Monday, December 20, 2004

Not the Worst-Case Scenario ..

.. but sufficiently bad, and I can't rightly say much about it. The prof for one of my classes has e-mailed me my grade, and the only certainty which I can say is that I'm glad that I checked my e-mail after I had hosted a small dinner and get-together tonight.

Had the order been otherwise, I would have been a rather poor host and the dinner not very entertaining. It's a small matter, yes, but important: I'm a firm believer that commitments are, in their own way, serious promises and despite convenience or adversity, one must always be consistent and steadfast to them.

If that is so, then what about my commitments to my coursework? As a graduate student, haven't I made an implicit promise to perform well as I learn the subject matter of courses and lectures? Perhaps I have, but a few marks and letters on paper would say that my commitment has faltered.

This semester was red marks and low scores on homeworks, all throughout my classes. The grades give little impact on my future, near or far, but they confirm my long-standing suspicion, that something is amiss in my graduate education and career. I can't point out with confidence what is wrong, or what is the true cause for this performance, but I can make a few guesses:
  • It could have been a post-Quals slump. Having passed my exams this past fall, I fell into the trap of relaxing a little: flipping back to the problems and research topics that had interested me before, and spending time to examine them when I could (or should) have been studying for classes and doing problem sets. I fled campus every so often to attend conferences and to pursue these matters, leaving those student responsibilities behind.

  • It could have been my anti-social attitude once again, or rather my perfectionist attitude gone awry. Having gotten behind in my courses (for whichever reasons) something in me refused to speak freely with my classmates and inquire about missing entries in my class notes or hints and suggestions for a late problem set or two. My responsibility this was, and mine to bear; honorable principle would tell me not to seek undeserved help.
Poor judgment, some apathy, and foolhardy choices: I don't know.

Thinking about it now, I'm not sure what I'm doing, or if the road I'm heading has a definite and secure end in sight. I do get the feeling that I'm not "playing nice with others" and have become something of a deviant, even amongst the analysis students in the department. I don't feel like I fit in anymore, which may already be an easy thing for a math grad student to say ..

.. but watching the general mood and attitude of my peers and fellow students, I begin to wonder why my goals seem suddenly divergent with theirs. Am I looking in the right places and choosing the right decisions? Is this really the correct path when I receive warning signs in the form of poor grades? What is wrong with this picture, this portrait of Michigan and me?

Aw, hell. I can't answer these questions right now. So it's nobody's fault but possibly my own and now I'm debating whether it is indeed my own; this is fodder for thoughts of another time, and I need some sleep before tomorrow's bout of grading the Calc I Final.

Addendum (3:56 am): There is some good news. I've said so before, but my collaborative PDE paper is finally done; one small change/addition to the manuscript and it will be ready to be sent off to the journal. I suppose one small good thing had to come out of all of this.

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