Dinesh Ayyappan3 Comments

Reflection on 2011

Dinesh Ayyappan3 Comments

            Another year etched in stone, the next, a blank slate. Living in the northern latitudes, I welcome with slight resignation this reliable herald of the passage of time: Winter. Each year brings its own, recognized by foggy breath, shedding clouds, and holiday spirit. However, the season alone doesn’t distinguish the present from the past, so what sets this year apart?

            Last winter, I assembled a powerful desktop computer to help take on the semester. No longer handicapped by my nearly senile Macbook, using a computer -- for homework and games -- became much less frustrating. Pleasant, even, but that’s a story for another time.

The early days of the season were banded by half-hearted efforts to advance my mechanical engineering career and proud, familial moments with my second and final floor of amazing Carnegie Mellon freshmen. The unsteady ebb and flow of the semester was interrupted by my spring break service trip to Jamaica with fellow engineers. Though strangers at the time, some of them would grow to become my good friends in the coming months.

Replacing a roof lost to a hurricane

But the brightest part of my spring semester, the motivation for many of my consequential decisions this year, was the realization of my love for teaching. There were days when I would skip all of my engineering classes, days when the snow I usually loved became an excuse to stay inside, but never did I avoid my ninety minutes of tutoring physics to sixth graders on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those moments: helping kids understand concepts like buoyancy and momentum, and more importantly, the value of curiosity; after helping a student in Jamaica build a bridge out of raw spaghetti and hot glue, hearing her say that she’ll never forget me. Those unrivaled joys, that sense of purpose, helped me realize that teaching is next on my path to happiness.

As summer came, I had to decide between working for a rising engineering company founded by three recent CMU alumni and my brother’s start-up, a news site that needed someone to research the education sector. So began the time when my dream job might be found in the Department of Education rather than at NASA, not to say that I wouldn’t consider an offer to become an Astronaut should it fall in my lap.  

Summer was filled with adventure and new perspectives. At work, I got to see first-hand the challenges of entrepreneurship, and, comfortingly, how prepared Sandeep is to meet them with his combination of ambition, motivation, and resourcefulness. My supervisor, and now my friend, Sam, guided me and passed on her well-developed professional skills in the closest to a standard job I’ve ever had.

Outside the office, I lived the commuter’s life. The forty-minute train ride to Manhattan gave me time to make a dear friend in D’Artagnan of The Three Musketeers -- I’ve never been so sad to finish a book. Over the summer, the grandeur and awe of the familiar Flatiron District of New York faded, and I can only imagine how ordinary it must feel to a seasoned businessman who rushes through the world convinced that time is money.

My summer at home was a period of celebrations. They began with an annual retreat with friends to Maryland that coincided with the Bat Mitzvah of the sweetest girl who ever lived. Then, in June and July, much of my inseparable gang from high school was turning 21, myself included. Those few weeks of hedonism gave me many treasured memories I won’t soon forget. In August, I cashed in my brother’s gift: a flying lesson with two passengers. It was a bit of a challenge to find friends with consenting parents, but eventually, we and the instructor left the planet and returned with ease. And in the final days of summer, Stefan, Evan, and I went on a 10-day, 3000-mile road trip through the American South filled with great food (often covered with barbecue sauce), music, and Would-You-Rather’s.

Getting beignets at Cafe du Monde

With Fall came independence and maturity. For my senior year, I moved out of the freshman dorm that had been a cozy shelter from the adult world and moved into a house with three guys. We were responsible for paying rent and utilities, cooking meals, and cleaning our bathrooms, all of which were fairly foreign to me. I’m glad to say that I’ve adapted well and discovered a natural talent as a chef. In addition to curating education news for Sandeep’s company, myCirqle, I picked up a job tutoring at local Pittsburgh high schools three times each week, both further cementing my desire to get into a classroom after I graduate next winter.

The nicest looking dish I've ever made

I feel very different than I did a year ago. I have direction, stability, and an optimistic list of New Years Resolutions to carry me into the snowy season. I hope everyone reading this gets a chance to look back on your year as well, as writing this has been for me both insightful and sentimental. Here’s to looking at the past a little wiser, living in the present, and seizing the future. Cheers!