That's how long I've been living in Palo Alto. And it's been, without a doubt, the most productive I have ever been.
I moved in completely to my apartment and it already feels like home. Got my I.D. card, my parking pass, and my mailing address(es) established.
I went to Target (two different Targets, four times total), three secondhand stores, Home Depot, Trader Joe's (twice), Safeway. I went to San Francisco once.
I assembled a standing lamp/table, hung three pictures and one mirror on the wall, and washed every dish, pot, pan, storage container, knife, and cooking utensil I own (by hand).
I did laundry once. I cooked dinner for myself every night. I made my bed every morning. I listened to a dozen podcasts.
I went running five of seven days. 25 miles total (21 count towards my goal of 100 miles before the first day of winter). My average step count for the week is 14,811.
I went to my six summer institute class meetings, made a great group of friends, and did the reading every night (nothing short of miraculous if you're familiar with undergrad survival techniques).
I've outlined my POLS project (capstone project for my master's program), met with my program director to brainstorm, and scheduled a meeting with my academic advisor for Monday.
I joined the Stanford Historical Society. I applied to a competitive national fellowship program. I've stayed caught up on my obligations back in Oregon. I got accepted to a competitive d.school course for the fall called Creativity and Innovation.
I've posted on the blog every night.
Mostly, this is just a collection of small victories. A series of checked boxes on a to-do list that was daunting and stressful seven days ago. None of that is particularly impressive -- but small victories cobbled together make for a nice win.
Everything feels right. I feel good. I'm not wasting time, I'm eating healthy, I'm organized, I'm not procrastinating on anything. I'm keeping my priorities straight.
Why couldn't I do this for the last year? Or two years? Or seven?
There's something to be said for clean breaks and fresh slates. That's part of it. A big part of it, no doubt. Academics. Exercise. Diet. Creating stuff. Those are the four categories in my life that have caused me angst and stress, the things that killed my self image, over the last three or four years. Moving here is a new beginning, which gave me permission to start over and reset my mindset.
Another factor is being more intentional and thorough and public with my goals. All of that keeps me motivated and makes self-accountability a lot easier.
But one critical factor that was missing before now is a sense of place. I had been living with my dad since I graduated from undergrad -- and it was 100% the right decision. I saved up enough money so that, combined with my scholarship, I will graduate with a Master's Degree and no debt. That's huge, and I know how fortunate that makes me. But it also allowed me to develop a closer relationship with my dad. And it allowed me to travel all over the US (and the world!) without worrying about who was going to take care of Charlie the Labradoodle. Point is, there were big upsides.
But it was also a constant reminder that I wasn't there yet. That I was still more in the "building" phase than the "doing" phase. It didn't matter what my job was, how much money I was making, how many boards I sat on -- I still felt, a little bit, like a kid. It's hard to explain, but there is a definite psychological impact. It's one of the side effects that the ridiculous cost of higher education is having on a significant portion of my generation.
That's in the rearview mirror now. Now I'm at Stanford. It feels right. I fit in. I love it. I love the people and the buildings and the trees, I love how it feels like everyone here wants to support each other. But I mostly love how I feel about myself being here. It really feels like I can do anything if I'm willing to put in the work -- and that's a great place to be.