So... I'm out in Illinois, and I thought to myself.... I miss blogging. And the truth is, most of the time I don't miss it. Most of the time I keep myself busy enough to forget the part of me that ever found blogging "fun". But Illinois is no Connecticut or Massachusetts. Illinois begs people to blog, and I'll tell you why.
In New England there are a thousand temptations to keep one from accessing the computer other than to do work or check facebook. There, people lead busy lives where 20 minutes of downtime is 19 minutes too many. Personally, I could find a million ways to waste my time when I'm in zipcode 06477 or 02766. There are friends living only a lower campus away from you, 817 dvds to watch, 818 parties to attend, 7 nights a week to break into the dance studio and NYC is my next door neighbor with all of its excitement shooting up and down 7th Ave. Then you get to 61820.... Champaign, IL.... where there's corn.
I won't lie, it's better than I imagined. The small town I'm in (though it's actually a city and just feels like a small town) is rather cute. There's Green Street one block down from my apartment which has restaurants and shops and cute brick roads... the small part of this huge campus that I've seen is gorgeous and totally puts the Dimple to shame... there's the threat of a tornado appearing on any given day (and we all know it's my life long dream to see a tornado in person)... it's 800x less humid than CT in the summer... on the surface it's a pretty decent place. But if you leave my little 1/2 mile radius you get your stereotypical Midwest miles upon miles of corn and farmland. But I don't really care about that because I have no reason to wander further than a 1/2 mile from my apartment. Here's the real downer about being out here...
I have too much free time to know what to do with myself. The only thing worse than a lot of free time is its associated "slow pace" mentality. There's no rush, no excitement. Everyone out here seems to be the easy going, relaxed, "slow down and smell the roses" type. I need to be constantly on the go to not be bored... I need to feel like I have 80 things to get done when I know I only have time for 30 of them. My life on the third floor of an apartment complex on Bash Court is a far, far cry from the world I'm comfortable in. I have read 5 books in the past 2 weeks I've been out here... and I'm not a reader. I've taken to taking naps in the afternoon because I don't know what else to do with myself. At the rate I'm going with choreographing every day to keep myself busy I'll have 7 dances done by the end of the summer. My roommates are also in the math REU so it's nice living with other math nerds... we've decorated our living room walls with over 60 drawings we've done that use the 4 color theorem. It's great fun, but something I shouldn't have so much time to be doing. There's only so many afternoons I can spend on the quad, reading... so many nights I can spend coloring with four crayons. I know... I should cherish the down time that summer provides... my last summer before I hit the real world.... and I know it sounds contradictory, but downtime is no good unless you have something to do with it, friends to share it with. And I've never been lonelier out here.
My roommates are great. We bond over coloring and baking cookies (or eating cookies that just one of them baked). Every week we go to a different restaurant together and I'm inducting them into the world of I Love Lucy. But I need my boy... I need my Wheaton friends... I need my family... I need something TO DO with my summer.
I'm supposed to be doing math. Math research. Evolutionary Game Theory and Social Networks. ... and I do... do it. But we meet for 2 hours a day and then have reading to do... it's not very time consuming. We're starting to work on some individual research now, but it's still incredibly relaxed, "take your time" kinda "slow down and let it span out over the entire 8 weeks" sort of thing. I guess I have learned a lot... both about evolutionary game theory and the fact that I don't enjoy math research and don't want to do it again. But overall I'm less than loving my time out here. Everyone in my group is naturally brilliant and I feel like the ugly duckling.... or the equivalent of that like when dealing with geniuses and the one town idiot.
It will all be fine in the end... I'll write my research paper in TeX and be proud of my work and happy I went through the experience. 10 years from now I'll look back on that summer I lived in Champaign and think of what a great little town it was. I'll remember what fun it was to live with two girls as enthusiastic about math as me and laugh at how lame we were with our dozens of 4 color theorem drawings. But right now all I care about is the money I'm getting to do this. And right now the only theorem I've developed is this: the higher the first digit of a town's zip code, the more boring of a place it is to live. And right now I can't wait to go out to San Jose so I can see Rachel and then head home... and we know that's saying a lot if in San Jose I have to present at a conference. Oh life.