Thursday, December 11, 2008

What do you do when you fall off a horse?

"It pains me to watch you code," said Sullivan.

"Why?" I asked.

"You'll have something that's almost correct, except for one character, and rather than try to fix it, you'll delete the whole line and start over. This is why it takes you so long to write code."

I looked down at the whiteboard, anything to avoid his gaze, but Sullivan's best and worst quality is that he doesn't know when to stop.

"You give up too easily," he said.

"Let's get back to studying," I mumbled, blinking back tears and swallowing hard.

Granted, Sullivan is a bit of a jackass, but his words hurt because they were true, to an extent. I'm used to things being easy. When they aren't, I work at them until they are - or I just give up. This works fine as long as I don't want to do anything difficult, but most of the things I'm interested are pretty heady, and I'm gradually realizing that there's no easy way to get there; as my "head start" wears off, I'm facing the same long slog as everyone else.

These were the thoughts running through my head as I walked through the rain to my physics exam this afternoon. I had rescheduled it due to conflicts with later exams; unfortunately, this left me with about 24 hours to study. And study I did, until the sight of a differential equation made me want to vomit. I slept, poorly and insufficiently, and then it was time.

It was the longest exam I've ever taken (about 4 hours) and probably the hardest to boot. I started off confidently, but around the 2:30 mark, I encountered a problem of a sort that had slipped under my studying radar. After an hour of desperately trying to dredge up ancient memories from lectures and notes, re-deriving relevant properties from first principles, moving on and jumping back in an effort to startle the knowledge out of myself, and sheer wild guesswork, I was on the brink of tears. Digging my nails into my thighs, I resolved to give up and hand it in.

As I put my pencil down, I recalled my earlier conversation with Sullivan. Well, I thought, leaning back in my chair, I guess he was right. Here I am, giving up again.

I looked down at my paper one more time, then sat forward and grabbed my pencil. I wasn't about to give Sullivan the satisfaction of being right.*

*I don't think I got the right answer, but at least I tried...

stop me from thinking of what I once knew

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Blogger olddockeller said...

I read this, I stand back, I applaud.
Not all who wander are lost.
But they are frequently bewildered.

4:07 PM  

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