Planning to plan

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So, today is the last day of regular classes at my community college.  I've already got two confirmed A's; I need a 50% or so on the final for the third to get an A (I have a B if I get zero on the final).  But really, it means that I'm done with late night classes - possibly forever, but at least for a few years.

It'll be novel to be able to actually cook and have a somewhat normal life for a change, for however short a period that is.

I need to kick the apartment hunt into high gear.  I have to give notice at the end of the month: they require 60 days, so if I want to be out in early September, I have to tell them at the end of June or early July.  I'm debating making the official day the middle of September, with a planned actual move-in early in September.  That would give me a week or two to juggle between places and move stuff as well as clean the apartment once I'm out.  Not that I'm too worried about the latter: I've been there for over 7 years and I know for a fact they're going to replace almost everything (carpet, appliances, etc.) since they've done that for every other apartment in the building while I've been here.

But arranging the new place has a different purpose, too: right now, I can't get excited about UCLA, because I still have the anxiety of finding a place.  Once that's taken care of, I'll be mentally ready to start really thinking about the rest of the process.

So, that's the main focus right now: getting through the last week of school and getting the whole moving thing locked down.

On with the show

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So, Caltech is a no.  As I told a friend, you can't be too angry at not winning the lottery.

But that means I'm narrowing down - and mostly focusing on UCLA.  UCI's financial aid portal changed from planning to release their financial aid info from "mid-May" to "shortly", so maybe it'll be out this week.  I have no idea if any of the Reagents scholarships have been awarded yet, so I don't know if that would be included; I know UCLA won't announce their transfer Reagents winners until and of this week or next week (they do it after the first week of May).

I've already started getting the paperwork needed for things like disability accommodation and such.  I'm also applying for some UCLA-specific scholarships that I didn't have access to until recently; those are due by the 15th, but that shouldn't be an issue.

As much as I feel like I should be bummed about Caltech, I'm actually more excited, since it means I'm that much closer to *actually registering* and making it a real thing.

At work, it sounds like we're planning on making my hours 28/week starting in September.  We still have to discuss a few things, and there's at least one complication.  My boss works remotely most of the time (she's on campus two days a week); one of my coworkers comes in about 9-9:30, leaves at 4, and works from home or is out sick a lot.  Between the two, there's a bit of resentment in some areas of the department.  It's part of why I don't work from home more, even though I'm allowed: I've felt and even heard directly off-hand comments about why some of us get special privileges.

Now, my job is such that almost all of it can be done remotely (my coworker not so much).  My boss is in a similar situation.  But most of the department are involved in direct patient care and therefore have to be here; there's no way they could work from home.  So, they resent it a bit, albeit irrationally.

Now, it's not going to be a huge issue - all three of my bosses are the ones who originally suggested this plan, and I know they're on-board with it.  It's just a matter of finding a way to present it so as to reduce friction.

Anyway, that's all for the future.  I've got a quiz in a couple of hours and a test a couple hours after that, so I should go start getting ready.  I need to make sure I'm prepped to be a Bruin (or an Anteater).

2 of 2, 2 remaining

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Got accepted to UCLA last night.  No scholarships or grants in the financial package (just loans), but since I don't qualify for any needs-based stuff, that's not surprising.  I don't think any of the merit-based stuff has been announced, and there are others I can apply to after I register for a school.

Still haven't heard from UCSD (which is really freaking people out) or Caltech (which probably means "no", but I'll email them Monday and find out).  Nor have I gotten my financial package info from UCI yet, but that shouldn't come until May.

If Caltech is a no and none of the UCs give me any (or more than trivial) financial incentive, then I'll probably end up at UCLA.  Which is still totally awesome, since I've always wanted to live in Westwood anyway.  I mean, I would still prefer Caltech, and if UCI or UCSD wants to give me a full ride, it'll be hard to turn down.  But none of those are necessarily likely, and that's okay.

I really need to start taking down the apartment.  A coworker is going to take all my planters and such, since I'll almost certainly have no room or time for them at school.  I really need to just take each weekend and tackle one project or area in the apartment.  It's really mostly going to be a matter of tossing out junk or giving it away; I don't have all that much stuff, but things like old homework or clothes that I've been meaning to toss/donate that have just been piles for ages.

Not sure what I'll do with my dining table and chairs; they won't really compress for storage.  Of my other big furniture, I need to get rid of at least one bed (and maybe both), and the small table that C and D gave me when *they* moved (but that can probably just be tossed).  The remaining stuff would be my big bookshelf, the smaller shelf in my room, my computer/chair, a couple of night stands, and the printer table.  Oh, and my rowing machine and weight bench, but both of those can fold up and go in a closet or under the bed.

I've also got my camping stuff, which is new since I moved, but that's all pretty well organized.  Everything else could be boxed up.  And that's everything in my 2-bed 2-bad apartment.  It won't take long to make a huge impact, but I need to get started on it.

On a completely different note, I bought some awesome underwear.  All my life, I've just done white or black undies, usually briefs or boxer-briefs, but in a weird mood, I bought a multi-color pack from an Asian company online.  They're fantastic: can't feel the seems, fit right (even if they are weird sizes vs what we're used to), and for some reason the colors have just struck my fancy.

This is my favorite pair at the moment.  I have a shirt the exact same color that I love too, so that's probably part of it.  But they're just fun to wear.
(Yes, I'm hairy, and yes, I need to lose about 10-15 lbs.  Too bad.)

Guess if I'm going to UCLA, I'll just need to get a gold pair to go with them...


Not ready to be found

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I'm suddenly gripped by the need to ask my friends, "Do you worry about me?"

The fact that I have to ask the question means I know the answer.

I feel like people are walking on eggshells around me, and like they've been doing so for a while but I've just failed to notice.  Like everyone's just waiting for me to fall apart, ready to jump in and help put the pieces back together.  It's entirely possible that's just my own anxieties reflecting back at me, but there are little things that make me think it's real.

The way certain friends ask questions and then make eye contact when they think I'm not looking.  The way some of my closer coworkers asked around questions rather than asking directly.  It's like everyone's worried that the wrong question or the wrong phrasing might be the last straw.

The problem is, I'm not sure they're wrong.

For the last couple of years, I've been putting everything into school and work.  That's not unreasonable, necessarily: working full time and taking 12-14 units a semester is a *lot* of work, far more than I think most people realize.  There have been semesters when I could count the hours of a week not actively spent on school, work, or sleeping on two hands with fingers left over.  Enrolling "full-time" and cutting back to part-time work is actually likely to make me less busy.

And, really, June through September are likely to be a nightmare.  Moving alone, especially since I have no idea how housing is going to work yet, is going to be a lot to deal with.  And March wasn't necessarily fun by any means; I ended up finally going to get a massage yesterday because my back was so tense I couldn't sleep Saturday night.

But looming ahead of all of this, like an iceberg in the fog, is the fact of school itself.  I'm not worried about the course load (well, on the 0.1% chance I get into Caltech, I will be, but anywhere else, I know I can handle it).  No, what I'm worried about is the social life.

I mean, let's face it: I'm gong to be 41 in an environment where 90% of the population is under 30 (and 75% under 25).  Even when I was in my 20s, I didn't really socialize well with twenties-types.  I don't drink, I don't "party", I don't do parties well... I know I've got personality quirks that make me weird for people to get used to.  And on top of all that, I'm gay, which - while almost certainly more acceptable now than 20 years ago - still adds complexity to what is already a complex situation.

And the thing is this: what I think most people worry about, what I've specifically avoided dealing with for years, is my lack of social life.  I've dated a little.  I've had sex a little.  I can be pleasant and friendly at resorts and such.  But I don't have much of a social life.

When I was hanging out with L every weekend, I had the excuse that those nights were my socializing.  I didn't do much, mind: mostly I was just there as chauffeur and ATM.  But it was at least the illusion of going out regularly and talking with people.  When we stopped hanging out, I could make the excuse that it was my school and work load preventing me from going out, and while that was mostly true, I could have made time if I wanted to.

I'm about to be thrown into a situation where socializing isn't going to be an option, and I feel totally unprepared for it.  Don't get me wrong: I would love to meet people, make friends, maybe even date more (no, not the 18-year-olds; I think I've only dated two people in my life who were under 21, and I was 16 for one of them).  Part of what is terrifying is the idea of spending 2 years at school and *not* doing any of these things.  But it's a completely foreign environment to me, and I'm going in with a bunch of "strikes" against me.

Going back to school meant accepting that I was going to be out of control for a lot of things.  I knew that when I started.  It's not going to keep me from doing it.  But that also means I feel totally unprepared for this, no matter what the reality is.  I'm not even kidding myself that I've got my shit together this time: I know I don't.  But that doesn't mean I feel less like a lost boy, not ready to be found.

Waiting to exhale

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"It's like you were holding your breath... It's your turn to exhale now."  -- Love, Simon

On Saturday, I told my parents that I've been accepted to UCI and that I've been going to school for three years.  The response was oddly muted, more shrugged off than anything.  My mom did say that I was "following in [her] footsteps", since she got her CPA at 37 or something; it kind of annoyed me, but that's just her way of making it (in at least some small way) about her, which is expected.

They also, later that evening, offered to help pay for university.  I am extremely conflicted about this: I've been telling them for years that I wanted them to spend more money on themselves and not worry about any of us kids or inheritance or anything.  Now that they've decided not to take any more major trips, I haven't been sure what they want to do with their money or time - but apparently this is something they want to do.  On the flipside, I'd be an idiot to turn down free money, and I know they can actually afford it (my parents are, technically, millionaires if the price of the house and all their assets are included; that's the result of a lot of luck and a whole lot of hard work).

I'm really hoping I get a full-ride offer from one of the privates and thus can legitimately tell my parents I don't need the money.

This whole experience was, oddly, like coming out a second time to them.  I even joked about it when I was there.  In some ways, though, this was harder: most of my self-image problems and anxiety are explicitly tied to school and crap that they were at least partially responsible for, whereas being gay wasn't ever really something bad to me (I basically came out as soon as I realized).

I keep thinking about that quote.  I think I'm still holding my breath a bit and will continue to do so until I actually formally make a decision on school.  Of course, then I'm likely to be massively busy with moving and organizing and such, but I feel like it'll still be the moment of relief that I've needed for at least the last couple of years, if not several decades.

The other quote - that I deserve to be happy - is probably going to have to wait a while.  One self-image crisis at a time, please.

EDIT:
And I just heard from Harvey Mudd that they're closing their transfer applications entirely without accepting anyone due to higher than expected traditional enrollment.  They're also refunding all fees collected, which is rather cool of them.  I mean, I'd rather get an acceptance letter than a check, but at least I know it wasn't an actual rejection.

So, the tally is updated to 1 for 1 of 4, with 1 disqualified.

1 for 1, of 5

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I got accepted to UCI.  First school to reply, and as close to a "safety school" as I have.  But I got accepted.

Whatever happens from now on, I'm going to a university in the fall.

I needed that.

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Gay movies are often problematic in social awareness terms.  It's not unexpected, really, and isn't to say that they're worse than more mainstream movies.  The issue is usually that, in addressing one axis of oppression, other axes are often forgotten or ignored.  For example, it's not unusual to have a gay movie or a black movie, but to have a gay black movie (like "Moonlight") is very unusual, at least for the moment.

Gay movies also tend to fall into three tropes: coming-out movies, almost-porn, or "unrequited/unfulfilled/broken romance" stories.  I think, in practical terms, this is because most gay movies are *gay* movies rather than gay *movies* - the emphasis, from the origination, is on the sexuality of the characters, and thus the story must be focused on that sexuality.  This reduces the number of options to some basic patterns.

That isn't to say that gay movies can't be fantastic or are all crappy; there are plenty of crappy ones out there, believe me.  I would just like to see a few more options out there.

All that being said, I saw "Love, Simon" on Thursday night.  It was an early showing, and the theater was only about a third full.  There were far more teenage girls that I was expecting (I'm not sure why; that's long been an audience for romance stories in general), a fair number of adult men (40s and older by appearance, mostly gay from what I could tell) and adult women (about the same age, not necessarily seated with the older men), and - thankfully - a dozen or so guys in their teens or early twenties.  I say "thankfully" because, to me, they're the ones who really needed to be there.

Surprisingly, I did too, though I didn't realize that until the end.  It's a cute story, with plenty of humor and awkward moments and actually a few times when the cliched thing *wasn't* done that got laughs.  It's a coming-out story in its basic form, so the arc is largely predictable, but it's still a fun journey to get to the end.

And the ending... Well, that's what I needed.  Not actually anything on-screen, mind you, though it was nice to see an interracial, interfaith, on-screen gay kiss between a couple of teenage guys in a movie playing outside of art houses.  No, what I needed was the reaction.  It took me a second to realize it.

I was sitting in the second row of risers; in front of me was an older gay couple.  One of them took out his phone and actually snapped a photo of the kiss - and I realized as he did so that it was because this was the first time something like this was happening.  But then I cued into something else: the cheering.  And clapping.  The girls behind me were going crazy, but it sounded like most of the theater were cheering.

And I can't even type that out without getting teary-eyed.  I actually started crying in the theater, not because of the love story on screen but because of the cheering.

I was the only openly-gay kid in my high school in 1992-1995.  Yeah, I had a boyfriend - who went to Stanford - for a couple of years, and I certainly had gay friends outside of school (almost all older).  But at school, and at home, and in my "regular" life, I was the only gay person I knew.

That kind of isolation takes its toll.  It's unfortunately all too common.  But I remember how excited I was when, in 1994, a movie called "The Sum of Us" came out, and it had a gay plot. I talked a friend of mine into going to see it with me - and we actually ended up going to see it just about every weekend for 6 months or so, on increasingly smaller screens as time went on.  A couple years later, "Beautiful Thing" was released, but it never made it out of art houses.

But sitting in that chair Thursday night, part of me remembered being 14 and alone and feeling like I was a total outsider.  And yet, here were people not only watching high school boys kiss but actually celebrating the fact.  I can't really express what that means to 14-year-old-me, or what I hope it does for the modern versions of 14-year-old-me: guys just coming out or just realizing their attractions and feeling like they're alone in the world.

After I left the theater, I stood outside and discreetly watched some of the other viewers come out.  When I saw the younger guys come out, they all looked like they were bottled lightning: like they wanted to scream or run around and shout or explode into a million pieces but couldn't actually figure out which to do and so did nothing.  There were a smiles and the look that meant more than words could say.  There was even one case of holding hands.

I would love for there to be more "normal" gay movies - action or scifi or mystery or romance or whatever where the lead(s) just happen to be gay, where being gay isn't pivotal to the plot.  We need more of those.  But I have to admit that, for better or worse, we still need coming out movies like this.  And I hope that, all across the nation, young gay or bi guys can go into a theater, watch "Love, Simon", and hear the audience cheer at the end.

Because the cheer isn't just for Simon and his beau; it's for all of us who have been there.  And we really need to hear it.

Frustration

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Caltech hasn't gotten my high school transcripts.  The high school has sent it twice, months ago, through the mail; they also sent it to Harvey Mudd College (HMC) at the same time, and Harvey Mudd got it.  So, I'm not sure why Caltech hasn't.  Caltech and my high school can't legally talk to one another until I'm a student at Caltech, so I have to play middle-man.  Since mail hasn't worked, I'm driving out to my old school, picking up a sealed copy, and driving it down to the admissions office.  Of course, since both are only open during business hours, I have to take time off of work to do this.  I'm at the office right now for a meeting in a few minutes and leaving after the meeting.

On the other hand, HMC reports that they haven't gotten my current college transcripts.  Those were sent to HMC and Caltech at the same time, and Caltech apparently has it, but HMC doesn't.  What's more, the college ones were sent to HMC electronically via some secure system that everyone supposedly uses, so I have no idea why HMC wouldn't have gotten them.  I emailed the HMC admission office a couple of days ago, but I haven't gotten a response.  I'll wait until Monday before calling.

And the prof with my last recommendation for HMC said on 2/28 he'd try the online submission one more time before emailing the rec to HMC directly (which they suggested).  As far as I can tell, he hasn't done either at this point, and he also hasn't responded to a email I sent a couple of days ago thanking him and asking him to let me know when he does send it so I can follow up with the school.

On top of all of this, I've actually got homework this weekend I have to do *and* I need to study for my Caltech physics test, which is Tuesday.

And I'm flat-out exhausted, mentally and physically.  After dropping the transcript off, I'm probably going to go home and go to bed.  I should study or do homework, but I can't do either well if I can't focus.

Knock on wood

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To quote myself a few weeks ago:

My estimates were all based on having $340k-$350k in my accounts by my birthday, and I'll still be in that window even if the market slows down significantly (I'm currently getting 15-20% returns and budgeting for 9%).

Of course, the world has to throw a curve ball.  The recent stock market "corrections" over the last couple of weeks have, of course, knocked off something like 10% of the value it had.  I haven't taken quite that much of a hit, but I'm now down $15k in my accounts than I was about a month ago, about a 5% loss.  Now, that's not huge, but it throws off the numbers I was looking at.  It also isn't necessarily done: the markets are down 300 points at the moment, though that's less than they were down a few hours ago.

I'm probably still okay.  I mean, I'm making a lot of assumptions about the future - there's no choice - but most are fairly reasonable.  I always assumed a 7% average annual return over decades; individual yearly fluctuations don't matter much.  I also have to assume I'm keeping my job part-time for two years of school and forking over $22k twice (what a UC would cost, roughly and accounting for taxes and deductions).  I also assume that, coming out of college, I can get a job making slightly more than my part-time here would pay.

Based on all that, I'll still have over $2m in the bank at 65.  But that's assuming the market settles down and has something close to a 7% average growth for the rest of the year; that's not guaranteed, but it's also not unreasonable.  If things get worse, well, I'll still be okay to a point, but it might mean having to pump in even more money once I come out of school.

Come, my friends

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... t'is not to late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die. ...

-- Ulysses, Alfred (Lord Tennyson)