These past two quarters of grad school have been quite an experience. When I say experience, I mean both good and bad. In the three classes that I’ve taken, I’ve learned a lot. I give a lot of credit to my instructor for her help and loyalty to her students in assisting them when they need it. If it wasn’t for her, I probably would be struggling a lot. It forced me to ask for help when I couldn’t figure out the answer. It made me think differently about syntax and about linguistics in general.
At the same time, it’s been a rough time, especially this past quarter. I don’t think I went a week without bitching and moaning about the problems that I encountered in the class. How do I set up this rule to ensure that these arguments are working? Are the semantics for this sentence correct? How do I implement these features in order to ensure that I get the full realization of the phenomena that I’m working with in my language? How do I make sure that this rule works without breaking this other rule? I think you can get the idea.
But over the past couple of months, it’s left me questioning a lot about what I’m doing. I felt like I was a longshot to get in here in the first place, due to my lack of work experience in the field, my lack of professional experience in programming, and the fact that I had come from the university that I applied at. It felt like the odds were against me when I was waiting day by day to hear back from the admissions board. But when I got accepted into the program, I felt like this was the path I was suppose to take. Computational linguistics was the way for me to go.
As I started to take the core courses and electives, I felt a lot of pressure to do well. It wasn’t so much from my dad or anyone else. I wasn’t really sure where it came from, for that matter, but I knew it was there. Maybe it came from within. But the pressure to succeed and do well was there. In college, I could screw around, bullshit my papers and assignments, and still get a solid 3.7 or higher without any problems. However, in grad school, I knew I couldn’t get away with that. If I tried to go that route, it would show in my work and I would be punished for such laziness.
With each passing week, I always had this false confidence come over me. I thought I understood the material and knew what I was doing. I would do the assignments with what seemed to be relative ease. But when I met in my study group, my answers with everyone else’s were not always agreeing. I didn’t always listen though, simply because I thought I had the right idea. When I got my assignment back though, it wasn’t the result that I had ultimately wanted.
This didn’t just end after my first quarter though. It continued on. That false sense of understanding the material and content was still present. Maybe I wasn’t thorough enough with my studying and understanding. Maybe it was me not asking enough questions. Maybe it was my ego holding me back from asking questions and saying “You actually don’t understand”. I’m not exactly sure. But I started to ask myself that fearful question, “Why am I in this program in the first place? Why am I here?”
I still ask myself that question, even as I write this. I really don’t know. Yet, somehow, I’m still in the program. Somehow, I managed to survive last quarter and the endless hours and nights working on developing a grammar for a language that I have a fairly sub-standard understanding about… and actually do fairly well in, for that matter. It just doesn’t make sense to me why I am in this program.
Yet, I still am.
If you don’t know, I’m a Christian. I don’t believe in just random luck or chance that I got in. Even with this lowly feeling and lack of confidence, I know that for some reason (whether sick, humorous, or both), I’m in this program. One that I still don’t understand. Especially since my background was lacking considerably, it’s even more reason that there’s a purpose for why I’m there. God wanted me in this program (or at least made the board think I should be there or gave me some ridiculous skills during those few days when I did my application). I feel my skills are lacking. Yet, there must be quality (or qualities) that I must have that I fail to see in myself or yet to realize that got me into it all.
I just have to trust that I’m in there for a reason. Even if I don’t know why.