In honor of Thanksgiving…
1) The Internet
I know, I know, it sounds terribly trite, and I would have laughed at the idea of including it on this list, except my mom pointed something that I hadn't realized, but is absolutely true over the last year: I have access to huge stores of raw information and distilled knowledge that I've only begun tapping into.
Specifically I'm thinking of podcasts, especially from UChannel. The London School of Economics, The Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, etc. (I mentioned it the other day, too.) TED talks (HD) are also great. I've also been reading many of the reports from the New America Foundation and the Brookings Institute — all of their materials are freely available. Some of it I agree with, some of it I don't, much of it I don't understand as well as I should like, but all of it informs my understanding of the world in a real, meaningful way.
Entertaining myself is easier with sites like Hulu as well. So while I'm online no more than I used to be, I'm using the web differently than I once did.
2) The economic downturn
This is a mixed bag for me because I'm not exactly cheerleading here for the economy to consider its slide. In reality, this is just me looking for a silver lining in a bad situation. As a student of economics, the downturn caused me to start asking questions about the nature of the world and the economy, and I never really stopped. I never reached a level of knowledge where I said "Okay! I'm good now." Each question is like a hydra: answer it and two more spring to take its place. Aside from my regular schoolwork, I'm spending anywhere from 2-4 hours a day just reading. Reading economists, the newspaper, in-depth publications from the aforementioned Brookings and New America, etc.
This, in turn, has allowed me to understand things we learn about in school at a deeper level. As a senior, it was ironic that I knew nothing about economics but somehow had senior status. That seemed wrong, but I worked hard before the financial turmoil hit to build some baseline associative learning pegs to build off of, and it's paid off in spades.
I'm a full time student again for the first time in a long time. I actually drive to school and sit in class, something I've not done since 2005. I actually go to classes, which is amazing. I have a good rapport with my professors, and my grades are good enough that I can skip the graduate application process and proceed right on to my Masters. This is truly an amazing accomplishment given just how abysmal my grades were in pharmacy school.
In addition, the Masters program has a study abroad option for a semester, which I will very likely take advantage of. The options are Mexico (meh) and Denmark (much more interesting). I would take a full load of classes while there, but the main appeal is spending a whole semester abroad.
I haven't known what I've wanted to do with my life for a while now, which has contributed in a real way to the lack of professional accomplishment in the last three years. I know what I want to do now, and I'm working to get there. I want to finish my BA this spring, which is going to happen. From there I want to finish my Masters right off, which will also happen, and spend some time abroad while doing so. This is also likely. From there I want to go to an Ivy League business school, preferably abroad. From there I want to make some significant money in either technology or working in the sustainable development industries. After that, I think I want to be a Senator.
Crazy? Maybe. We'll see. I haven't felt this energized in a long time, though.