The worst part of a new beginning is the final ending. Some beginnings have no end; some endings follow no true beginning.

I was a struggling English student throughout my education. Somewhere between the beginning of elementary and ending of intermediate school, the struggles I dealt with grew incrementally. I was even placed in a Reading class in 7th grade while many of my friends went into honors classes. Reading class was only for those who were struggling and was not required.

While it made me feel rather stupid, I knew I could easily make A’s in this class. There was no way I would struggle that much in a class of people I considered to be below me intellectually.

I was wrong.

I was more in tune with books as a kid, reading many which I remember enjoying. Even today I can recall various visual scenes I made up in my mind for some of the stories. However, the last time I really remember enjoying a book while in public education was in 8th grade. I vaguely remember reading certain stories which were mildly entertaining. It wouldn’t be long now.

By high school, I knew I wasn’t going to excel in this area of study. The required readings I was forced to commit to in English classes never satisfied me. Unfortunately for my education, my lust for video games had set in. Sitting still to comprehend static text was not even a passing thought if I wasn’t reminded.

I forced myself into the honors English class my freshman year of high school. For two years, I endured this ongoing struggle for several reasons: to be around peers better and smarter than me, to be around those who would challenge me, many of my friends were in these classes, and I needed to challenge myself.

By my junior year, I ended my personal challenge. Sophomore English class killed me, leaving me scarred with three D’s. It was time to end my suffering and take the personal hit. My pride in English, of what I even had left, was pretty much shot. While I didn’t want to let go for so many reasons, and while there are probably many reasons I should have continued this challenge, it was in my best interest to move on.

I tried hard to make it work. My timing wasn’t always great, I procrastinated a lot, and my test scores reflected this. I made mistakes which I wish I hadn’t, but I struggled to change my circumstances. Sadly, I just wasn’t meant to be great at English but I have slowly improved over the years.

It wasn’t a fun choice to leave the honors English track but I needed to make a change that was good for me. I was too stressed being in the same situation again and again and it left me unhappy. Since high school, I gained a huge appreciation for the English language because of my decision. I almost regret not continuing on with honors English but I knew at the time it was right for me.

I don’t always know when the right time for me to let go and move on is but I try my best to make my life work for me. The unintentional endings I’ve experienced through my life have been unfortunate but I’ve grown into a better person because of them. I just hope I know that doing the right thing doesn’t always mean doing the best thing for everyone.

Out of a sad ending will come a beautiful beginning. My improvement and understanding of the English language into my 30’s is proof that it doesn’t need to completely end. It just needed to change, this change allowed me to appreciate it more, and I found a new way to invigorate myself to improve my writing, reading and understanding.

I hope I can apply this lesson throughout the rest of my life.

Wow, I’m officially 30-something. Nine more years of this.

What’s crazy is I remember my dad turning 40 and my time is not too far ahead of me. He had a pretty big, somewhat extravagant party. It was probably the biggest birthday party my family had when I was growing up.

I don’t remember having too many parties as a child. I do remember maybe one or two, at which only about 5-10 kids showed up. They were nice but I was one of the least popular in my school so not many kids even wanted to come over.

This didn’t really change in middle or high school either. During my sophomore year, my mom did her best to put together a surprise birthday party for me. I believe only 3-4 people showed up. It’s not that I didn’t have friends, but it was confirmation not to throw my own birthday parties.

Since high school, birthdays have always been a somewhat private event. It’s not that I don’t like celebrating or going out. Much of the problem lies in the timing. May is a busy time for students to prepare for finals and going home for the summer. So there really never was an opportune time to publicly celebrate.

I find that the best way to celebrate my life is to be happy knowing that I can continue doing what I always do. Maybe it would be a little different if my closer friends lived near me, I dunno.

I don’t take pity on myself or feel sadness that I’m not a big birthday person. I feel a sense of comfort that I’m still alive, I feel younger than my age, and I don’t have to worry about organizing anything.

Do I prefer a personal, self-involved birthday? All I will say is that I’m happy to be alive. Who could really ask for more?

Since about 1997, I’ve more or less used Outlook Express to manage all of my email. I was never a heavy enough user to warrant switching to Outlook or anything else that heavy, so Outlook Express has been the default, go to email client for me.

Now, 13 years later, I’m finally making the switch away from Outlook Express architecture. It’s been a little painful since I never needed anything more than Outlook Express. I also have 12+ years of emails nicely categorized and filed away in a somewhat complicated architecture designed in Outlook Express. So going completely cloud computing based email is out of the question for me. I also am not a fan of the limited Windows Live Mail client. It just wasn’t customizable enough for what I needed.

Now, I’m finally giving Mozilla Thunderbird a temporary test. I was against switching to Thunderbird 2 for many reasons, but Thunderbird 3.0.4 seems so far to do what I prefer.

My likes and dislikes so far:

  • Simple installation – Love it. No hassle, easy to input my email account.
  • Multiple identities – This is a feature I’ve needed since I discovered it in Apple Mail. Sadly, I always had to create multiple dummy accounts just to be able to send as another identity. This is especially important since I don’t need a bunch of personal inboxes for each account. Gmail allows me to gather all of that nicely into one place, which I then just download from one account. Perfect!
  • Local Folders vs. Account Folder – This has been a moderate annoyance. Why the heck did I have *two* inboxes and trash folders? Seems so useless to have a Local Inbox when my Account Inbox was the only one being used. It took me a while to find out you can setup a Global Inbox to handle everything.The default setup for all new email accounts you associate is to store mail in the newly formed account folder (or create it when needed). So, by default, you will have two copies of Inbox, Drafts, Sent, Trash and Outbox. That’s such stupid way to do it when you’re only setting up one account! It just complicates everything for a user.
  • Speed – It’s no slower than Windows Mail. Thunderbird 2 felt draggy but Thunderbird 3 feels on par. At least initially! Let’s hope that doesn’t change, dang it.
    Edit 4/12/2010 – Two big areas that have increasingly annoyed me are sending a message and deleting a message. When I compose a new email and send it, a small window opens to show the sending status. It usually takes about 3 seconds or longer for the whole new composed email to disappear (and live in my Sent folder. Similarly, when I have an email I don’t need anymore, I push the the delete button in the Mail Toolbar. Deleting the message is usually a 1-2 second task, sometimes longer depending on the size of the email. I wish these two tasks didn’t take so long.
  • Auto-completion email “To: %Alias%” – When I click on the “Create a New Message” icon to send a brand new email,  the first thing I do is type the name of the person I want to send it to. At least with version 3.0.4, even when I type out a name that’s in my Address Book, it doesn’t auto-complete the address! In fact, if I try to send the email, it give me an error saying, “%Alias% is not a valid e-mail address because it is not of the form user@host. You must correct it before sending the e-mail.” where %Alias% is the name of the person I’m sending to. Really, Thunderbird? Really? Why aren’t you referencing my address book where that person’s email address is stored! Come on! Turns out my original export of my Address Book was a bad export. So I reexported out of Thunderbird’s Address Book, played around with the CSV file, and reimported. Problem solved!
  • Top Posting vs. Bottom Posting – Whoever decided that the default reply location of an email should be below the whole email message should be shot. It took me another while to figure out how to switch all my identities to become top reply, where the reply to an email starts above the quoted original text. I think, despite the ongoing discussion for bottom replies and against top replies, standard email convention should be practiced (being that almost all other email systems out there do this already).
  • Contacts Sidebar – I had this in Outlook Express. Loved it. Missed it in Windows Mail. Now I have it back in Thunderbird thanks to Add-ons! Sadly, so many add-ons for Thunderbird are not very compatible or buggy for Thunderbird 3, but hopefully the good ones will be and stay current with new versions.
  • Customization – I’m so thankful there’s a ton of customization for this software. The UI is exactly as I’m used to and prefer, which is good for usability. And while it’s not exactly like Outlook Express, there’s some great features that are much better.The only real complaint I do have is the sorting pane on the threads list that contains the column names like “From”, “Subject”, etc. I love that I can customize it in every folder, but why can’t I customize it globally? I want most of my folders to appear the same with a few exceptions here and there.

I’m going to give it about a month and see how I feel, but already after I found the answers I needed, I believe I’m gonna stay with this and totally abandon Windows Mail/Outlook Express for good. It’s been mostly a good 13 years but it’s past time to move on.