School: the extended version, now with navel-gazing

(Hopefully, after this, I’ll feel able to shut my cake hole (and still my fingers) on the subject of school.)

Crunch time is upon me for deciding if I want a Chemistry minor.

How can I talk about getting minors in different areas when I’m not doing well in my own? I don’t know, but I’m talking about it anyway. See above about crunch time.

Dr. M is afraid that if she doesn’t get me into a Chemistry class next term that I won’t take any more chemistry classes. She wants me to take Descriptive Inorganic Chemistry next term. It’s a two credit hour self-paced lab, basically, and would count towards a minor.

The question is whether the chemistry classes I have taken provide the necessary theoretical background for me to succeed in the class. Rather, that’s one of the questions.

So I met with the professor who teaches the course this morning. He suggested I take a different lab, one for General Chemistry III. Then catch up with Organic Chemistry next year and take Descriptive Inorganic next winter.

But I may be going to Antartica next winter with Dr. M, which will throw off all scheduling for all my classes.

We expanded our meeting to include the department head. He wants to just brush me into Descriptive Inorganic. “She’s a good student. She’ll work hard. She’ll do well and be able to catch up.”

As he said this, as he inflated my time and ability into unreasonable proportions, as he made assumptions as to my workload and ability to complete what will already be on my plate, I felt this gnawing dread.

See, I already know Dr. M is going to be disappointed if I don’t get a minor. The department head is also going to be disappointed–he wants a success story of a non-major who took their new Engineering Chemistry sequence and went on to successfully complete a minor and do federally-funded research.

I’m not going to be so disappointed if I don’t get a minor. I’m going to take as many Chemistry classes as I want to, and if I’m a class or two short of a minor when I graduate, that’s okay with me. My transcript will show my course work. My resume will show my research. I am not presently interested in doing laboratory work as a career.

But I’m sitting with these two bickering gentlemen (one wants to sweep me through everything, the other wants me to linger in General Chemistry for a term), and suddenly, I’d had about enough.

I reminded them that another factor in my ability to successfully complete the course–besides my lack of knowledge–was time. Two courses with team projects–time must be kept open and flexible for meetings; an average of twenty-hours per week of work (“taxable income” work), ten of which are done during school hours; seventeen credit hours of class; extracurriculars that I am continuing to cling to for reasons I’ll discuss shortly.

I told them and Dr. M that I’d take the weekend to think my future with the Chemistry department over. If I decide not to go for a minor and this costs me my research, so be it, but it’s a committment I need to consider fully.

After the meeting, I went to classes. Got a wonderful score back on a probability exam, pulled a disappointing score on my DISCO exam, sat in my usual stupor through Differential Equations. As an aside, I feel so sorry for my DE prof–his is my last class of the day, and I’ve already been put through the wringer by my other classes (or I’m sleepy as hell from sitting still so many hours), and I just sit there, front row, glowering for the duration of class. I’ve even seen him look at me, glance at the clock, look back at me, and then noticably hurry the lecture along so we can get out of class a couple of minutes early. He’s also a good professor, if a bit dry. His lecturing style agrees with my learning style: straight lecture with lots of examples. Puts a lot of people to sleep, but gives me clear examples I can reference when studying.

At any rate, I grabbed lunch with Javid and P. then headed to the Thorn office to start writing this post. Next thing I know, Luke is asking about the DISCO test, and I’m remembering how my confidence about the test fell like a rock when I saw the problem I couldn’t do. Just… plummeted. How my eyes were already full of tears and how I couldn’t even look Dr. G in the eye as I turned it in.

So I cried. Luke gave me paper towels and told me a lot of things I already knew (actively, even, not just lip-service shit). My score on the DISCO test wasn’t that bad; I’ve done worse and will most likely do worse in the future (just hopefully not in this class!).

The blank page and a half I turned in today felt worse than the numerical score.

The feeling that my ass-busting these past four weeks to bring my grades up from Cs and lowest-Bs to high Bs and B-pluses has been slaughtered by two tests in two different classes in less than 24-hours was heartrending; I’ve been spending hefty-feeling numbers of hours on homework assignments to make sure I know what’s going on, and I’ve been watching my grades slowly inch up point by point every time I get an assignment back. I thought I could pull three B-pluses this term.

The feeling that my professors are going to turn on me and realize that I am not the exemplary student some people think I am has me… I don’t know. Something less than actually upset, but concerned nonetheless, for a couple of reasons.

Simply pride? Perhaps. Every compliment seems to be a push for me to take on more, do more. Every criticism either increases my apathy or causes me to shift mental focus from whatever was just causing me trouble to what’s causing me trouble now. I’ve spent the entire quarter shifting from Comp Arch to DISCO to Probability and back, spending highly unequal amounts of time based on understanding and the latest test scores.

I’m letting others set the standard–I have been increasingly since I came to Rose. Examples are numerous. The point is, I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my… I don’t know. Strength? Backbone? Independence? Some mixture of those three. I feel like I’ve become soft, I guess.

I think that’s my main concern with this quarter: I’m feeling battered, doubly so by the fact that it seems to be an unwarranted feeling. I want to be able to quietly internalize (or just not have) these frustrations; instead I’ve got a disturbing trend of crying on Luke’s shoulder whenever I hit a bump in the road. And they’re little bumps–they’re grades. Not life and death. Most likely not my livelihood–if the difference between a 3.75 and a 3.25 cumulative GPA (that’s just a wild conjecture) severely cramps my ability to get a job in two years, then I’ve evidently not picked up a useful enough skillset such that I can “test” my way into a decent-paying job.

The bruised feeling has me questioning my abilities and where I want to go. I am actually questioning whether I can do things, rather than if I want to. I don’t know if I will make it next quarter if I add the additional chemistry class or lab. I don’t know that I have the intelligence and skill to absorb and process and analyze and synthesize the amount of information I will need to be able to for the workload I have already assigned myself next term (a standard sophomore CS winter term, I think) , much less with an addition that will cause me to need to do a decent amount of extra searching to make up for my lack of chemical knowledge. People’s blanket “you can do it”s (like the department head’s) don’t help much in making an accurate assessment of my abilities and limitations.

As to where I want to go, I couldn’t tell you what I want to do when I graduate if you twisted my arm up behind my back painfully. I’m not looking into any particular field in CS right now; I’m not developing a particular skillset that will get me to a career goal. I don’t know what I’d do with a Chemistry minor if I had it. I don’t know what I’ll do with the ability to tell people that I “ran a newspaper for two years” (Luke’s words, from this afternoon).

Which brings me to the question of why I am not shucking my extracurriculars like the bad skins they are. Because I don’t want to become that person that has nothing on her resume other than high school extracurriculars and academics. In fact, the sooner I can remove my high school extracurriculars from my resume, the better. But I don’t want to be that person that can’t name a single activity they’re honestly invested in because they do naught but schoolwork.

I cannot adequately express how much I don’t want to be that. I’ve seen it, I am seeing it, and I don’t want to go off the deep end that way.

Sigh. There are a lot of things I need to assess and decide this weekend, betwixt the early-morning lab and exam studying and social burst (and stress–suddenly I’m going to a dinner where people will be wearing tuxedos (!?!) while I’m wearing jeans (!!!)) tomorrow night. But I’m going to NaNoWriMo for a while and take my ass to bed.


  • michael


    so i def had to read assess a good 7 times to realize it wasn’t asses


    melissa i’m here for u. i’m sorry you’re goN through this stuff, i wonder why you can’t drop extracirrs and keep research, the fact the u get course credit and/or money does not make it look any less attractive on a resume. doing research like that is extracirricular (can i spell?), i mean, yur (last i knew) a cs major, so having that research at all will be quite impressive. grades don’t matter for grad school nor for jobs, esp if u can keep some kind of project(s)/research goN on. i love u i miss u, luke’s nice to always provide the shoulder