November 16th, 2007

i walk this empty road

LJ Idol, Week 2: What Terrifies Me, or "It's a whole year! Why are you worrying about it now?"

GPA? Check. It's good, but I'm nowhere near the top of the class. That doesn't matter to me anymore though.

Extracurricular activities? Co-senior editor of the literary magazine, math club vice-president, Tower Council member, Scottie Sister, who knows what will happen next year. Check.

Research experience? One summer doing combinatorial number theory, one more summer doing another topic yet to be determined. Check.

Work experience? Working in the math center does that to you. Check.

Letters of recommendation? GRE scores? Subject GRE scores? Statement of purpose?

...Wait a minute. Hold on a minute. Whoever said anything about that?

Even now it doesn't sound easy, especially while watching my friends who are currently stressing out over it. A year from now, though, I'll be doing just that--putting aside any hope of $50,000 a year right after graduation (fat chance, and I agree, even with a math degree) as I begin to pursue my place in the academic community.

And yet this flight into academia terrifies the hell out of me.

See, I've really had only two planned career paths my entire life--the kind that I ponder for more than twenty minutes, I mean. The first was to be a writer, which fell through when I discovered that as much as I love writing, perhaps I wasn't talented enough to pursue it full-time. The second was to spread my love to others, and for some reason, going to graduate school felt like the next step after college since I was around fourteen. This love has changed over time from English to French to mathematics, but right now this love affair with mathematics is blooming into a long-term relationship.

But because I've planned this career path through as well as I can plan something without going crazy--which, to be honest, isn't all that great--this leaves me to wonder. What if all this falls through? Not because I change my mind about this plan, mind. But what happens if I apply and don't get in anywhere? What happens if I do get in and discover that I can't stand academia, or that I'm not good enough at math, or even passionate enough?

After all, I've been told my entire life that I'm quite good at mathematics. I've also believed this. But what if I find out that I'm just not up to par? What if I find out that all these people who have been telling me that I'm good at math have been lying to me all this time, and I was good at it because I believed them?

What if I find out that I'm inadequate, and I've been believing all this time that I am?

This terrifies me.

I'm doing it anyway, though. A friend of mine once told me that if there's a choice that scares you to death, that's the choice you should make. I know I'll always wonder what could have been if I didn't.

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This entry was written for Week Two of therealljidol. If you enjoyed it, don't forget to vote for it! (And go conquer your fears while you're at it.)

For those from LJ Idol and new to my friends list since September: I actually wrote about my biggest fear in September. While these are two different things, the September entry is my actual biggest fear, and this entry is just something that terrifies me--even if both of them stem from similar things.