Patrick C. Keaveny

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Bar Camp, Happiness, and Africa.

Life

Bar Camp Omaha kicked off last night with an excellent opening party and some really fun people.

Today the event was in full swing. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bar Camp, they refer to themselves as an “unconference.” In other words, it’s a day of speakers, mingling, and food – all unscheduled. Anyone can speak about anything they want, and those who don’t speak have the opportunity to listen to some pretty amazing insight on a variety of topics.

There were two speakers that stood out to me in particular.

Happiness.

A presentation given by Dylan Baumann on the thing everyone seems to be looking for: happiness. This one really stuck out to me mainly because it was very non-traditional. Dylan opened by saying that he basically wanted to talk about happiness – so he did. He took some time to define happiness more in terms of positivity/negativity than in terms of happy and sad moods. He tied it in really well with the technology industry by stressing the importance of – in his words – “how to stop giving a shit and do what you love.”

After, he opened up the question part of the presentation  (traditionally where the audience asks questions) by instead asking the audience what kinds of things made them happy. When no one spoke up for ten seconds, I said “writing.” He asked if I had done any writing, to which I said I had not recently. With that he brought up the point that in order to be happy, you need to do what you love to do, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Starting blogs are dime-a-dozen ideas, yet Dylan said that this is exactly what you need to do to be happy. Don’t worry about whether or not people hate it, whether people love it, or whether people are apathetic to it; do what makes you happy.

Such a simple solution, yet one that I find myself forgetting from time to time, especially as I run from class to class to job to job. It’s easy to forget about the simple things that elicit happiness, which made this presentation a bit of a wake-up call for me.

Learning more in Africa than in school.

A presentation given by Chris Ramey and John DiMartino of Purple Wagon, this talk was very different from any other talk mainly because of the subject matter. Chris and John talked about an organization they ran that takes high school kids to different parts of the world. They talked in particular about a trip to Kenya they took recently and the things they learned.

I enjoyed this presentation immensely precisely because they focused on one thing: what they learned. Some were things that I could relate to (having traveled to Uganda several months ago), such as having reverse culture-shock coming home when you see the way others less fortunate live. Yet some of the things they mentioned were things I hadn’t even considered, and in the end I felt incredibly inspired.

1. When you’re put into a situation you are completely unprepared for, you find a bravery that carries through to other parts of your life.

2. You can use any talent to make the world a better place.

3. When you find yourself in a challenging situation (which can be frequent in the third-world), your problem-solving abilities become instinctual.

Ramey, an AP Computer Science teacher, talked about how his  goal was to find a way to use Computer Science outside of simply doing assignments. He wanted the students on this trip to find ways to put their skills to a more global use. This is something I found particularly inspiring. Going to a lot of these events, I start to wonder if Computer Science is anything more than just a money-making profession, as that seems to be the goal in many areas of that field. Yet Ramey’s group went to Kenya to teach. They taught the children there about the scientific method, abstract concepts, problem-solving skills, and a variety of other topics alongside basic subjects like math and English. This was something I hadn’t really considered before.

A few years ago, I realized money is not really an important concern in my life. Of course money is necessary for bills and to support a family, but I’ve always felt an inkling away from money-making for the sake of cars or TVs or whatever else. I’ve dreamt of wanting to go teach after College, as some of my friends have done, but have often seen Computer Science as more of a “higher pleasure” subject, and not a basic skill like grammar or mathematics. Yet hearing the stories of this trip gave me hope, hope that maybe there is some alternative that would allow me to see my dream come true.

By the end of the talk, I felt a new inspiration, something that I think is really the whole point of these kinds of events. Anyone can find inspiration in these kinds of things, whether it’s technology or entrepreneurship or creativity, there’s a little something for everyone. In my case, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found at Bar Camp, and wouldn’t trade a single second of any it.


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