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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.

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.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 16th, 2007 01:21 pm (UTC)
Haha! I almost walked the path of mathematics in college and then I decided that so many students come into the classroom with a hatred for it and while I was sure I could teach the subject, I wasn't sure I could teach the kids not to fear it.

I commend you for taking on something that scares you! Great entry too.
Nov. 18th, 2007 02:22 am (UTC)
Thanks! That's what I want to do, actually--go into a classroom full of people who despise math and someone make a change in one of them. If I can't make them love it, I can at least help them not fear it, which is what I try to do when I tutor.

What did you wind up doing in college, anyway?
Nov. 18th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
Double majoring in English and Theatre.
Nov. 16th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. I did the graduate student thing, too. I can relate to all this o.O. I agree though that regardless of what happens, you'll be glad you did go for it. I know I am.
Nov. 18th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
I hope so. That's why I'm doing it.

So what field did you study?
Nov. 18th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)
I was a PhD candidate in Information and Computer Science. Left with a Masters, though.
Nov. 16th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)
Best of luck to you with this- I believe you're going to do very well in the field of mathematics! :)
Nov. 18th, 2007 02:31 am (UTC)
Thanks! I hope so too. :)
Nov. 16th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
My sister and I were just talking about the whole inadequacy thing last night. Join is in leaving the world of learning behind; we plan to spend the rest of our lives as finger painters who have no expectations. :)
Nov. 18th, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
Now that sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe I should join you two on this finger-painting expedition. I hear the first-gradeism movement is booming.
Nov. 16th, 2007 10:58 pm (UTC)
i can relate to that fear of what if i really aren't as good as i think i am. or as good as peope say i am. from what i've seen, lots of really smart people have that fear, lol
Nov. 18th, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
I think it's because we've been convinced that we're oh-so-good at it, but then again, so have other brilliant people in other places. And what happens when we meet? Who rises, who falls?

Kind of like LJ Idol and writing, come to think of it.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 18th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
:( not sober = not cool

We have left cancellation, so sober = cool. Or something like that.

Where are you applying and for what since I never see you ever anymore and it makes me sad?
Nov. 17th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
LJ Idolatry
This is a good entry...I don't think I ever worried about not being good enough at work, but I always feared hating it...which I do...

I saw on your profile you're in Decatur...does that mean you're an Agnes Scott student?
Nov. 18th, 2007 03:21 am (UTC)
Re: LJ Idolatry
I do go to Agnes Scott! I love it, even if males are few and far between. This I like, though, because I've taken classes in which I could count the number of girls on one hand. It's quite an experience.

As for fearing hating your work, I wouldn't be okay with that, either. That's probably why I've had so few career ideas my entire life; I've held on to them for so long that I know I must be happy with them.
Nov. 18th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC)
Re: LJ Idolatry
I grew up in Atlanta and went to Georgia Tech, so I knew quite a few people that went to Agnes Scott at one point...at least one of my friends even married one...
Nov. 19th, 2007 01:03 am (UTC)
What if I find out that I'm inadequate, and I've been believing all this time that I am?

This terrifies me.

The voice of doubt. Everyone has that little devil on their shoulder.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )