Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Things About Me: Skeletons in the Closet Edition, Part, Um, Five?

Did you think I forgot about this? NO! I didn't forget about this. I just got kind of bored with it.

Okay, that's a lie. I thought you were getting kind of bored with it. But, I've been watching too many debates and caucuses and too many self-absorbed MSM news pundits, and I'm on the verge of a political rant tonight, so, I'm thinking I'll save us all a bit of trouble and return to my meme instead.

(This of course is not to say I won't get ranty anyway tomorrow. But at least I'll theoretically be more awake tomorrow. So I may make a little more sense. Ahem.)

Thing Five:

About once a day, for at least a moment, I regret that fact that I did not choose to major in biology.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I did, and still do, adore the illustrious field of Comparative Literature. Despite the fact that 90% of the population has never heard of a degree in Comparative Literature. (If you're too lazy to click the link, the fact that I have a degree in Comparative Literature basically means I had to read tons and tons of books and write tons and tons of essays analyzing them. It's a lot like getting an English Literature degree. Except that I had to read tons of books and write tons of essays in three different languages.

Yes, this sometimes hurt my head.)

But the thing is, I also like to study things like the effect of environmental exposure to synthetic estrogen mimics on maternal epigenetic imprinting in mammalian zygotes.

And I think protist conjugation is totally hot.

My biology teachers in high school (that's right, teachers, because I took not one, not two, but THREE different biology-related courses during high school) were totally convinced I was going to grow up to be a scientist. For a while there, I was totally convinced I was going to grow up to be a scientist.

I'm not sure exactly what happened to change my course.

Somehow something or somebody convinced me at some point during high school that I was no good at math. (This despite the fact that I took, and passed, an Advanced Placement Calculus Exam in high school. But you see, all my friends at that time were taking, and acing, the Level Two Advanced Placement Calculus Exam.) My anxiety over what I thought were poor math skills make me anxious, in turn, about my ability to hack it in college-level science courses.

Also, I spent a summer in high school participating in a special science career program at a local university, during which time I learned that, contrary to the romantic notions I had in my head about traveling the world discovering exciting new species, most biologists spend most of their time in a lab:

A.) Performing incredibly delicate, incredibly tedious procedures with incredibly sensitive, easily broken equipment, over, and over, and over, and over again, in the hopes of achieving some infinitesimally successful result that some senior research fellow will probably take all the credit for

B.) Torturing caged animals


C.) Both, at the same time!

I know some people enjoy such things, but I didn't want to do those kinds of jobs. And, since my irrational terror of needles, my anxiety issues, and my overdeveloped sense of guilt would almost certainly prevent me from ever becoming a successful doctor, I decided my prospects with a biology degree looked pretty dim.

Then, my during freshman year of college, two men seduced me, clinching my fate.

They were Jorge Luis Borges, and Kalidasa.

But, oh, endogenous retroviruses. It was so hard to quit you.


Awesome Mom said...

I am a wanna be Biologist too only marriage is my excuse for not being one right now. I was three years into the program and loving it. I am not sure why math would have dissuaded you from doing it. I am horrible at math and honestly the math requirements were minimal. I am glad that you are happy with what you ended up with. I know that I would have hated being a lab worker too. I was going to teach with my degree. Now I know that I would rather have needles poked into my eyes rather than face a class room full of sullen teenagers, so I am glad that I had a detour to help me prioritize.

Jaelithe said...

Ha! I went back to visit my high school one day when I was in college, and I mentioned to my former English teacher that I was thinking about teaching high school (English, at that point), and he said, "Do ANYTHING else. Sell fruit at the farmer's market. Just don't teach high school."

Which actually really surprised me at the time, given I'd always imagined he really liked his job! And I think he did. I think he just wanted me to have time to write the Great American Novel. (In which case, what he really should have told me was, "Don't have children, EVER," but I wouldn't have followed that advice, heh.)

Math would have been an issue for me because the college I was attending is very rigorous and, its biology program is very oriented toward pre-med, meaning I would have been required to take things like organic chemistry and advanced medical statistics and such.

But, really, I think I would have been fine. In retrospect I think biology would probably have been EASIER than the degree I got, just in terms of sheer volume of work.

KBO said...

Truer words never spoken by your old English teacher. Just kidding. Kind of.

For real, though, you gotta be some kind of Iron Woman, or really incompetent, to be a lifelong high school teacher. It wears on your soul, for real. On a good day, half of what you do is entirely worthless or futile. Really, it is. Half of your job is policing kids about stuff that is BS like bathroom passes and cell phones, and you know, you can lead a horse to water... The system sets it up that way. Which is totally a bummer.

Can you tell I'm pondering a career change?

Anonymous said...

Well....This is my field and my classes were really really hard. Math wise I only had to take up to Calculus, but the two semesters of calc based physics wasn't much fun on top of that. The first semester of Organic Chemistry was BAD (I think I am still scarred) but the second and third semesters were, dare I say it, actually kind of fun? There were many other classes that made me seriously doubt that whether I was cut out for this career choice, but I'm glad I kept with it. I haven't been in the lab for over 5 years now, and haven't missed one single day of it. I'm still a geneticist plus what everyone calls a "bioinformatician" which is a biologist that can also manipulate/interpret/utilize all the information/data computationally. Still research, but I just get to sit on my hiney and act like I am working when I am really reading blogs! :)

Jaelithe said...

Oh I am not in any way meaning to imply that advanced biology classes aren't hard. They certainly are. That's why I said I thought it would be easier to major in bio in terms of work volume-- I didn't mean at all in terms of toughness.

You generally have to take more credits to get a Comp Lit degree than you would to get another degree, because of the dual-language requirement. At my school, Comp Lit had very stringent credit requirements. It's basically doing a double major without getting to tell people you are doing a double major. There were a couple of semesters when I had to turn in one or two ten-page essays, in both my native language and my second language, every single week, and that was on top of reading, short essay and presentation assignments, and exams. Plus you are expected to minor in a third language during undergrad if you ever even want to think about graduate level.

Also, going in to college I had already taken AP Bio, AP Physics, and AP AB Calc, which would have gotten me out of some of the more boring courses. Though not chemistry!

Anonymous said...

That doesn't sound like fun at all. It took me several years to be able to even read normal books again for my personal enjoyment. I had a hard time getting over the practice of analyzing every single sentence and trying to interpret the author's meaning of everything. I honestly felt my college lit classes sucked the pleasure of reading right out me. Very sad since I used to gobble books down as fast as I could get my hands on them. I don't see how YOU did all that.

Debbie said...

god you have a beautiful brain.

what I meant was, you, not god, have a beautiful brain. a brain meant to be admired, and possibly worshipped at some point in the future when it can be Futurama-style encased.

R said...

I was an English major for most of my college career; and all those essays and papers in my own language about kicked my ass. I eventually changed my major simply because I didn't want to teach, and what else do you do with an English degree? I mean, really? But the woman I work for is earning her PhD in biochem; and when she tells me what her schedule is like for the day, I hardly understand what she's talking about.

R said...

Oh yeah, and I'm holding you to a political rant post tomorrow. . .