Remember a little while ago, in this entry about One-Punch Man, I mentioned I was going back to college? Today I’d like to talk a little more about why I’m doing so specifically.
To an extent it’s pragmatism. As I mentioned in my previous entry, I’m not having all that much luck in the job market with just a history Ph.D, even a very good one. But computer science has a lot of applications, and while it’s not a silver train to prosperity, knowing about computers is just a good general skill to have. At the very worst, a degree in compsci might make me more attractive to museums, libraries, or other sorts of history-oriented employers who want a bit of digital help in the archives, and at best, it could open very many doors for me.
Why college, though? Wouldn’t it have been possible to get an online certification or something, and wouldn’t that have been cheaper? Well, not necessarily. The institution I’m going to has a very good reputation, but it’s a public university that’s nearby, so it costs much less for me to attend (in-state tuition) and I get some nice financial aid too. So 4 years, or 8 semesters here, won’t break my bank at all. But the relative lack of expense isn’t the only reason I wanna go back to college again.
I’ve mentioned this in passing in several entries, but it’s time for me to deal with the subject in a more extended fashion. My first attempt at college was, essentially, miserable. It was successful in its goals–I passed with a bachelor’s in History, which enabled me to get into an excellent grad program and really make something of myself. But the experience itself was miserable. I did an okay job taking care of myself away from home, but I put on a lot of weight. My living arrangements weren’t terrible (I’ve heard horror stories about other dorms), but nowhere near as nice as my beloved house in my beloved home city, under my parents’ roof. And while I made some good friends in college, being away from all my IRL friends from high school, whom I loved dearly, really messed up my thinking. Though I never realized it until I was away from them, my friends played a huge part in keeping me grounded. Separated from them, every inconvenience and setback seemed much bigger than it actually was. I made some bad course choices early on and flunked a couple courses, which seemed like the end of the world to me, even though I eventually managed to get myself back on track. I also had to deal with some difficulties registering for classes (I misspelled my name on some forms…yeah, capital D Dumb!) which infuriated me rather than just irritating me, as woulda been the case if I was still around my old friends. But even when I got past that, and even when I was doing well in my courses, I never got the sense I was doing anything important or truly meaningful. Thus, I began to feel completely lonely and isolated, but not just that, I also felt as if I was accomplishing nothing at all, and that I was working my ass off in college for no real purpose. Thus, I fell deeper and deeper into bitterness and (for lack of a better word) being butthurt, which contributed to me becoming angry, pugnacious, a stupid anti-SJW troll, and also orbiting the dumber parts of the “manosphere” and its associated misogyny for a brief time.
Now, however…well, look at the title of this entry. It’s very easy to tell from pretty much all my previous entries for the past few years that I have a much, much, much healthier outlook on life. Thanks to my readings in stoicism, I no longer take misfortunes and setbacks as utterly pointless and meaningless events serving no purpose but to delay me–I now view them with the equanimity of someone who’s learned to accept them as the cost of the gift of life, and that such things can help me improve, even in obscure ways not immediately obvious. Most importantly of all, though, I maintain my sense of accomplishment and self-worth on my own–it’s no longer contingent on somehow “finding some greater purpose” in the work I’m obligated to do, or the work I need to finish to sustain myself financially. No, I finally came to realize that my purpose–that which gives my life meaning–consists of strengthening my friendships with those important to me and maintaining my own standards of virtue. Since I have that giving meaning to my life, nothing else matters–I’ll always be accomplished and I’ll always have a purpose, so even if some bureaucratic trouble or academic challenge doesn’t seem like it will benefit me, it’s no sweat–just a minor delay to get rid of before I get back to what’s really important, and if such travails actually teach me useful skills that might come in handy later, such things can actually help me enhance my virtue!
I wish I’d had that forward-thinking, positive outlook when I was in college the first time, but no use crying over spilt milk. Since I have it now, I might as well take advantage of it now! And thus my reason for going back to college a second time: Now I think I can finally do it *right.* Now I have a chance to experience what college ought to be, at least to some extent–now I can enjoy some of the pleasure and excitement most people associate with college, because I’m staying in nicer accommodations in my beloved home city, I have a great deal of foreknowledge about what I did wrong my first time around, and of course, a much, much more positive mentality.
Still, even with the wisdom I now possess, and even though I’ve gotten a whole Ph.D, I can’t get too cocky. No way! Failure is a very real possibility even when going back to studies usually dealt with by younger people, and I have to keep that in mind. Here are my main challenges, ranked in descending order of importance.
1: I’m not really good at math.
I flunked one heavy science course in college, but I didn’t do spectacularly well in other math-heavy courses (econ) either. In high school, math was always my weakest subject. I could ace anything that required writing (history and english), but I could never breeze through math courses the same way. Aside from the aforementioned flunked course, I tended to get Cs and Bs. At least that’s better than Ds and Fs, but still…definitely doesn’t bode well for computer science. I’m gonna have to really push myself to make up for my lack of quantitative skills. Let’s see if I can come up with some strategies…
2: I don’t have as much energy and focus as I did when I was younger.
This is something I don’t like talking about that much, and I may talk about it more in the future, but…I’ve noticed I’m not as productive as I used to be. I’m taking more naps during the day, and I find myself more tired more often. Back in high school, college, and the start of grad school, I could write literally 10,000 words a day. I can still get almost those levels (about 8000 a day), but not as reliably as I used to. And while I used to be able to sit down for hours and study pretty abstruse texts, I find it harder to keep my mind laser-sharp occupied on one thing for an extended period of time. However, maybe this is just because I haven’t really had to since graduating with a Ph.D, and once I gotta buckle down and study, it’ll come back to me. We’ll see…
3: I can’t let myself get cocky!
That was what got me in grad school. I did well my first year, so I got cocky and complacent, and almost bombed out of my second year ’cause I didn’t take it seriously enough! Now, I barely managed to scrape through, and after giving it my maximum for the next few years I managed to persevere and get my Ph.D, but still, it was WAY too close for comfort. So I gotta keep that in mind–even if things seem easy, I need to push myself to my limits and make sure there’s absolutely 0% chance for failure–not even 1%–in any of my courses.
4: Given my happy life, I don’t possess quite the drive I used to.
This is perhaps related to number 2, and again, something I’ll talk about later, but I think one reason I felt such a ferocious ability to focus and work early on in life was because I felt I needed to prove myself. As I mentioned above, I judged myself by how well I did in school and how important I perceived the work I was doing to be. However, now I’ve found wisdom, and generate my own sense of worth internally. The drawback to that, however, is I’m no longer as strongly impelled to put everything I have into studying and academics. Since I judge myself by my virtue and the strength of my friendships rather than getting As in class, I don’t care so much about failure anymore–sure, it’s bad and embarrassing, but no longer the end of the world for me. Thus, I don’t think I can bring myself to throw my whole being into my studies like I used to.
Still, this may not be insurmountable…a lot of folks study and work just to get by and enjoy their lives, not because they’re staking their pride or their sense of self-worth on it. And that’s all I wanna do, so it may not be the end of the world, especially since I’m just taking intro classes. However, I still gotta take the classes seriously, like I said in entry #3, can’t get cocky…
That’s about it, I say. These are some pretty serious risks. Will I be able to overcome them? I suppose we’ll see, but I think I’ve got a more than decent shot. Wish me luck! Next week begins College Saga, and I’ll also write another entry about my overarching goals for the semester along with my specific goals for each of my courses.