Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Smug Than Proud, To Be Honest

I have no idea where to put this feeling I'm feeling.  How to box it up.  Contain it and preserve it so that I can unpack it and revel in it later, whenever I want to--whenever I need to.

You see, I took my last exam of the semester this morning. A five hour, hand-cramping, butt-numbing calculus marathon.  I took one of these this exact same time last year.  I remember walking away from that exam thinking it would be an honest to God Christmas miracle if I hadn't outright failed it.  (I didn't.  But we're talking by-the-skin-of-my-teeth barely.)

I very nearly quit my little re-education project as a direct result of my desultory performance on that exam.  I was convinced I was too stupid, too right-brained, and too damn old to be embarrassing myself in any sort of science program, for heaven's sake!

But oh-ho-hooo!  Not so this year!  Not so by a mile.

I nailed it.  I knew I had nailed.  I double underlined my last answer on my last problem set, and I knew. "That's it," I thought, "I'm done with you, puny exam.  You cannot scare me anymore."

I walked out of the building, turned on my phone, and called the guy who refused to let me quit on myself.

"Jamie!" he answered.  Not even a hello.  Hello wasn't necessary, because I think he knew too.  "Done already?" he asked,  "This must be an A then!  Must be."

Always wary of a good jinxing, I didn't dare agree with him too blithely. All I'd say is, "It went well.  I think I did well.  There was only one problem where I couldn't get the stupid signs to work out.  But the answer is right.  I'm pretty sure the answer I got was right...just something wonky with the algebra in the middle there.  But just that one problem.  Other than that I....It went well, I think."

The professor posted the solutions to the exam early this afternoon.  Mister thinks I'm crazy for having done this to myself, but I couldn't help it.  I had to know.  Did I nail it?  Or did I not?

I don't know if this is done anywhere in the States--it certainly wasn't done at Smith when I was taking exams there--but here we write our exams on carbon paper, so three copies are made of every page we turn in for evaluation.  The third copy is ours to keep.  So I was able to check my answers against the solutions that were posted this afternoon.

It's all good.  I really and truly did stick the landing.

Except for problem 4d) and e).  His answers didn't match mine, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why.  It had to do with an area (multivariable functions) that I'm not totally sure of myself in. So it was altogether possible that there was some subtle reason why we had to use the y-coordinate instead of the x-coordinate as I had done.  But I was just this side of confident enough in myself that I decided to ask.  So this evening, just before dinner, I sent off an e-mail to the professor asking why he had done what he had done, and where had I gone wrong?

After dinner I checked my messages, and this is what he had answered:

Tusen takk for hyggelig email og kommentar ang. fasit
Kan du se om det er rett nĂ¥:
Thank you for the nice email and comments regarding the solutions.  Can you see if it is right now:  

This was followed by a link to the solution set.   The CORRECTED solution set.  Because--are you ready for this?--I was right, and he was wrong.

Can I just say that again?  I was right!  And HE was wrong!

It doesn't even matter what grade I ultimately get in the class now.  And it's not really even about being right where my professor was wrongwrongwrongwrongWRONG!  It's about believing in myself.  I sat that entire exam in complete control, confident in what I was doing.  I knew I was right.  It's hard to explain how fucking good that feels.  How empowering.

 I've got my smarts mojo back.  Finally!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


This commercial has been getting a lot of play here the past month or so.  Statoil is a state-run oil and gas company, and this campaign of theirs seems to exist soley to celebrate--not so much achievement, as simply putting yourself out there, and trying. 

I think it's wonderful.

I identify viscerally with each and every vingnette:

  • The alarm going off as you stare sleepless and wide-eyed into the dark morning.

  • The frantic last minute cramming on the bus.

  • Line 'em up: pencils, pens, ruler, calculator. Oh God! What if your calculator runs out of batteries half-way through?

  • Chew your bottom lip some more. That will help.

  • And those cheerful, chattering, smug retirees come to hover and leer at you as you sweat. Bastards!

  • You'll spend the next 4 to 5 hours flagging them down for more and more and ever more paper.  Why can't they just go ahead and give you at least 10 pages to begin with?  You know, and they know you're going to need it.  Carefree bastards!  

  • You hope their sciatics are screaming by noon.

The message towards the end translates as: 

  • There are many things worth cheering.  The desire to learn deserves perhaps the biggest applause.

  • You tend to agree. Which is why you continue to put yourself through this.