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Legacy

Recently I turned 20 years old. As the days continue to go by, I have been struggling with the concept of time.

Probably this feeling started with me seeing photos of this year's SAAS robotics teams. I was on the robotics team for four years (I've written about it a little before) but recently I found that all of a sudden, I know barely anyone in the photos. Fifteen people in robotics graduated[1] high school last year, people I've largely known since they were freshmen (or in the case of Jesse and Matt, even longer). Some of them are very close friends. And I have found that the way I think about Redshift Robotics has changed: I don't quite think of it as something I used to be a part of, at least not that simply. Instead I think of it as my legacy.

legacy: n. something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past

- from The American HeritageĀ® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, via Wordnik

I don't belong there anymore. FIRST Tech Challenge has changed since I've left. They play a different game than I did, they run their GitHub differently than I envisioned when I set it up, they have different mentors and leadership than we did, and I'm sure they practice and compete differently than we did. That's okay. But it's weird. I know exactly what they're thinking because I thought it too, years and years ago - to them, I am a vague echo in someone else's past; an accumulation of events that has shaped what the club is today but that they would never be able to name. I'm someone they've vaguely heard of, maybe, but never really known. What happens next is all in their hands and there's nothing I can or want to do about it; I witnessed a former mentor of SAAS robotics turn the entire club around and that's history they'll never have seen, and maybe will never even know about. But whatever is happening there now is something I'll never see, either.

Pretty soon there will be no students left at SAAS I still know. Two more very close friends graduate this year. It'll only take a year or two more after that before the last student I know personally is gone.

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.

- The Beatles, In My Life

I think maybe as time goes on I'm getting better at watching people grow and change. I'm on year two of college and already I see it happening - last year a close group of friends and I were just freshmen, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. This year one's an RA, two are First-year Fellows[2] and I'm a D'Lion[3]. The rest are living their lives in upper-class housing. As I was sitting in the dining hall earlier tonight I thought, how lucky we are that we even met last year. We're all scattered around now, generally in wildly different departments, and we're all focusing on different next steps. Most of us live in different buildings from all the others, and I can't help but wonder if we would all have met later. I think the answer is probably no. Causality is a strange thing to me; the circumstances that brought us together are dead and gone and yet the friendship lives on. Legacy.

I see the world changing too. There was a point in my life where it seemed like nothing big and cosmic would ever change; it seemed like the world would adjust itself only in small details. But at some point that stopped being the case, when I wasn't watching. James Porter, who's part of the faculty at the Recurse Center, once told me that whenever new batches came in he was always super sad to see so many people he'd made friends with leave to be replaced by strangers he didn't know yet. But, he said, he never quite noticed the point where people in-batch switched from strangers to friends. That feeling of not noticing is how I feel about the world right now. And it just boggles the mind that I'm at an age now where I can actually say yeah, I've seen those things change. I see people even just a year or two younger than me so much more attached to their phones; I say "back in the day" unironically when I talk about tech things.

The traffic in Seattle has gotten worse, almost unbearable compared to what it once was. We didn't used to hear about wildfires like we do now; the country and the planet are burning. And above all else, the country is angrier. So much angrier.

I turned 20 today. A question for people older and wiser than I: I feel incredibly weird to not be a "teenager" anymore, what the hell do I do???

- me, a couple days ago, on pump.io and on Twitter

Footnotes:

[1]: and we all know how I feel about graduations.

[2]: upper-class student at University of Rochester who lives with first-years and helps them with academic stuff (especially course registration)

[3]: like a First-year Fellow except instead of academic stuff, they help bring their hall together and make sure everyone's having a good time and making friends, etc.


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