May 21st 2010 And Now For Something Completely Different

Orson Welles once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” For the past year, my story has taken place in Troy, NY, a dreary town outside of Albany that lacks the excitement of a big city and the charm of a small town. At one time, Troy was a bustling city, the most affluent in mid-1800s America; it gave birth to Uncle Sam, and has counted Kurt Vonnegut among its residents. Troy has its perks (Brown’s Brewery being a highlight of the city), but it also embodies the grey, crumbling remains of the dilapidated American post-industrial dream. The chapters of my life have mostly been written deep within the bowels of the Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, a geotechnical engineering lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where ostensibly I worked as a systems programmer but, like many unfortunate aspiring programmers, I spent most of my day setting up Microsoft Outlook, fixing printers, and babysitting moderately-priced Dell servers.

My friend Nilanjana once told me that every twenty-something is eager to make their impact on the world; before the ink has even dried on his diploma, every freshly-minted college graduate is itching to do something to transform the world for the better. I’m not sure if this mentality is a good thing or a bad thing; enough inspirational movies have been made about people who have “thought differently” and changed the world that I’m convinced such aspirations are an important part of life, but it’s frustrating to realize that you, your bachelor’s degree, and your lack of experience aren’t enough to make a splash right out of university.

A few months ago, I realized that I was not at all where I expected to be when I was 24. Six years ago, fresh out of my green high school graduation robe, I planned to go to Bucknell University for a degree in creative writing, then go to NYU for an MFA in dramatic writing. From there, who knows? I guess I planned to make documentaries, since obviously none of those degrees would get me a real job. Somewhere along the line, I ran off the tracks; I ended up with a degree in computer science, which led me to a Ph.D. program that I later abandoned. Disorganized and disillusioned, I took an IT job because I was young and needed the money.

So I quit.

Before you go thinking that I’m a real badass, I should clue you in on the fact that I already had another job lined up before I quit. Starting May 24th, I’ll be working as a web developer at The New York Review of Books, a literary magazine based in Manhattan. Within the context of what I might be able to accomplish now, it’s pretty much my dream job: I’ll be living in New York, working at a literary magazine, and hacking Python code on a Django-based website. If I took a time machine back to my high school graduation, I think my 18-year-old doppelgänger would be proud of me.

Despite my rural upbringing, I’m looking forward to the move. I have a decent apartment in Queens (specifically, Astoria), with easy access to Manhattan. It’s a lot different from what I’m used to, but I think that’s exactly what I need. I’m excited about working at The Review, too. Although it’d be cooler to be writing or editing for the magazine, at least I’ll be working with writers and editors. Working on The Bucknellian was one of the most fun and most exciting aspects of my college existence, and I’ve missed that outlet. I’m hoping that working at The Review will encourage me to dust off the writing skills that have been left dormant in the attic of my psyche.

This change isn’t so much a new story as a new chapter, but I’m optimistic that it’ll ultimately lead to a happy ending.