The Last Summer (Everything Else)

It’s strange to think that I’ve just spent my last summer vacation ever. They’ve been a fixture of my life for the past sixteen years; now that I’m officially a “working adult,” that time of my life is over. I’ve already blogged about some of the big-ticket items of the past summer, such as ACF senior trip and my family vacation to Hawaiʻi. But I’m a fairly sentimental person, so I wanted to make another post is about all the other, smaller things that nonetheless contributed to my experience this past summer.

Saying goodbye to Pittsburgh

While some of my friends absolutely (or maybe moderately) hate Pittsburgh, I’m almost embarrassingly fond of it. I’ve already written a cycling elegy for Pittsburgh, but I love Pittsburgh beyond just cycling. Pittsburgh is a place where I’ve learned a lot, grown as a person, and met some incredible people. As such, I had a hard time saying goodbye.

The first goodbye was graduation. Before graduating, I made sure to check off one last item on my CMU bucket list, namely doing a bit of campus exploration. After spending a few late nights wandering around campus, I found a few interesting places and dragged a few friends to go explore with me. We actually bumped into another group of students en route to the Wean Roof and almost got caught by a facilities crew. It was great fun, although I guess I’m officially supposed to tell you not to try this at home?

Steam tunnel Rooftop Rooftop
Some miscellaneous places around campus, best visited at night… (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

Of course, there was the date of graduation itself and all the speech-giving and photo-taking involved with it. I’m actually not sure where all my graduation photos are; they’re probably all on a hard drive somewhere in my parents’ house.1 Our commencement speech was given by Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of Intel. Truth be told, this was a rather safe choice of speaker; my guess is that the administration got spooked by last year’s speech, which was given by a CMU almnus who works in the arts and apparently got a bit political. (I’m reporting second-hand, as I wasn’t there for last year’s ceremony.) Anyway, almost immediately after graduating, I had to head back to my apartment to pack up most of my stuff and head back home with my family. I left the bare minimum in my apartment (basically just a bed and lamp) because I was planning on coming back a couple times over the summer to hang out.2

Well, that didn’t really end up happening for a variety of reasons that I don’t need to get into here. I did come back once in July for about a week, to clear out the rest of my stuff. A somewhat hilarious (in retrospect) incident occurred: you see, the keypad controlling access to the front door of my apartment building broke. As it turns out, the management company had never given me a physical copy of the key. When I arrived in Pittsburgh in the middle of the night after a long drive, I found that despite having the key to my own front door, I couldn’t get into the building!

I tried everything I could think of, including knocking on random first-floor residents’ windows, but no one answered. Unfortunately, all of my college friends who lived in the same building had already moved out. I didn’t want to have to call the emergency number and explain the whole situation to my management company because I was about to return the keys in a week anyway. (I suspected that they never gave me the keys because I moved in during COVID and something fell through the cracks.) So I had no choice: I had to break into my own apartment through the window!

Fortunately, I lived on the first floor, so this wasn’t too bad of an undertaking. My window had some metal bars on the inside, but they were just held together with a combination lock that I had installed myself; I thankfully remembered the combination. Upon climbing in through the window, I then proceeded to leave through the front door to open the main building door from the inside, enabling me to bring my suitcase in.

Window with bars
Picture I took right before breaking in through my own window (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

Not wanting to have to do this every day for the rest of the week, I decided to prop the main building door open and tape a note to the wall explaining to the other residents: “keypad is broken, please prop door open.” Miraculously, this worked; the door remained propped open for the whole week, and I never had to break in through my own window again. What a time to be alive.

The final time I went back to Pittsburgh was in August, when I went back for a wedding. (It’s scary that people my age are getting married already!) Lots of other ACFers were also there (mostly for a different wedding, actually), so it was really fun to get to catch up and hang out. On Sunday, we entirely filled the PCC English sanctuary, and afterward we basically took over the entirety of Schenley Plaza as we ate lunch together. I also managed to snag a really cool SCS Day 2019 t-shirt after hearing a rumor that there were boxes of free t-shirts left unguarded in the Gates stairwell.

Visiting California, again

I also decided to visit California in August, mainly to visit friends and family. I ate lots of good food; spent time with my grandparents, uncle, aunt, and cousins; hiked at Point Reyes with Justin, Rachel, and Fiona (we almost got lost, and the drive back was astoundingly foggy); crashed at Kevin’s place for a few nights; was bullied by Megan into making an Instagram account; and got to go on one of the most gorgeous solo hikes of my life at Yosemite.

Definitely the highlight of the trip was getting to do a ten-mile hike to the Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite. The High Sierra is truly God’s gift to mankind; I don’t think words can describe how beautiful it is. Granite peaks, alpine lakes, lush meadows…you know, I always say I’m an east coast person, but I’ve been sorely tempted by California recently…

Moving into my new apartment

In preparation for starting work, I moved into my new apartment in Jersey City! (Well, we actually signed the lease back in June because Nelson, my roommate, started his job back then, but my job didn’t start until late August, so I wasn’t really around until then.) Decorating is not really my strong suit, but luckily Ikea exists for people like me. In fact, my roommate and I ended up buying so much furniture from Ikea that I like to joke that my bedroom is an Ikea showroom.

Bedroom Living room Skyline at sunset
My bedroom and almost-furnished living room, plus the lovely views of Manhattan at the waterfront. We later got a TV, not because Nelson and I watch TV, but because a modern living room feels incomplete without one. Yeah, we shouldn’t have given into Big TV’s propaganda, but whatever. (Click on any image to view at full resolution.)

Some people have questioned my decision to live in Jersey City. It actually wasn’t really based on tax considerations (although not paying New York City tax is pretty nice); I mostly chose Jersey City because of the good commute and convenience for getting out of the city for hiking/biking/visiting family, especially since I have a car. I also have some warm fuzzy feelings about the place, having spent a couple of years during my childhood in Newport. (I spent most of my childhood farther south in suburban New Jersey.) Plus, the views of downtown Manhattan along the Jersey City waterfront are phenomenal, and I can see the World Trade Center from my bedroom window. Since I’m not really into night life, the only two downsides I can see to Jersey City are (1) the weekend PATH admittedly sucks and (2) it’s all but impossible to convince friends who live in New York City to come over.

Short trips and non-trips

A few other things that happened this summer:

There were also a few things that I wanted to do during my “last free summer” but didn’t get a chance to:

Do I regret how I spent my last summer break? That’s a bit of a tough question to answer. It certainly didn’t go the way I’d envisioned it, with grand trips and spending lots of time in Pittsburgh. I ended up staying more local and doing a bunch of smaller trips. I got to cap off a wonderful four years of college by spending small amounts of time with a bunch of the people who made it so wonderful, so I guess I’ll count that as a win? I don’t know, I’m obviously a bit sad to leave student life behind, but I think I’m also at a place where I’m ready to move on to the next phase of my life. Well, here’s to Real Working Adult Life with Real Adult Responsibilities!

  1. Huh, I feel so old saying “my parents’ house.”↩︎

  2. Ah, I miss that apartment already. Yes, it was a bit janky. There were far too many spiders for my liking; the IKEA table that I scavenged from the dumpster was admittedly a bit beaten up; my bed frame was practically an ACF heirloom handed down from upperclassmen over at least ten years, in Chanyoung’s estimation. Still, it was home for three years during college, and I retain fond memories of Schenley.↩︎