A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

Hard Solid Evidence

Two years ago I was battling perfectionism. I know I’ve elaborate in a lot of ways of how perfectionism influences my life, but something new has developed with respect to it. More specifically I’ve managed to find one large piece of evidence for why I didn’t have to be so perfectionistic back then. Of course a lot of the time simple reasoning a lot of the time tells you whether you’re being too perfectionistic or if your fears are irrational, but rational thinking often doesn’t work for overriding the emotions of perfectionism. Hard evidence is needed.

Two years ago I bought a book on perfectionism Never Good Enough by Monica Ramirez Basco that really got me thinking and changing my perfectionism. The book worked out really well and I’ve already referenced it in another blog post. But one thing I was most perfectionistic about it at this time of my life was what to do with my two interests in math and philosophy. Having decided to double major in philosophy with my math degree, I knew that I had to make choices. I only declared my philosophy major in my third year of undergrad and so had to do a lot of philosophy courses in my final year. What this amounted to though was that I needed to drop at least one math course that I was interested in taking in my final year unless I wanted to overload.

And I actually did consider doing the overload. But as a councillor at Acadia warned me after I had run to her office at the end of the fall term of that year because I didn’t feel I did well enough on a math exam to earn an A+ in that math course was that the plan was very dangerous. If my perfectionism was stressing myself out this much in taking only a normal load, imagine what would’ve happened if I had decided on the overload. And so it was for that reason that I dropped the overload option. I may have toyed with one or a couple more options here and there, but as you know if you’ve been reading this blog was that I sacrificed a math course in the end.

Before I go on, I would like to point out one error that I’ve made in a previous post. I had a terrible time last term and alluded to the fact that it was because the math program at my undergrad university Acadia didn’t prepare me well enough for the grad program here. I have since spoken to my old honours supervisor from there (who I might has always thought the best of me). He came to waterloo to give an oral exam to a PhD student there and was even nice enough to give a talk on the research on fractal geometry I did with him at Acadia, which I did my Acadia honours thesis on. Anyway, I spoke to him about Acadia’s math program and guess what? Apparently it really was the case that the one math course that I missed out on at Acadia would’ve really prepared me all that much more in doing graduate studies. I had been relying mainly on what another math student who had taken the course told me, but after talking to my honours supervisor I found out the student hadn’t remembered correctly. Anyway, so the official conclusion was that there is nothing wrong with Acadia’s math program.

But here’s the rub. This is exactly what I feared two years ago when I was trying to decide what I should take in my final year at Acadia. I feared that losing at least one math course would under prepare me for graduate school. And due to how graduate school is going, it certainly looks like those fears did come true, didn’t they?

How brilliant! How prophetic can I get!

Well, no. Not really. That isn’t the point. Let me explain. When I was reading Never Good Enough, I actually did an exercise in there that helped me keep calm and reduce my fear of making the wrong choices. And one of the choices I felt would lead to unpredictable consequences was indeed sacrificing a math course while at Acadia. Now it’s two years later. And while I must say that it did lead to undesirable effects, the effects haven’t been as bad as they could be. Okay, so I suffered a lot, and eventually had math almost become my whole life last term. But I have been fortunate enough to be put on a probationary period to take a few undergrad classes. And that seems to be going well so far not to mention the benefits I have reaped from abolishing academic perfectionism from my life and gaining a whole new drive to obtain more of a social life.

So at the end of the day, it all seems to be working out. I made my choices and the obvious disadvantages of it are resolving themselves if they haven’t done so completely already. I’m still pursuing math. I’m behind two or three terms because of it, but am still actively doing it. Of course, I’m not necessarily suggesting that we have to ignore the implications of our choices, but to not worry too much if we’re faced with a dilemma in our life.

I faced a problem. And now it’s working itself out. So I now have a solid piece of evidence in my life that suggests that worrying about choices especially in dilemmas can indeed become unnecessary.


Comments on: "Hard Solid Evidence" (6)

  1. […] Hard Solid Evidence (acceptingdifferences.wordpress.com) […]

  2. JC, I have just recently discovered you had a blog and today I started reading your posts ( I have a lot to catch up on 🙂
    Although I’ve known you all your life, I am enjoying getting to know you better through your writing and I’ve subscribed so I look forward to your next post.

  3. (Damn – I had written out this message but couldn’t remember how to get into WordPress, and now that I’m back, my words have disappeared!)

    Basically, I took exception to your words that math “almost become my whole life last term”.

    Yeah, so what’s your point?

    Graduate school means that your studies SHOULD become your whole life. (You had your time to play at Acadia.) The minimal number of years that you are working on this degree versus your life span is a very small percentage.

    Think of it as swimming across a river, with graduation on the far shore. The best way to get there is to swim at a fairly hard pace until you are completely across the water.
    None of this suddenly rolling over on your back to look at the sky and see what shapes the clouds look like. Get to the other side – and THEN you can look around.

    P.S. Glad your straightened out the error – about Acadia’s preparing you for grad school.

    • Hi Jane,
      well, it depends on how you define it becoming your whole life. As someone who is very analytical, I like to make it precise what I mean. That’s why I like working to a schedule. Exactly how many hours are we talking here? 70 hours? 80 hours? 100 hours? My point is that even if I didn’t want other things like writing and a descent social life, my life would still be incredibly difficult. Like nearing the end, I didn’t have time to cook for myself and was glad I had chosen to rely on a meal plan at the start of term. I also didn’t see the time to relax and recharge my batteries. I’m putting in 50 hours currently and just found out I scored an 87 in a graduate course in mathematical logic I took this term. I will admit that my complex analysis exam didn’t go so well, but that is the only thing that didn’t go well during this past term and I’m still hoping for a 70 in that course. So unless things start going down hill, I think I’m doing all right regardless. I might bump it up to 60 hours when I get back into my regular masters program just to be safe, but for now it appears I’m doing all right. And if I have to work an 80 hour week maybe every now and then, then so be it just as long as it doesn’t occur too frequently! I also read about writers who wrote novels during their PhDs so I’m certainly not alone in my pursuit of a balance between graduate studies and writing. One novel I recently read was The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano who wrote the novel while getting a PhD in physics (and the book comes highly recommended). Also, due to the perfectionism issue I had at Acadia, I think I really drove myself harder than necessary there and so my “play time” there wasn’t exactly big. I hardly wrote at all, for example, during my second and third school years. I realise that we differ a lot in our philosophies here so I do hope we can agree to disagree. Hope things are well at Wolfville and with the writing group!
      Sincerely, J.C.

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