21 February 2013

"If it were anyone else, I'd call you nuts..."

About 4 weeks ago a feeling began to sink in that ate at me for another week and ultimately drove me to a pretty severe depression. This nagging, all-consuming voice made me feel small and worse yet, it said this was all my fault, and I knew it to be true.

I should be somewhere more challenging.

I pulled straight As from 16 units of classes last quarter, while working 12-16 hours per week. I started the Winter quarter with 24 units and ultimately settled on 28, but by week 4 I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed. I felt underwhelmed by the workload, like I was expecting a tidal wave and barely felt a ripple compared to the previous quarter.

It made me miserable to think that I was at a university which couldn’t challenge me, because it meant I was wasting potential, and in itself that would be frustrating (I dislike wasting time and hate wasting potential), but it was made all the worse by the knowledge that I had done this to myself. I poisoned my chances at a university like Berkeley or Stanford or even UCLA by trudging through classes at my community college before realizing what I wanted to do with my life.

They still bother me, the lump in my throat and the knot in my stomach. The years squandered, haunting my past. My personal baggage will follow me long after academic transcripts become a small component of my past. I got out of that depression from 4 weeks ago, but it scared me how close I was to not being able to escape on my own. So I sought out something more demanding.

I applied to the Campuswide Honors Program. In addition to requiring me to take a handful of honors courses, I thought the program would expose me to some other students like me, who found the challenges here lacking, despite their best efforts to exhaust themselves. Last week I got a response:

Thank you for applying to the Campuswide Honors Program (CHP). The admissions committee has examined your application, and has asked to review it once more after winter quarter grades are received.

and later:

They recommend that you meet with an academic advisor in ICS to plan your transition to the second major, and your coursework within that major, since you have set a very ambitious timeline for yourself to complete two majors.

So. Deferred. But not because my credentials weren’t good enough, with a 4.0, student government, past and ongoing research, and a plan to complete separate degrees (a BA and a BS) in two diverse fields. I was deferred because they lacked confidence in me. They thought I couldn’t keep up my workload, and moreover they thought that I was being unrealistic in my workload plan.

10 years ago I don’t even know how I would have responded. Certainly nobody would have said any of these things to me. I would have been rejected just like I was here though. And that’s what it was, thinly veiled in the form of a carefully hedged bet. But now, here, this rejection wounded me. It might have even insulted me on some personal level I’m not familiar with.

I can’t explain it, really. I know the honors program has no obligation to trust me, and it’s fine that they don’t believe I can keep this up. Maybe it’s just my pride that’s wounded, and that feels like an insult.

It all comes down to the feeling that these people don’t have confidence in me. Again, there’s no expectation that they will, but it would have been appreciated. Ultimately, this mistrust is a factor in my decision not to pursue the honors program at all. I won’t associate myself with people who don’t believe in me (and I don’t mean my work ethic or intelligence or any of that, but me, as a person).

In order to finish the Informatics degree by next year, I’ll need to begin a 3-quarter capstone sequence next quarter. It starts every Spring and it ends the following Winter, so you’re expected to join the sequence as a Junior and spend 2 of your 3 quarters as a Senior finishing that sequence. As a transfer student, I’m already a Junior. But this sequence requires something like 4 prerequisites.

I have 1. Or I will, at the end of this quarter. Yikes, right?

Nevertheless, I went to talk to the professor, someone I’d never met before and who had never heard of me except (perhaps) from a professor I studied under in the Fall. I went in, casually told him about myself, and asked for permission to take the first course in the sequence despite not being eligible.

He spent about 10 minutes asking me questions, inquiring about my past and present self, occasionally commenting on my answers. Ultimately, with 15 minutes of conversation and maybe a good reference from my previous instructor, he responded

If it were anyone else, I’d call you nuts for taking 28 - or even 24 - units, but here you are and you’re doing it. If you want to take this risk that you can’t handle the workload, I’ll sign the papers so you can add the class.

This is what I mean by confidence in me. This is why I’ll break my back earning 101 units just **for a degree in Informatics **in addition to the degree in Anthropology I’m so close to earning already. This is why I’ll happily commit to a workload that consumes me.

Because trust is easy when it’s in something with an unimpeachable track record and unambitious goals. Trust on faith has value.

I just needed to vent. I probably won’t post about this again.

If you have something to say about this, contact me