Reflecting is something I do somewhat frequently. Perhaps too frequently. It usually results in being a bit too over analytical with things that have no real significance. But I decided that 2014 deserved a closer look.
First off, the primary motivating factor as to why I’m writing about 2014 is due to the fact that I have something to write about at all. 2014 was a bit of a turning point, where I feel my life has been repurposed, or maybe even given a purpose altogether.
The year started off slow, some carryover from 2013’s unproductiveness. Most of 2013 I felt lost, I lacked direction. While I knew the best thing to do would be to take action in some form, I had done the complete opposite. I was afraid of making a bad decision, and making no decisions at all seemed to prevent that. Ironically that in itself is a bad decision.
It wasn’t until spring that things start to look up. I started working for my brother-in-law at his dental office. I was apprehensive about the whole idea of it, I never saw myself seriously working in the dental industry, but neither did my sister for that matter. At least it was something. It was a direction, and I could figure out later if it was the right one or not.
It didn’t take long to realize it was not the right direction. I tried to envision my life as a dental assistant, but couldn’t. It was not something I was passionate about, nor even very interested in. I started evaluating the situation. I would not make enough money working for my brother-in-law to stay in the area and live on my own, and I did not have the education to work elsewhere in the same industry.
I saw myself becoming trapped, as I would have to continue living with my parents. It wouldn’t be rational to move away and commute to my brother-in-laws office and seemed like an unnecessary struggle with no real gain. It became clear before spring ended that working in the dental office would not be a long term solution.
Through a rather insignificant event, I started to reevaluate myself, in particular my intelligence. Throughout my life I somehow got it in my head that I wasn’t very intelligent. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way, but more that I felt it was just a simple truth. To me, intelligence was just not in the cards for me. Looking back at it now, that insignificant event was something I took out of context, but it didn’t matter, it got me thinking. Maybe I wasn’t giving myself enough credit.
I decided to take the advice that I was bombarded with throughout my twenties and go back to school. My biggest issue, however ,was what for? I’ve ruled out anything culinary related, as well anything dental related. I was commonly asked what I’m passionate about, and honestly I don’t know. I haven’t figured out what I’m passionate about, if I’m passionate about anything at all. So if I’m not passionate about anything then what do I major in?
I realized that I had been asked (by others, as well as from myself) the wrong question. While passion may be a good motivator for others, it isn’t for me. I asked myself a different question: What could I be good at that will pay the bills? After taking suggestions from others I settled on computer science. It seemed like a safe career choice that I could do well in and I definitely live in a good area for it. However, the next hurtle was being back in a classroom. It had been over a decade since I had been in a classroom setting and I wasn’t exactly the ideal student. Although this didn’t quite matter yet.
The third was to take placement tests. I didn’t remember much from my high school math and English classes and did not have high expectations when I went into the testing center. Knowing this, I went in ready to accept any outcome. They were just placement tests, not entrance exams. The results wouldn’t change going back to school.
As expected, I did somewhat poorly on the English exam, but not horrifically so. Just one level below the standard starting college level English course, which really just meant I had one extra quarter of English that most fresh out of high schoolers did not have to take. Math however, was a very different situation.
Math was something I considered myself somewhat talented in, at least when I was actually in school, but I placed into high school freshman algebra. A class I would have to retake that I had gotten an A in while in high school.
I accepted the outcome as I knew I was rusty. A couple weeks later, I was given an opportunity from the school to join a week and a half long program to relearn whatever I needed and was given the opportunity to retake the math placement test.
After ten days of grinding out high school level math problems, relearning formulas, methods and terminology, spending no less than four hours a day, and as much as nine, I retook the placement test. My goal was to be placed into Math48A, also known as precalculus 1. If I placed into 48A, I would have two years of math required for my major as opposed to three. To my surprise, I did not place into 48A. I placed into 48B, precalculus 2. I had exceeded my expectations. Something that significantly impacted, and reinforced the notion that I had not been giving myself enough credit over the years.
The quarter came, and had went quickly. I hadn’t made very many friends. This was largely due to the fact that I felt out of place. A 30 year old returning to college amongst a sea of 18-20 year olds who lacked the exigency I now had. I don’t know if it was a conscious (or even subconscious) decision on my part, or if my demeanor was the culprit, as I kept to myself in most of my classes. I felt that most of the other students would have slowed my progress down if I were to become friends of them. I feel a bit cynical and arrogant in saying so, but looking back at how I was at that age, I wanted to steer clear of students that were like my former self.
I realized I had two major advantages over other students. The first was that I am older than most of them, which made me stand out in a good way. Teachers took me more seriously because I took class more seriously. This allowed me to develop a strong rapport with my teachers, which granted a bit of leniency which came in handy when I was sick the week before finals. The other major advantage was that I simply cared. I cared about my performance, about myself. And I think that in of itself already put me ahead of the game.
I finished the quarter with two A’s and, to my surprise, an A+. Never in my life had I gotten straight A’s and it is something I crave now. It was the first real feeling of success I’ve had in a long time. Once winter break had started, I knew I would have trouble figuring out how to fill out my time. Time was split between friends and baking, but I knew I couldn’t spend time with friends and bake for three whole weeks; I would need something else to keep myself entertained.
I had the idea that maybe I can do something productive, primarily in the sense of keeping my mind active while also passing the time, and decided to pick up a new hobby. Reading.
I quickly learned that I actually enjoyed reading. This was a big change, as it was something that I had always dreaded doing before reentering college. But I found the things that used to keep me entertained, primarily TV shows and video games, just weren’t cutting it anymore. I grew bored extremely quickly. I needed something more engaging. I quickly (at least I considered it quickly) read three books and was surprised that I enjoyed all three.
That sums up 2014 for me. As for 2015, I ask myself ‘What do I expect? What do I want to get out of this year?’ To be completely honest, I don’t really know. 2014 started in a very predictable way and ended as if I had endured a crazy plot twist. One where I had come out better than I had gone in.
I suppose a repeat of that wouldn’t be a bad thing. To end 2015 better than it had started, so long as 2015 starts off on a good note. If I’ve learned anything in 2014, it would be that I underestimate myself, which I still do. It isn’t really that bad, it just means that I’ll never cease to surprise myself.
How was your 2014? Anything surprising happen that you’d like to share?