It’s no secret that I avoid activities that involve math like Sarah Palin avoids answering direct questions <jab>. If you need me to add, subtract, multiply, divide, find the mean, median, or mode, I’m your gal. It’s beyond this point where math sends me into a spiraling depression that rivals the fits of sadness felt by Sylvia Plath, the Hemingways, Van Gogh, or Mozart—only their depressive bouts arguably inspired great peaks in creativity and productivity. Mine, however, cripple and debilitate me in ways I never thought possible. I can’t write, or focus on anything that has academic weight, or, heck, has an associated due date. I have a book review/report due on Wednesday night for a book I’ve not read, and I’m also the discussion leader for the other book due that evening, which I’ve also not read. In fact, I’ve not read a single book for this class (at least one book due per week) from cover to cover. I’ve managed to cheat my way by skimming the book and reading parts that stimulate my interest, and then make sure I speak on those points during the discussion. I still learn quite a bit from the discussion, but I’m not being a true scholar by pretending to read critically.
The math to which I am referring is basic statistics. If I were learning about basic statistics as concepts, as in what a Z score is used for when doing research, what a T score can be used for to show trends in data, I’d be much more secure in my inability to calculate such numbers by hands. I may be able to calculate these things based on my notes and hours of help from Tyler, but I don’t know what any of it means or how to apply it to real data. I’m missing the entire point! I think I’d be hard pressed to find someone who has sat down in the candlelight, with a quill and ink well, and hand-calculated percentile ranks or Z scores or what percentage of scores lie between 63 and 80. Hard. Pressed.
The disturbing part of this situation I’ve put myself in is that this course that I’m taking is a PRE-REQUISITE to the three statistics courses I am to take to complete my core PhD courses. Fortunately, I am able to take the stats course in another part of my school, and I get credit for it as an elective rather than paying for a course for which I don’t get credit.
My thoughts are wandering towards “If this is what research really is, and what this program expects me to do, I don’t think I really want to do this”
Which leads me to question my entire trajectory and what I’m doing, and if I really want to do it. It’s hard to put your heart into something, even if it’s “just” coursework, when you don’t know if it’s what you really want. Frankly, it isn’t *just* coursework anymore. Every moment of every class is dedicated to preparing me for quals and a successful dissertation, and a long career in this field. These courses shouldn’t be moments in time that I just have to get through to get to the next stage, the next course to just get through, to get the degree. It’s so much more than that, but I don’t feel as if it all means that much to me.
I didn’t enjoy my master’s degree. The one shining moment came during my capstone/internship at the end of the degree where I worked with a school food service director to design a program to increase fruit and vegetable intake at school. It was fun, and I really enjoyed the topic. Which is why I have tentatively decided to focus my efforts towards learning more about school food environments.
But is that really what I want? Am I trying to make something I’m passionate about, food, fit into a field that I have little patience for, and little desire to really devote the rest of my faculties to?
These are the questions, and I fear I have no answers.