Time Management

One of the side effects, happy I tend to think, of taking my prereqs for PA school is that it’s forced me to better about my time management.

I’ve often said that one of the advantages of consulting is I can set my own hours. And there’s truth to that. But there’s a flip side. Sometimes it can be hard to get started on projects or to even get motivated. With projects sometimes I feel guilty if I’m setting aside time for them and not hustling for more work. Or, motivation is low because well, sometimes it’s tough to get motivated when the highlight of your day is “Can you add this user to the database?”

But now, I have approximately 12 hours of the week I absolutely have to block out. I can’t make excuses to myself of “oh, I can do that later” or “Oh, I should be trying to drum up more work” etc. I have to be in a room or lab, focusing on a particular topic.

But more so, on top of that, I have to block out time pretty much every night and so far one day of the weekend, to go over notes, study the past week, prepare for the next and work on study aids. So this has forced me to get better about time management. Fortunately I’m not in the stage where it’s highly stressful. If anything I’m feeling a bit better. I feel like I’m accomplishing more. So, a side effect of my school work is I actually feel a little more charged because I feel like I’m using my time more effectively.

And part of that, is making sure I get this blog out in time to take care of the rest of my day.

Week 1 Update

Because last Monday was Martin Luther King Jr Day, my classes didn’t start until Tuesday. So technically I finished my first week yesterday and I’m starting my second week today.

And wow, I have to say, so far, I’m loving it. But there’s more to it than just that.

I’ve had a few friends close in age say, “Wow, I could never do what you’re doing!” Or, “Wow, I’m done with school. How are you doing it?”

For all of them, I understand. For one, everyone is different. Some didn’t have a great experience in school. Some are too busy. Some just don’t have the interest. I get it. But for me, wow, it’s been a great and heady experience and parts of me wish I had done this years ago. Of course I have to temper that with “it’s your first week Greg, give it a few more weeks.”

It is definitely a strange experience being the oldest students in the class. The only reason I say oldest student and not oldest person is because the four professors I have area all close in age to me or older. I’m only taking three classes, but my Bio I lab professor is not the same as the Bio I lecturer, hence having 4 total.

Bio I – so far, all review for me. Basic chemistry and some basic definitions. The professor has made a good point that we all have to start someplace and I agree.

Bio I Lab – basic safety and use of the micropipette and spectrophotometer. Good stuff. But not the most exciting. I do hope it gets better.

Psychology 100 – Strangely the class I felt oldest in for a minute when he was talking about the theory of playing classical music in utero and if the idea it might have an impact on fetal and baby intelligence. It was just a brief comment, but I had to remind myself, I was alive when this was all the rage back in 1998, including the governor of Georgia wanting to send CDs with classical music to all pregnant mothers. Meanwhile, the other students in the class, if they had heard of it, it was either as history, or because they heard the music itself!

Anatomy & Physiology 1 – The professor was out due to Covid for our first two classes and lab unfortunately, so we did stuff via Zoom. I can already tell I think this is the class I’m going to have the most fun in. It’s also probably going to include some of the most amount of rote memorization. So flash card time! I’ve already warned Randi on longer road trips I may have her ask me questions while we’re driving.

Besides enjoying the classes, I think I’m prepared to be a better student than I was 30 plus years ago. There’s a number reasons. For one, I’ve simply just accumulated a lot of general knowledge over that time between a lot of reading and then the learning and teaching I’ve done for NCRC and other programs. So for example, I’m already ahead on some of the terminology in A&P.

But it’s more than that. I’m simply a bit more focused, though that will be something I’ll have to keep an eye in, including keeping the balance with consulting in place.

But also, the technology obviously is different, and this has honestly helped me. Being able to communicate with the instructors via email (and Zoom) works well for my style. And the other thing I’m taking advantage of is my Rocketbook and OneNote to better take notes and organize things.

I have yet to really meet any of my classmates or learn their names and this being a community college and all of us are on different tracks, I suspect I won’t get too close to any of them. If/when I get into PA School though I suspect that part will change, in part because we’ll all be focused on the same thing and because having study partners will be an absolute requirement.

So, it’s only been week one, but I’m really enjoying it and looking forward to the rest of the semester.

In the meantime, an update on the Lego Saturn V I received for Christmas:

Lego Saturn V - S-IC stage sitting on a dining room table.
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The Dream

The dream is always the same. … and I… find myself in a room full of kids taking their college boards. I’m over three hours late; I’ve got two minutes to take the whole test. I’ve… just made a terrible mistake. I’ll never get to college. My life is ruined. – Risky Business

Today is the day. For the first time in over 30 years I’ll be sitting down in a college classroom and taking a class. I distinctly recall taking my final exam for college. It was in Microbiology. I wasn’t overly concerned. I need to get something like a 40% on it to pass the class (and since it was counting as transfer credit, my actual letter grade didn’t matter as far as RPI was concerned.). It was multiple choice. Once I was confident I had gotten well over 40% I put down the pen and walked out. (For the record I ended up well over 80% on the exam.)

But I have to remind myself, that technically while that was the end of my undergrad career, I have taken classes since then. I took a class on SQL Server a few years later, I studied for and got my MCSE a few years after that, and starting in 2002, I started my career with the NCRC where I have since become an instructor.

But, this is different. For one, it’s 12 weeks of classes. There will be a lab. There will be homework. It’ll be harder in its own way than the other training.

Like many, for years after I graduated, I’d have a dream, usually around May, where it was exam time and I realized there was a class I had never attended and now had to take an exam in it. I’d always wake up a bit upset. One year though finally the dream changed. This time the setup was the same, but when I went to take the final exam, I aced it. Don’t ask me how. But I literally stopped having these exam dreams after that.

So I figure it’s appropriate that I had a dream about starting school last night. In my dream though, I was over in Schenectady (about 15 miles from the community college I’ll be taking classes at) trying to get folks to tell me what time it was, since I had to be at class at 2:00 PM. None would give me a straight answer at first until I got upset. Finally one person told me it was 1:45 PM. I was panicking because I knew there would be no way I’d make it to the Torrington CT Campus of UConn. It was then that I recalled that fortunately I didn’t have to drive that far.

All this is a setup to admit that yes, I am actually both excited and nervous. I’ve gone in a few short weeks from a feeling of ennui when it came to my career and life to one of stress and even a slight bit of panic. Of course it didn’t help that I had to get my vaccination status cleared, and then a bunch of other paperwork finished up late yesterday before it all became official.

I honestly have very little idea what my experiences over the next several years will be like. But I’m looking forward to them.

And more in the future.

Wow…

As I posted in my 2022 Year in Preview on Saturday among other goals, I had decided to work towards a career change. On Facebook and elsewhere I asked folks to read it and by extension, for support.

Wow, I got it in spades. I’m humbled and thankful. Now if I could say I wasn’t nervous or even already feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I thought I’d provide a quick update.

One of the first steps I need to complete before I can even apply for PA school is to fulfill a bunch of prerequisites. This means taking a fairly full class load at the local community college. To do that, I needed to actually register for classes. I figured that would be the easy part, so I set off full of hope yesterday morning to do so. Their offices were closed last week, so yesterday was my first opportunity.

And I hit my first roadblock. I was told I needed to prove my vaccination status to the health office first. Well that’s a bit of a problem because for various reasons, I didn’t have access to my health records from when I was a kid, when I would have received the required vaccinations. After series of calls to various providers and the community college health office, I learned I could, if necessary get the shots from the health office. But, I needed to be registered for classes first. So effectively I couldn’t register until the health office said everything was OK, and the health office couldn’t say everything would be OK until I was registered for classes. Welcome to the classic Catch-22.

Eventually I was able to cut some red-tape and am registered and on the way to solving my vaccination status issues.

So, first hurdle cleared.

Then another one hit: I may have underestimated what prereqs I need and if that’s true, will have to 100% definitely push back one year for the whole process.

I’ll admit that gives me very mixed feelings. One one hand, it may mean a lot less pressure to get everything done this year. On the other, it definitely means another year before I can fully change careers.

So, yesterday was a roller coaster of emotions.

And it was just the first week. But I didn’t expect it all to be roses and flowers. But I’ve decided to t least share most of my ups and downs with my readers.

Oh and one upside: I finally got a Christmas present that I had wanted for two years: the Lego Saturn V. Thanks Ian. I’m going to take my time building it, spread out the enjoyment.

2022 in Preview

I started last year’s version of this post with the suggestion I should leave it as a blank page and I’m tempted again, but no, I actually have goals for next year.

By words, thoughts become actions, and by actions words become deeds.

I’m going to start with the usual list of items and then have a big reveal at the bottom (you can skip to that if you want).

  • Like last year, I’m going to continue to write for Red-Gate. Even if it’s just one article. I will also attempt to keep my “Friends of Red-Gate’ status. In fact, I vow to be even more involved if I can find time.
  • This year for the NCRC, I’m looking to premiere a new class we’re calling “Tip of the Spear” aka TOTS. The focus of the class will be to work with medical doctors, nurses, physicians assistants and other medically trained personal to get them (the tip of the spear) to the patient deep in the cave as quickly as possible to provide the best possible medical care. Unlike our normal classes where there’s a strong focus on things like setting up communications, rigging, searching, etc this will focus solely on getting them there to use their skills. I’m excited about this, even though there’s a fair amount of work required to fully develop the curriculum.
  • Yeah, I’ll continue blogging. ‘Nough said. (Hey no one says you have to read it!)
  • Travel: While I do plan to do more, the big trips may be out for reasons to be mentioned below. But we’ll see.
  • Biking: Yeah, I hope to hit at least 700 miles this year (that has sort of been my minimum goal for years and I’ve beat it every year. I’ll continue to do so).
  • Hike More: I hope to do at least one overnight this year. And of course day hikes. So if you’re interested in doing a hike, let me know.
  • Caving: There’s a few caves I want to get into this year. So I’m looking forward to that.

Changes are Coming!

And now “the big reveal”. I’m going to start by saying that while I enjoy consulting and I think I’m pretty good at it, I am not enjoying it as much as I used to. I’m also simply not finding it fulfilling in a way I’d like it to be.

Among the reasons is that at the end of the day I look at what I’ve done and wonder “what difference does it really make?” Yes, I’ve written some solid code. I’ve helped with projects that have saved my clients thousands of dollars or made them tens of thousands. Financially, they’ve obviously made a difference. But, on a personal level they haven’t.

One reason I’ve enjoyed teaching cave rescue so much (and participating in the few I have, including a body recovery) is because at the end of the day I know I’ve made a difference: I’ve taught someone valuable skills, helped someone get out safely, or even in the most extreme case, been able to help others find closure.

I’ve been contemplating a change for awhile. I had toyed with a few ideas, such as going back to being a full-time employee, ideally in a management position for awhile. And I may still end up doing that, but that’s not where I am planning on heading right now. Financially it would probably be the right move, and honestly, I think when I’ve had the right environment, I’ve been a good manager (on the flip side, in a bad environment I’ve found it hard to be an effective or good manager).

So, instead, I’m going to pivot a bit and attempt a career change. I’m going to to try to move into a field where I think I can make a direct impact on people’s lives. I’m going to start taking prerequisite classes so I can apply for a Physician’s Assistant program. This is an idea I’ve toyed with off and on for years. Or rather one of several. Besides enjoying working with computers, I’ve been fascinated with two other fields: medical and law. I’ve thought for quite a few years if perhaps I should explore them. This really came to a head during my dad’s fatal illness 6 years ago. I’ll brag a bit and say that more than once I had one of the attendings or nurses ask me (after discussing his condition or treatment) “Are you in the medical field?” Once even when students were rounding, the attending asked them a question and none answered it to his satisfaction, I was able to step in and correctly answer it. Yes, one or two students scowled at me.

Now, having said that, I’m quite realistic in understanding that while I do claim a greater than a laymen’s knowledge of things medical, I have a LONG way to go and I’m entering a difficult field later in life and have a bit of catchup to do. I have no illusions that this will be easy for me. But to perhaps channel a bit of John F. Kennedy “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”

In the most optimistic timeframe, I’ll be completing my PA work in mid 2025. In a more realistic timeframe, probably 2026. This is a serious investment of time and effort. This is arguably going to be one of the hardest things I’ve done in years. There’s no guarantee of success (heck, there’s no guarantee that even after doing all the prereqs I’ll be accepted into a program). But, I’ve decided I have to try. Ah but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for? I won’t know if I can do it unless I try and I don’t want to be a 4 years older wondering “what if?”

I’d been having thoughts about this for a long time. I finally put the thoughts into words, which made them that much more real. Now I’m starting to put the words into actions.

And one of those actions is to write the words down here for others to read. I do this for a multitude of reasons.

  • By writing this down and revealing it to the world (or at least to a small part of it) it holds me a bit more accountable for trying.
  • I’ll freely admit, I could use any and all support and help any of my friends, family, including #sqlfamily, and others are willing to give.
  • And honestly, perhaps it’ll inspire others in a similar position to stretch for their own goals.

For the coming year

I’ll keep working in SQL, you’ll see me at events and I’ll probably do some speaking, but I won’t be seeking out new work. I simply won’t have the time.

I’ll still keep running my local user group and looking for speakers

I’ll be blogging about my successes, and failures.

And I’ll be busy.

Wish me luck.