August 25th, 2005


revenge of the course selection nightmare

I've reached that dead end where I realize not only that I cannot feasibly change my major to anything that interests me and graduate on time, but that if I went back in time and chose something else I would be no better off.

I am a writer, damn it. I don't have any pretentions about it, it's just what I am. Whether I'm good at it or not is yet to be seen, but it is what I do, however poorly. And that is the one thing I cannot major in, though not for lack of trying. Setting time aside to write is pinching my schedule and hurting my grades, but I cannot and should not stop. Toasters toast, light bulbs light, and I pen lousy fiction. It has gone beyond a calling and into a definition of purpose.

Right now I'm struggling to choose between staying with computer science or switching to psychology. Those of you who have been reading my journal over the past few years are no stranger to my opinions on computer science, and understand quite well why I want to leave. It is something I could do, by sheer force of will, but it is never something I can do well. I simply wasn't built that way. I can struggle through linear algebra the same way I struggled through calculus and discrete, but I can't stop myself from dropping exponents or forgetting negative signs or mistaking variables for other variables. (Trust me, I have tried--all through K-12 and all through college I have tried.) I can learn to solve problems, but I can't make myself marvel at the process of solution. I have what it takes to earn myself a job in the industry, but I can't force myself to enjoy a life of voluntary sensory deprivation in a 5x10 cubicle. I've met real CS people and I am not one of them. Call me a poseur or a quitter, I don't care--at least you're not pretending I'm something I'm not.

But the alternative is almost equally depressing. Maybe I've been brainwashed from living among presumptuous scientists and engineers for twenty years, but an education in the fuzzier sciences seems pretty useless to me. It's great that there are people who something about the primary motivating forces of social conflict or the history of the women's rights movement in Yugoslavia or the part of a monkey's brain that controls his urge to pee, but these are the people I see discussing Nietzsche behind the counter at Starbucks. All this vast, vast knowledge, some of it beneficial to the proverbial state of human affairs, wasted on people who will never have any opportunity to use it (and not out of choice). I often wonder how psychology, specifically, ever became a field. Two thirds of it is crack speculation (now refuted), and the remaining third is an amalgam of useless statistical data and more crack speculation on whether it may actually mean anything. Psych majors have done theses on things like whether 9-year-old girls are more likely to raise their right or left hand in class (with lengthy evolutionary, neurological, and sociocultural analyses on the result), or what age babies in New Zealand are able to form dipthongs, and why. Whatever happened to curing the mentally ill? Has that become the exclusive domain of the pharmacobiologists? Take two Prozac and see me in the morning--is that how we treat depression now? I know the talking cure has been more or less disproven, but good God, it doesn't seem like there's anything left for psychologists to do that isn't better left to bored shopping mall survey personnel.

Furthermore, while I know the danger of assuming you know all there is to know, there really isn't an awful lot of new stuff left for me to learn if I want to finish the major. Just labs in things I've done before, mostly, and an advanced stats class, and intro to neuroscience. How exciting.

Religion is another way out, but I'm only interested in Judaism and Christianity. That's a big no at a secular college. I could do a minor, but that's no help for me--I already have too many easy choices for minors.

And there, I'm out of options. It's really too late to pick anything else. Not that there is anything else that seriously interests me, except maybe English, which I have purposely been avoiding out of fear that it will condemn me to a life as a high school English teacher, and sociology, which is social psych in fancy clothes.

I recently reread the entry where I talked about how stressed I was about picking courses for first semester freshman year. I was really afraid I'd make the wrong choice. If I could go back in time and advise myself, I'd smile, give smaller me a reassuring pat on the back, and say, "Don't worry about it, man. Pick anything. You're fucked anyway."

I know it really doesn't matter in the long run what I major in, but I've got two years left of college and I do not intend to waste them. And the choices I must make to make that happen are not to be taken lightly.
  • Current Mood
    mildly fretful