Thursday, September 3, 2015

Explosions, Fight Scenes, and Crazy Car Chases

"I ain't never goin' back to school!"

That was in 2001. I had just graduated high school... It's now 2015. I'll be getting my Ph.D. in a couple months. Clearly Young Kevin didn't know squat about his future.

"Squat?" my timid reader asks, "Are you allowed to say 'squat' on this blog?"

The answer is, "No, never. Replacement profanity is not allowed." However, since I'll likely never read this again after I hit publish, Future Kevin will never know, and what Future Kevin doesn't know, can't hurt Future Kevin! (That's a lie. I'll probably read it twenty five hundred times or so.)

As for Young Kevin, instead of going on to college, he went on to construction and carpeting. I mostly moved rocks on the construction site ("Pick it up, put it down. Pick it up, put it down," as my dad says when chopping wood.) As for carpeting, I was allergic to half the carpets I worked with, so I'd always have these rashes on my arms and face. Plus, my boss was ripping me off every week.

The point is, I rapidly came to the realization of "Funk this jazz!" and asked my mom about college. No SATs? No problem: community colleges don't judge!

Back in those days we did not register online. We literally stood on line---for hours---to finally get to talk to someone who had already dealt with nitwits like us for seven hours.
Registrar: "You didn't select a major."

Me: [Awkwardly Laughs] "Haha, no, uh --- actually I thought I'd never go to college, so I didn't even know that was something I had to think about. What are my options?"

Registrar: "You have to select a major. Back of the line."
All I wanted to do was go to school, not make important decisions that could affect my future!

To my relief, I saw they had "music theory" as an option, and having a knack for shredding the guitar, it was so: my humble beginnings began as classical guitar performance-focused music theory major.

One thing quickly became clear: community college was not preparing me to become a famous rock musician. Hell, I would have taken the track for "highly-celebrated jazz artist." But, nope: Community college was having none of that! Community college told me, "Kev, you stick around and I'll make you a music teacher at some high school, you dig?" I was like, "No, man, I don't dig. I don't dig at all!"

Community college didn't mind though. Community college said, "Better shift gears, dog."

Do you believe that back in the day, to drop a class, you actually had to get your professor to sign a physical piece of paper acknowledging that you're breaking up with them? I had to walk down to registrar, ask about dropping a class, get scowled at, feel shame, nervously search for my professor, feel more shame, tell the prof "it's not you, it's me," feel guilty, think twice about dropping, call myself a loser....... Oh-my-god, the kids have it so easy these days what-with their online click-dropping.

Late one night, I was walking through the college parking lot. I asked myself, "What are you good at?" I had asked myself this a thousand times before. I didn't know the answer. Everything scared me. Business? Scary. Failing at life? Scary. The future had this big black empty feel to it. Emptiness and question marks.

But on this one night, I asked myself this question and an answer suddenly came: "Math."

I didn't consider myself a dumb guy, but I didn't consider myself much of a "school guy" up to a couple months prior---and math seemed so school. But, it dawned on me that, despite my lack of concern for grades, home work, and attending class while in high school, I was able to solve the "Snicker problems" our teacher put on the board most days before anyone else. I had never recognized this as a talent or strength at the time. I was just happy to eat the Snickers bars.

Unfortunately, despite having realized that I was good at math, it also occurred to me that I was also scared shitless of math.

Amazon was just getting into the public consciousness at the time. The internet was still slow. I went home that night and bought at least two books: Euclid's Window and How to Build a Time Machine.

You can probably guess by the titles which one I read first.

It was an avalanche from there on out. In my second semester, no longer was I enrolled in choir or piano lessons, but enthusiastically participating in mathematics, physics, and astronomy courses! Don't get me wrong: I still loved music and played with a band during free time, but now for the first time I had this feeling that I knew where I was going in life.

I began adventuring out into fields deep in the woods every night to look at the stars, learning all their names, and tracking the planets' trajectories across the sky over weeks and months. "This is what I want to do," I thought aloud, "Look at the stars and invent time machines!"

The next semester I was at NJIT, and quite some years and degrees later, here I am, nearing the end of my Ph.D and getting to the thing that inspired this "biopic" topic: I am TA'ing a few astronomy classes this semester.

Chances are, if you're reading this, you might be in one of those classes. Also, chances are nobody is reading this.

"Oh Kevin!" 

Yes, Reader?

"Don't be so self-effacing---you know the world is your stage and the universe itself, your audience."

Oh Reader, I don't know what it is about you, but I like it!

No comments:

Post a Comment