Monday, February 1, 2016


Get ready for a couple of posts all in a row about education.  That's what's on my mind right now because that's pretty much all I do!  When they say "full-time college student" they secretly meant "all-the-time college student". There is no 40-hour deal here.  And no paid overtime.

I've been playing this college game for a while now.  I am on the latter-half of things, now with fewer semesters between me and graduation than the semesters I have behind me.  I've been taking the real-deal classes now (no more prerequisites) and I started feeling like I really know what I'm doing here.  I know how to study and test and do homework and I am far enough into my program that I'm pretty familiar with whatever they will throw at me.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, this semester has been full of surprises.  And not the kinds of surprises I was even expecting. (...That's what makes them surprises.)

I cannot even count the number of times I have used the word "inept" or "ineptitude" to describe my new-found feelings for this term.

See, after thinking that I knew what to expect and I was far enough into things that everything would look like a more specialized extension of what I had studied last semester, I have been humbled exceedingly by the actual content of classes this term.

The first is from a course I am taking as part of my general education.  I like being well-rounded and well-read, so I like the idea of general education.  Narrowing choices down as to which upper-level psychology or philosophy or Spanish class I could take was a difficult choice.  This semester, I ended up in a sociology class, which I figured would be a welcome change from all the calculations and formulas I'm usually dealing with.  I had taken a demographic sociology course before and felt decent that I had retained the most important concepts, so this class couldn't be too surprising, while still allowing me to stretch my limits and expand a little into another subject.

Turns out there is no end to the number of sociological things that I do not know, or even have the slightest idea about.
So I get to read.

This phenomena of ineptitude could be expected when you take a class so unrelated to your chosen field of study.  But it has also started happening in my engineering classes.

Some of the concepts and material we learned as freshmen and then never spoke of again have miraculously resurfaced.  And they are in every single class.  After three or four years. Gaaahhhh.  The sudden realization that I in fact, do need to remember all of my past education is a little bit alarming because my brain has been trying not to be a pack rat and get rid of some of the unused stuff up there.
I really hope we kept it instead of donating it to Goodwill.

I thought I was so good at this.  I have never felt so inept at school before.

But this feeling of ineptitude, unqualification, and belittlement is not inherently a bad thing, albeit uncomfortable.  It's probably one of the biggest learning opportunities I'll have all year.  Not only to learn about the electronics I have forgotten and the ins and outs of sociology, but also to learn about myself and how to do things such as handle stress, read my eyes out, study way too many subjects at once, and hopefully figure out a more specific direction for what I am even planning to do with all of this.

Other aspects of myself that I hope to learn about include:

  •  how I can actually make a difference in the world, 
  • why specializing in something and knowing way too much about it (for example, the many failure modes of steel) is worthwhile, 
  • what my priorities are, 
  • what I can an cannot live without, and 
  • how to simultaneously kick butt at school while not becoming a homework-doing robot, void of fun or emotion.
Something valuable happens when education belittles you and you realize just how big the world is.  Having your eyes opened to the vastness of how much you really don't know is a beautiful experience in a way.  The funny thing is that as we find more answers, those answers spark new questions.  As the expanse of knowledge we have--both as a collective community of humans, but also as individual minds--continues to grow, somehow the realm of what is beyond our knowledge, and therefore what is possible to be discovered and achieved, expands as well.