Onward and Upward
a blog about hackathons and old friends, once again in two parts.
Part 1: Start Fresh
Or How I Had an Awesome Weekend at YHacks
Or How I Had an Awesome Weekend at YHacks
I blogged about going to a hackathon a few weeks ago when I went to MHacks. This however was my first time traveling somewhere to be part of a hackathon. It’s a little bit different from MHacks where basically every CS major you know is there and your bed is a 10 minute walk if you really get too tired. Our journey began on Thursday when our bus pulled away from the curb at 10:30 (it was supposed to have left at 8 PM). Other than one friend of mine, an art major who thinks programming is cool, I didn’t actually know anybody on the bus, although some faces were familiar. However, close contact tends to foster friendship, especially given that we had pretty similar interests for the most part, and by the end of the bus ride I can say that I felt like I had several friends among the people there. For those of you who don’t know (which I assume is a lot) the bus ride from Ann Arbor to Yale is about 13 hours of straight driving.
When we arrived the first thing that was apparent was the space they had us hacking in. It was a large office building that was seemingly empty. The building was at the “West Campus” of Yale, which meant that it was pretty damn far away from the rest of the campus. However, other than location it was a pretty phenomenal space and very well maintained. We were the first group to arrive so we took a break to explore the main campus of Yale. By the time we returned the space was crawling with hackers from universities around the country. The Michigan group was about 20 people, so we split up into a couple groups of 5 and 6 grabbing small office blocks. I ended up in a large cubicle with my friend the art major and his partner, who was a junior and had attended a lot of these events before.
In retrospect this project was probably a bit too small, even for a 24 hour hackathon, but since I was kind of laid back I had time to socialize a little bit at the end of the event, whereas some of the more serious competitors were coding until the very last second. Anyway, at the 24 hour mark we all piled into busses and went to the Yale Commons, which could easily be confused for the great hall of Hogwarts. I ducked out to meet with my family while presentations were happening, but I managed to catch the tail end of it. The kind things people created was simply amazing, I hope that in a couple of years I’ll be capable of creating hacks of that quality.
As we were getting back on the bus to Michigan I was flying high on pride, hope, and caffeine. I had to spend 20 hours in a bus and caught a terrible cold, but even despite the flaws of the event, YHacks has been one of the coolest things I’ve done in a while. I feel every time I do event like this I learn so much, I will definitely make time in the future to go to these kinds of things no matter how much it wrecks my sleep schedule. If you’re in CS and haven’t gone to a hackathon yet, you should definitely check out. The atmosphere is simply amazing.
Part 2: Prolonged Goodbyes
This certainly isn’t the first time that I’ve had to leave friends behind. I’ve moved a decent amount as a kid, and I’ve definitely had experience trying to maintain old friendships. However, I can hardly say that I’m used to it, and it now feels very strange to meet friends from high school. I feel like we’re all in a sort of transitional period where we still stay in contact, but that phase is rapidly fading as we all make deep new friendships in our new homes.
This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting a friend of mine who goes to Yale. She and I were in a lot of the same clubs and got on quite well. We weren't attached at the hip or anything like that, but by the end of high school we had spent a lot of time together and quite enjoyed each other’s company even outside of our usual clubs. When I told her that I was going to Yale we were both pretty excited to see each other, but I have to admit I was a bit worried that she would be completely different.
When I got off the bus and saw her walking across the quad to meet me some of my fears were immediately assuaged. She still had the same goofy fashion sense and ever-present smile. As we talked over lunch with her boyfriend and my friend the art major it seemed that she hadn’t changed a lot. A math whiz in high school, she had decided to pursue an applied math degree. She was equally unsurprised about my chosen path, and we reminisced over past glories and traded stories about our respective colleges. After a pretty comprehensive tour of Yale I had to head back to the main event, so after a brief goodbye, I hopped back on the bus to West Campus, and the hackers.
Even though there didn’t seem to be much different about her demeanor, the whole interaction seemed to have a sort of removed quality. This is the first time I’ve seen her in over a year, and although we talk occasionally, it was hard to shake the atmosphere of unfamiliarity for a little while. To some extent it feels like while we still enjoy each other’s company the real fabric of our friendship is slowly drifting away. In my experience it seems like almost everyone that I’ve met needs to have pretty constant interaction in order to maintain a real functioning friendship. I don’t think it will ever get to the point where it’s not pleasant to meet up, but unless something rather unexpected happens the rest of our relationship will basically be only that. A lifetime of chance encounters and side trips isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it makes me kind of sad to know that it’s basically impossible to get back to what we were.
I was able to see her again briefly outside the Yale Commons just as I was leaving to meet my family. After a brief exchange I mentioned that I had to leave, and that I wouldn’t see her again before leaving. We said goodbye and I ran out to meet the car that was waiting for me. It felt strange to say goodbye after having not seen her for so long, but it didn’t feel bad. It was left unspoken in her smile that we would see each other again, and we would have time to catch up then. As more of my friends slowly become acquaintances, I guess what I can appreciate most is that although you may stop being a part of someone’s everyday life, they never really stop caring and you’ll always be able to reach out to them and catch up every now and then. Until next time.