Tuesday, February 19, 2013

About Me - Math Degree, Part II

Continued from this previous post.....

I walked into the small classroom and looked around. As per the school's protocol, I had chosen who would test me from my group of professors. There was the Algebra professor, who never ridiculed me and had always seemed to give me a fair shot. A brilliant man. In front of me was the Topology professor. I felt real, palpable fear when looking at the top of his head (he hadn't looked up to see me enter). At least one more professor was in the room, but honestly I can't recall who it was. 

Then it began. Professor A would ask questions first, so I was a bit relieved. He asked me some straight-forward questions, just facts. I was thinking, 'this isn't so bad, is this all that I have to do?' Then he asked me to show a proof. For those of you not familiar with higher math classes, this means I was asked to prove a theorem was correct by running though a sequence of logical steps on the blackboard. I remember being so nervous as I began the proof that the chalk kept slipping out of my sweaty hand.

Eeew, I know. But you had to be there.

I ran through the steps staring straight at the blackboard, never turning around or looking back to see what they thought. I put down the chalk and turned to face my professor, certain that this was where they were going to tell me I failed, that I didn't earn a degree, and I should just go back to New York empty-handed. The professor just nodded at me, said "that's correct" and started to ask me another question.

OH MY GOSH!!! I think my heart just leaped out of my chest it was pounding so hard. I got it right! I can be logical under pressure! Maybe I can pass! Maybe I can do this thing!

The next set of questions from Professor A were also straight forward, and when he was done I almost cried  I was so happy. I felt so happy, that is, until I turned to Professor T.

Professor T skipped straight to  proofs. He asked me to do three proofs, one after the other, and after the first two he said simply 'okay' and moved on to the next request. I had already been through such an emotional high and low that I was barely seeing through my eyes. It felt like a fog was in the room, and there was just me, the chalkboard, and my professors' voice. I didn't even have space to be scared of him anymore.

I didn't know the answer to the third proof, but because I lost the fear I was able to say, "I'm sorry, I don't know that one". He said "okay" and we moved on.

They did pass me, I did earn my degree.


Every challenge I've faced since that day has paled in comparison. I've faced down math professors! Woo! :)

How about you? What challenges have you faced? What fears have you conquered?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What fears have I faced? The first one was rapelling off a 40 foot cliff. In retrospect, that was easy. The second one was my first trip to the emergency room with a child. The third one was time in the hospital with a seriously ill child.