Friday, December 29, 2006

Analyze This

For the past year I have repeatedly dreamt I was to take a graduate level mathematics exam but on appearing for the exam, I realize I have no idea what the course is about. I wonder why I had never attended a class, and fret over how I could be stuck in this predicament. Each time I experience the dream, I repeatedly chastise myself for not paying more attention ahead of time; I go ahead and take the exam, but the results are ambiguous.

So last night, for the first time in over a year, the dream has a different ending, and feels sort of conclusive. Last night, I decide I'm going to drop the course, instead of taking the exam like usual. So I go off to see me graduate adviser. He is a bright Russian professor who wears a red cardigan with Clark-Kent glasses. I start off explaining the situation. He asks me which course it is. I try to think of the name, and I have no clue. I say I don't know. He then asks something like "well, what's it about." I think for a while, and finally say, "I really have no idea. I can't remember a thing. I don't remember signing up for the class. I can't recall ever going to the class, and in fact, I don't even recall how I ever got started on my PhD in mathematics."

He scratches his head, consults his star grad student who is seated next to me. Then he leans over and whispers cryptically, "Deep, if you walk to the edge of the ocean, and put your finger in it, the water will ripple all over the planet." I get frustrated, my voice starts shaking, and say, "I don't understand what you are saying. Are you saying I am where I am because of a chain of events that is out of my control, and I should just drop the course and not worry about it?" He says, "yes." I say, "But it's not that easy. I don't sign up for something, and then just drop it because of a challenge. That's just not the way I am. " He says, "But you don't even know what the class is about." I say, "You're right. I'll drop it." And apparently I do, and it really is no big deal.

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