutes every hour in order to keep the temperature high enough.  In other words, the feeding process involves several manual steps that should be automatic. In addition to this, the digester shed reeks, and the smell stays with your clothing until you've washed it. Twice.

I do the whole routine once a week, and after I get out, I'm usually splattered with manure and a bit grouchy until I get home and shower.

Yesterday was a bit different.  I had a visitor.

This fluffy white kitty came over to the area in front of the digester where I was pitching manure.

It rolled in the dirt and walked around me as I waited for the digester to complete its mixing cycle.  It didn't seem to mind my manure-encrusted clothes or my habit of talking to the machines I work with, as it stayed in the area the entire time I was working.

I left the farm with a smile on my face.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cast of Characters, Intro and Ard

I have an awesome family.  The outcome of this, of course, is that I have all of these stories about all these awesome people, and I prefer not to use real names on the internet if possible*.  So, I want to start a series where I talk about how awesome my family members are and tell you what made-up fake names I'll be calling them.  I'll try to make it entertaining.  If it's not, you have my official permission to skip those posts, for what it's worth (SPOILER: not a lot).

My fiancé is a middle child.  Specifically, he is the sixth child out of a group of ten siblings.  Everyone talks about how big his family is and how hectic holidays must be for his family, etc., etc.

I, on the other hand, have only one brother.  He's awesome, in part because of his absolute dedication to (a) math and (b) playing the cello.  He plays cello metal in a quartet of flexible membership**, and I am going to coerce him ask nicely if he and his quartet will play cello metal for my eventually-upcoming wedding.  He's the second from the left in the video below, or if you are challenged in right-and-left department like I am, he's the one with the brightest cello and the long curly blond hair (that he uses for headbanging while playing).

We call him Ard when we're teasing him.  I think this is suitably anonymous.

Everyone assumes this means I have a nice normal family in terms, at least in comparison to his family.  They are incredibly, incredibly wrong.  See, my mom is Sibling Number Nine (out of ten), and my father grew up with three younger brothers and a younger sister.  Most of these siblings grew up and had more children, so I have a giant family full of aunts and uncles and cousins that's going to get even bigger when we finally get married.

The best part about our future giant combined family? I love almost every single person in it (some of you, I haven't met, or met so long ago it doesn't count). I am truly blessed.

*Employers don't need to know about your personal life, and many Google your real name.
**As in, there are seven or so high school/college students who all learn roughly the same music.  When they actually hold a practice or get a gig, around four of these show up.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why "Reluctantly Female"?

When I was seventeen or so, I had a minor epiphany.  "It's okay for guys to like pink," I had told someone.  A few days later, it hit me.  I had never liked the color pink: I had always considered it "too girly".  I had avoided this color for as long as I could remember, not because I didn't like it (I like pink as much as any single color), but because, subconsciously, I thought it wasn't okay for guys to like pink.  Except, of course, it is okay for guys to like pink.  This produced a contradiction, and I realized that I, too, could like to color pink without being a girl.

The problem* with this logic is that, biologically, I am a girl. I have all the female bits, and I'm generally happy with them, so why do female gender expressions make me so uneasy?

I hate filling out forms. There's always the space that asks for your "sex" (or worse, your "gender").  It's better now-- most of the forms I fill out have a "prefer not to answer" option, which I take whenever it's available.  When I was thirteen, I would always the blank with "YES" because I was oh-so-mature, but really, it's still the answer.  You want to know about my sex?  I like it, when it's consensual, and not otherwise. That's not what you meant? Is it really your business what bits I have under my swimsuit?

I'd never really thought of myself as a potential wife or mother.  Oh, I thought about getting married (and being a "spouse" or a "partner"), and I thought about having children (and being a "parent"), but I always thought about it in terms of a personal, concrete events (making and eating dinner together with my family, negotiating holiday family-sharing, teaching a child how to garden, etc).

A couple of things have come up recently that change that.
  • I'm planning a wedding.  This makes me, to nearly everyone, a "bride", which is a hugely gendered role.  (Especially since I'm marrying a man.)
  • I'm thinking practically about having a child, especially in terms of the impact to my career. Biologically, being pregnant and giving birth are exclusively female activities.
  • There's been a lot of public controversy about reproductive health care recently, and reproductive health care tends to be a woman's responsibility**. The tone of the discourse (that birth control should be a special exception to federal healthcare mandates because of "religious freedom" and that an unborn fetus should have rights greater than or equal to the rights of its mother) is scary, no matter what I think about abortion and the individual mandate.
My reaction to all this has been, approximately, "Oh, I guess I am a girl after all! How do I go about being a girl, again? And can I be a girl without, you know, actually being a girl?"

The answer? I don't know.  I don't know what any of it means.

I hope to find out.
*Problem for me, not necessarily a problem for anyone else.
**I don't want to diminish men's reproductive health or the role of a second parent in reproductive health care, because having a child is usually an important personal decision for two adults, but it is a biological female who bears the bulk of the risk and responsibility for a pregnancy and, by extension, birth control.

Who Will I Be When I Graduate?

I'm graduating from college in about five weeks.  It's terrifying.

I've been applying for jobs for the last few months, submitting resumes and writing cover letters in between homework assigments.  I've had some interviews.  (People tell me that this means I'm one of the lucky ones.)

Rewinding a bit, a bit after I started college, my career was my number-one goal. I had a written Life Plan, complete with basic theory of how the world worked and numbered steps.  It went like this:

1.) Finish two-year degree in business administration.
2.) Research and pursue four-year degree in some combination of business and technology/engineering.
2.5) Consider MBA or CPA, obtain if necessary.
3.) Obtain real-world experience and develop a nest egg in case of failure.
4.) Write comprehensive business plan.
5.) Obtain appropriate financing, certifications, etc.
6.) Launch business.
7.) Foster growth at a rate sustainable in the market.

It's not a bad plan, exactly.  I got my two-year degree in 2009, and I'm almost done with the four-year degree. I dutifully applied for, accepted, and completed internships. (I considered an MBA, and decided that it was not necessary.)

That said, I'm stuck. It's not that step #3 is impossible: I'll graduate nearly debt-free thanks to the internships and generous parents (hi Mom and Dad!), and my university has good job placement rates.

The problem is that, when I interview, employers keep asking me what industry I want and what I want to do, and I don't have an answer for them.  I don't know, specifically, what I want to do, and to be completely honest, I don't even care.  I want to find gainful employment for three to five years, get paid, save some money and then quit so I can start my own business.  Quitting after a few years is entirely normal for my generation, and I am completely capable of providing value to a company during the time range I want to be there in a variety of roles.  I have a broad skill set, and there are a variety of roles I can happily and competently fill.

The other problem is that there are a few things that I know I do want.  I'm engaged. I've been engaged for well over a year now.  I want to get married at some point over the next two years, in part because I hate saying the word "fiancé".  I want children (preferably, before I'm thirty).  These are all pretty new goals for me, and it's a little bit weird. 

I get the sense that the companies I've applied to want me to have a "dream job".  Specifically, they want my "dream job" to be the role I'm applying for.  They want to see me, five years down the road, still working for them. They want me to be willing to move anywhere in the country, at a time of their choosing, ostensibly because I love my job and their company.

Four years ago, when I wrote my life-goals, all of this would have been fine.  In fact, I did move for my internships (to Missouri and to Florida, respectively).  I'm not inflexible when it comes to meeting the needs of an employer, but there are things that I want now. I want to live close to my family.  Not necessarily same-city close, but "able to drive home for Thanksgiving" close (a six-hour drive to home is OK, much further than that is pushing it).  I want to make a major move (from one city to another) at most once in the next five years.  Travel is fine, temporary rotational assignments are fine, but I want a home*.  I want to live somewhere where I can volunteer, join an exercise class, and register to vote without knowing I'll have to start all over again in a year. I want to find work in a place where my fiancé can also find work.

I feel like employers don't think that these are reasonable things to want, especially at the entry level.  So, I'm conflicted.  How do I balance these different roles?  How can I be both an employee and a daughter?  Will I also be able to be a wife and a mother?  How can anyone decide what responsibilities of these roles to pause in the fulfillment of the duties of the others?

*There are programs that start you out in City A for a year and then decide, after that year, where they want to permanently locate your job, without your input.