coffee break, or The Very Last Thing I Want To Say About My Failed Attempt At A Computer Science Degree

DISCLAIMER: This is relevant to nothing and has no pictures.

So I had this conversation about computer science in December:

“You’re taking notes?”
“Well yeah, I’m not going to remember everything you say.”
“Okay, why did you decide to stop?”
“Because I suck at it.”
“How do you suck at it?”
“How do you think you suck at it.”
“…Can… uh… I don’t know. Can you ask that a different way? Like, what do you mean?”
“I mean… why do you think you suck at computer science?”
“…Well I don’t suck –”
“I don’t! I was doing fine.”
“You were going to get an A-minus – ”
“I was doing adequately.”

And I was. Even if I continued struggling through my classes, realistically I probably would have been an A-/B+ student. At the very worst I would have been a B/B+ student. Now, I think a lot of people would be okay with being a B/B+ student in one of the top computer science programs in the nation, but I’m not. If I’m getting a B+ in something, that usually means I’m missing something huge and not understanding things clearly. And that is always because I’m not putting in enough time or effort.

The thing is, I thought I had more willpower than that. I thought that, as the kind of kid who would’ve been able to wait through the marshmallow experiment with minimal fidgeting, I should have been able to delay gratification as long as I needed to, given enough of an incentive. And even if the incentive wasn’t that great, I should have been able to suspend disbelief for long enough to get those marshmallows into my pudgy little hands, because I was self-disciplined, dammit.

Part of it is that, as someone who was a precocious child, I'm really bad at putting effort into things I don't immediately find myself good at (e. g. piano, dance, sports, performing double lung transplants, et cetera). It just doesn’t seem like an efficient way to expend energy. If I’m going to bother to put in effort, why waste it on something I’ll be mediocre at, at best?

I know this is a really bad way to function because it makes me hesitant to try new things, but mostly, mostly what made me want to stop doing computer science was my unwillingness to give up my health and happiness for it. I wasn’t going to operate like I did in high school, on five hours a night most nights, four pounds lighter and thinner, perpetual undereye circles, irregular periods, with random bouts of vertigo and the total inability to stay awake in a moving vehicle for more than two minutes, relying on other people to cook my meals, do my laundry, and bear the brunt of my bad moods. I am not okay with being someone who takes and takes and takes and never gives back. I am not okay with crying to sleep and not being sure why, with movies and books being the only way I feel things, with feeling utter dread about getting out of bed to face a new day.

I mean, you can say all you like about the futility and naïveté of having hope. I don’t think hope is dumb or a waste of time. The Chilean miners had hope. And I know someone out there will be like, “But that’s different. That’s a life or death situation. That’s looking death in the face.” Well I think waking up every day is looking death in the face. Getting out of bed is the decision to face life, and death, whichever comes, with the belief that being alive is better than being dead, with the hope that life is worth it. Every day is life or death.

What I'm trying to say is that... logically, I should have been able to get a computer science degree, but I didn't and I’m not going to, and I'm okay with that, because being alive is more important than padding all the corners. Sure, it might be a good idea to wear a helmet, but it’s no big deal if I skin my knees. Why does it matter how comfortable I am at thirty-five if I have been acutely unhappy more than half the time while getting there? That is not how I understand life.

Life gives you things, and it takes things away. Life is painful and wonderful. Life is orgasms and funerals, liver and Nutella, best friends and breakups. And you have to be prepared to handle it in all of its incarnations. That means you need to be financially secure. To an extent. To have insurance and always have Christmas presents under the tree and never feel poor, to grow up unaware that you are lower class. And lower class is okay, but it’s not okay to be so emotionally battered that keeping yourself alive every day becomes something you can’t be bothered with.

This is the life in front of me, and if I can’t bring myself to meet it halfway, I’M DOING IT WRONG.

That is all.
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