A Pause for Reflection

I began last year by looking at the last decade. This year I’d like to continue the tradition–but with a somewhat narrower scope. Throughout this last semester’s calculus class, my friends and I would frequently ask for a moment to pause for reflection, to look back at what we’d just done to make sure we understood it properly. Just the same, I’d like to take a few moments over the next couple of days to look back over the past year and see what I did well and also where I could improve.

There’s a saying that goes “two steps forward, three steps back” and usually it implies a success followed by a greater failure that sets us back further than we began. A moment ago, as I finished writing that last paragraph, I thought of saying that it’s good to begin something new by taking a look back (which reminded me of the saying aforementioned), and together these two thoughts, so parallel in structure, made me wonder: Is it really worth looking back? Isn’t looking back just the same as taking a step forward, to take two back?

I thought about it a moment longer (the thinking mind is truly a wondrous thing, and often works much faster than we give it credit for), and I decided–like my philosophy of no regret (which I think I tried explaining once but didn’t do it justice)–that even a step back can help us take a step forward. We’re never really back where we began, no matter how many times we find ourselves in the same situation; so long as we learn from where we’ve been, it can only help us get to where we’re going next.

So why not take a look back? If only to remember, it can do us no substantial harm.

January began my second semester in college. This also meant my first semester of calculus, which quickly became my favorite course. I wasn’t thrilled with my Public Speaking teacher (nor with the thought of public speaking at all); my second English-comp class wasn’t bad, but not very stimulating; and although Weight Training was enjoyable, it too wasn’t as stimulating as Calculus. And need I even mention Chemistry? I’ve never loved it a moment my entire life.

I admit, I passed it, but it took so much effort, it did. I remember reading my Chemistry book before lab, and I remember going over all the power points and studying my notes day after day. In the end, it was worth it.

February was more of the same. In all honesty, February also brought new challenges. Not only were there classes, there were also club meetings: On the one hand, I was finally able to start attending the Creative Writers Club, and I loved that. It was so nice finally being a part of a group of people that understood writing that weren’t all online! (I mean, I’ve been a part of other such groups, please don’t get me wrong, but none comprising people my own age that also met frequently to review stories and talk about writing.) More importantly, there was also the Gay-Straight Alliance.

I was still learning to be a leader then (I’m still learning now, but I’m much more experienced than I was then). In the spring semester we tried meeting two times a month, once on a Thursday and once on a Monday. It worked reasonably alright, but in the end, planning was impossible: It was like trying to lead two separate groups to meet one singular goal. It unfortunately led to a lot of doing nothing, but all the same, people came. We had some successes.

In March… wait, what did happen in March? Oh, yes. In March–among other, less pleasant happenings–I decided to become a math major. Officially. I’d been toying with the idea for a while, but I’d still been undecided. On the one hand, I had started school thinking I’d do a double-major in middle school education and history. Before the fall semester had ended I’d scrapped the history add-on; I’m just not that into history. By the time spring came and I really began to love math even more, I definitely decided I wanted to teach math. The leap from pre-ed with a math concentration to pre-math with an education concentration wasn’t a far one, but I did hesitate. I mean, could I really be a math teacher–nay, a full-fledged mathematician–and still write stories? Could it be done?

Then came Alice in Wonderland. The first Tim Burton film I didn’t just enjoy, but flat-out loved. And it was in 3D (my first–and so far only, regrettably–of the kind–oh, wait, it’s my second, nevermind). In any case, I loved it so much, I knew I had to read the book. So I sought out a copy. And did you know Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Dodgson? And did you know that Charles Dodgson was a mathematician and taught at university? I know I didn’t! But once I’d learned that a math teacher could not only teach math and write dissertations on philosophy, but could write such pieces of literary genius as Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass–well, it gave me a bit of confidence that I could do the same.

April was perhaps the busiest month of the spring semester: The last month or so of the semester always is. On the one hand, everything’s building to a climactic finale, and on the other hand, you’re so exhausted at this point that everything takes more time–and more energy–than you feel you’ve got left to give it. That’s not to say, of course, that this busyness wasn’t truly warranted.

Three big things happened in April, or technically four: First, I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, which is the International Honor Society of Two-Year Colleges (this accomplishment actually goes back to my work during the fall, but like many things in life, the rewards took some time to come to fruition). Then, on back-to-back days almost, there was GTCC’s Poetry Reading (April is National Poetry Month) and the GSA’s showing of “For the Bible Tells Me so.”

I’ll address the first first. It was hosted by the Creative Writers Club, and two things happened that day. (That I have a knack for saying “this many things happened” and then elaborating that “this many more things happened because of this” is simply something else not to be given too much thought, I assure you.) On the one hand, for the first time in my life (that I can recall), I had the guts to get up in front of a crowd of people (and trust me, it was a crowd: there were at least fifty, maybe even a hundred people there) and read one of my poems (“Waiting for Exposition”); I was so nervous, I was trembling, but I read it–and I did it well. At the same time, we were also distributing copies of the inaugural issue of A Thousand Pictures, GTCC’s literary magazine (the title’s an allusion to the saying that a picture’s worth a thousand words, which implies a story’s worth a thousand pictures; we literary people are like that). And I had my very own story in it! (The Wedding Cake, if you were wondering.) I got some nice comments on it, and even all the way in August, I was still hearing things about it!

Now I’ll deal with the second: The GSA’s showing of For the Bible Tells Me So. I’d seen the film already, but back in January (or was it February?) during GTCC’s Clubs Fair, I’d met a religion teacher who was hoping she and the GSA could get together to show the film. Fast-forward a lot of weeks and I finally got in touch with her (my own fault, not hers) and we set the thing up. And afterwards, for my help in planning it, she suggested that I become one of the officers for Phi Theta Kappa–which she was also one of the advisors for! Some people believe in coincidences. I just believe in irony.

I think I mentioned four things happened? And that was only three, wasn’t it? The fourth thing was this (and that by the end it’ll be five, well, try to ignore that small detail): First I did a presentation on Lewis Carroll in my English-comp class, which since I’d missed a day of Chem due to snow I was able to animate and make uber-awesome, and second I attended an informative session on possibly becoming a student ambassador. The perks sounded good and the job sounded like a ripe opportunity for personal growth and development, so I put in an application, and then got called back for an interview. The funniest thing happened: When I got there, one of the people interviewing me already knew me so well that he forgot to introduce everyone before he started the interview! Needless to say, I already knew most of the people there anyways.

And coming in at over 1500 words so far, I think that’ll be enough reflection for today. After all, there’s always tomorrow.

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3 thoughts on “A Pause for Reflection

  1. Myself, I never had a problem with Chemistry — I competently went through all courses, in fact. There was a bit of an upset at mathematics, though that was caused largely by lack of interest for the material presented there (and the teachers presenting it).

    However, I love psychology in its purest form: neuroscience, and with that biochemistry. Chemistry always was a great joy of mine (it was also largely easy to understand) because it so harmoniously paired with physics, and lead to all of the wondrous natural sciences we have today.

    Chemistry at it’s most basic level is little more than then the formation, exchange and cooperation of all things, living and unliving, in the universe. That, I dare say, is beautiful — as beautiful in symbolism as any concept I’m acquainted with.

    That said, I must be back to studying myself — one more chapter and then I must finally introduce myself to the noble art of mindmapping (and the methods of Locci, et al). Truly a great prospect.

  2. The way you present Chemistry could make me want to love it, but I’ve always felt more inclined to Physics of all the natural sciences. Physics traces the world to the root forces that govern all interactions. How much more primal can you become than that?

    After all, it is through the cooperation of the forces that Physics teaches us about that the foundations of Chemistry are paved.

    And, of course, what is Physics but applied Mathematics?

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