William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

a new whim every day

As a benefit of being enrolled in chemistry this semester, I've been invited to come in for a 20-minute consultation appointment. I'd say this is long overdue for me - I've always been stubborn enough to figure that only I know what's best for me, which is partially true, but the reality is that I am, at most any given time, incompletely informed. So garbage in, garbage out, as they say, and now I'm 27 with no career and no clear prospects.

I think I can rule out becoming a world-famous astrophysicist within the next five to ten years. The problem with my courses is that I'm merely surviving and only sometimes thriving. They're not much fun, and it's my so-called study skills, rather than my "natural" aptitudes, that are saving me from outright mediocrity. So I dunno. I don't want to be known as "Will the Quitter" or "Will Who Quits as Soon as Things Get Hard". And I didn't want to end up being a high school teacher - I wanted to go big (Honours or double Honours) or go home. So why don't I want to be a high school teacher? Let me put it this way: For a university professor, everybody in the school is fair game. ;-)

Here's the thing. I can do this stuff, but I need a lot of time, and I can only really think about one thing at a time. Or, to put it glibly, I'm slow. I have a precocious vocabulary and a serviceable memory for a few little things, but I'm the kind of person that needs to have things explained to them about five or six times. When things do sink in (they usually do, eventually), I'm good at sharing the knowledge with others, mostly because I had the experience of going through all the work to attain it, and I vividly remember what worked for me on any particular point. This talent has no bearing on my being a good English-language teacher, which is a relief, because I wasn't one. :) Not only was I never formally trained as such, but as a native speaker I don't have the benefit of having learned how to learn English, if you catch my drift. I suspect the whole "native speaker" thing is actually overrated - I think it's a cheap substitute for the best kind of teacher, someone who had to learn the target language and is so accomplished as to be immaculate in execution. I have a lot of respect for such folk, although obviously you can't go expecting even a quarter percent of ESL speakers to get to be anything like that good, so it's not like I look down my nose at people without such admirable fluency.

I'm thinking I'd like to take out a loan and go to Sainte-Anne for the '10-'11 academic year and get my French. But this done, what would I do? I'd like to be a university professor someday because university is the place to be - in no other place are people so energetic, vibrant, smart, and beautiful. And it's a great cultural meeting place, too: in the physics help room today, I was the only Canadian white male until the last few minutes of the session. And of course I got the help I needed, but educated people know that this is a function of the interactions among individuals as individuals, and has next to nothing to do with race. I guess a few years from now I won't even notice such a thing.

At any rate, people have come from all over the world to be at Saint Mary's, and the same can be said for many other fine universities, such as Mount Saint Vincent, NSCAD, and... um... I'm forgetting the other good one that's near here... oh, that's right, Nova Scotia Agricultural College. And if you think I'm kidding, compare the Teletech floor with Saint Mary's. Working there is like taking the off-ramp from the highway of personal progress. I should know, because I worked there myself! ;-) Oh, I did see quite a few "Dal Poli-Sci" and "Dal Psych" shirts when I was there.

Where was I?

So what I'm thinking of doing is dropping a few courses next semester and focusing on math, keeping only one other course so as to maintain full-time status for the year. But the more I think about that, the less I like it. I'd actually kind of miss the chemistry labs, and we have a really cool prof teaching general university physics. But my weak math background is killing me, especially in physics. Chemistry is a bit more qualitative, so I sometimes have a bit of room to breathe. But this won't last. Next semester, they're going to be cranking things up big time. It's a pity, because being a chemist sounds cool - a lot sexier than being a writer! And, if it isn't glaringly obvious to everyone yet, I have little hope of becoming a writer because I really don't write very often. And as it goes in the plethora of other things I've attempted, as soon as the fun stops, I stop. (In casual post-chem-lab conversation today, somebody asked me why I wasn't a writer or a journalist, and then why I didn't apply to other journalism schools besides King's. Well, the reality was that I wasn't really all that interested in journalism. I like writing about things that interest me as opposed to writing about things I'm told to write about.)

And if I'm just going to do math for a while, well, why don't I just major in math? I know it's just pre-cal review, but I was pretty pleased to get 79.5/80 on the midterm. But maybe math will be like everything else - beyond a certain level, too much for me to take. Man. This bugs me, because up until now I felt like anybody could do anything, if only, if only, if only. Now I'm not so sure. But I'm sure of one thing: I definitely don't like being stuck on the outside of such a fence!

Any thoughts, world? This appointment can't come soon enough - I wish the Astronomy and Physics Department had mandated such - out of sheer embarrassment, I never did have the temerity to walk into any of their offices and state that I was interested in majoring in astrophysics. Almost as soon as I got here (getting turfed from calculus was a particularly significant moment), I knew there was an "it" I didn't have. Namely: three years of dedicated, focused high school math and science. A summer prep course at Dal might bring you up to speed in one weak subject, but trying to do three from scratch like I did is something I cannot recommend. I don't know what alternative I could suggest, though.

"In the future, those who do not understand mathematics will serve hamburgers to those who do." - Paul Lutus

Like I could see making a go of things if I had the math, but I just don't. I could be mistaken, but I feel like what I need is a prolonged, sustained drilling in all things mathematical. And later, when I'm finally comfortable in it, I can come back and pick up some other things, provided that I'm not a) by then a mathematician or b) otherwise occupied.

Tags: math, saint mary's, school, science
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