Saturday, April 23, 2011

Finals week

So here we are at the end of my first "science semester" and it's not going nearly as well as I would have liked. I'm about to finish up Bio 1 + Lab and Chem 1 + Lab, and I'm staring down 30+ more credits of just straight-up sciences for the next year and a half. It's intimidating to say the least.

My entire college career up to this point has been met with stellar success after less than stellar effort. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there was a class or two that gave me challenges or made me think, but for the most part, I just memorized a bunch of stuff, regurgitated it onto paper, and walked away with A's.

I have 123 credits of "not working that hard" on my transcript, thankfully giving my GPA a buffer against "holy crap there's ten steps of glycolysis and you want me to memorize ALL of them along with four thousand other things and then be able to apply that knowledge?!"

I am not unhappy about this. This entire semester has been a paradigm shift in my universe. A wake-up call and glaring evidence that memorization will only take you so far. At some point you have to use what you know to figure stuff out, instead of just memorizing cause/effect.

There are going to be B's. Straight out, no one to blame but myself, B's. My old tactics will not work here. Oh, I'm going to need to memorize. But then I'm going to need to take that stuff I memorized and learn to apply it. I'm sure there are lots of people in the audience thinking "duh..!" but bear with me. I've been lazy for years, relying on my near-eidetic memory to carry me through whatever challenges I faced.

I have to admit. While I'm not happy at my rapidly sinking GPA (still within summa cum laude range), I'm happy to be doing something challenging. I'm happy to feel like I'm actually doing something real - something that I wasn't instantly successful at. I suppose I'm happy to have "failed" (in my mind) because it's only then that we are forced to learn.

I'm also happy to notice subtle shifts in my understanding. Last night I felt light-headed and almost passed out. So my brain starts thinking... "Well, what causes that? Drops in blood pressure. And what can cause that? Dehydration, ion imbalance... well, let's try drinking some water and see if that helps..." I'm years from being able to actually safely diagnose anything, but the mere attempt made me happy.

I'm finally learning something that matters.