Monday, April 21, 2008

The End

The fact that this is the last blog adds a lot of pressure to make it a good one. I don't really know what to talk about... so lets see where this goes...
I read A Mathematicians Apology yesterday. It was interesting. Hardy was really depressed! I wonder if instead of thinking there's a corollary between being crazy and being a mathematician there's more of one between depression and mathematics. It makes sense. Mathematical truth is harsh, pure and explicit. It is what it is. And math is really difficult and it constantly tests how bright you are in the subject. It's really intimidating and it makes you feel so stupid sometimes. So how do you know if it's worth doing it for yourself? How do you know if you've got what it takes to make a mark in the field? How do you know that you're not just beating your head against the wall forever and for nothing?
Hardy says that mathematics is a young man's game... which is a pretty harsh statement. So those bright enough to accomplish even one great thing in life reach their peak early on and then it's all downhill from there. That's a pretty depressive thought... to know that your life work can only get worse. If that's true, I can see why mathematician's would get depressed. On the other hand, at least they know that at one point they had it... something that I can only imagine most mathematicians will never experience. Hardy was amongst the top five mathematicians in the world at his time. To be the top five in the world of anything is really cool... but to be in the top five best mathematical minds must be the greatest high...
Next year I'm taking my GREs and applying to grad school... and that's it. Then I have to wait and see what the future holds for me. That limbo between schools... I don't even know if I want to go to grad school, but I've been working towards a degree in mathematics for three years with the intent of going to grad school... so that's what I'm doing now. Looking back I don't think I ever made a choice. I was kind of going with the flow at every point. My dad's a mathematician, my mom did her bachelor's in mathematics... I'm good at it and I like it so it seemed like the reasonable thing to do. But now it's serious business... because I'm kind of committed to doing this thing for the rest of my life... and a pure math degree by itself... I don't know what that's good for... so I must get something else... and what can I do? I don't want to work at a bank, or for a company... so I guess I'll teach. I don't want to teach middle school or high school really, so I guess I'll get a PhD and teach college... but that's math for life!
How do these mathematicians know that they're passionate enough about math to do it for little pay for the rest of their lives and doing it purely for the improvement of math. It's so pure and so... pointless it feels.
"I shall ask, then, why is it really worth while to make a serious study of mathematics? What is the proper justification of a mathematician's life?" - Hardy

5 comments:

Haseeb A. said...

I feel like I'm in a similar situation like you. Graduating with a math degree and unsure with what the future holds...it's exciting yet makes me nervous too...

Cheney said...

I switched to math my sophomore year of college with little thought as to what I wanted to do with this degree. I'm graduating in December and I still haven't put too much thought to what direction I will take in life. I am pretty sure I want to go to graduate school as well but I don't feel too daunted at more years of studying math. You say math for life and when I think about it that doesn't seem too bad. I think it's great to finally be in a major I enjoy studying and I would feel lucky to be able to study math as long as I can. Anyway, I hope all goes well for you with the GREs and grad school and whatnot.

Lucia said...

Word.
Fortunately, I hear rumor of a cool duo in high demand that teach awesome math to high schoolers sometime in the future.
However, I bet that you end up to be amongst the top 5 mathematical minds of our generation.

Miguel said...

I'm 100% with you on that one. Though I feel Math laughs at me more often than most and I end up feeling like an idiot all too often. I switched to Math my sophomore year without much thought other than the fact that I was not enjoying Electrical Engineering but did enjoy my math classes. Looking back, I might have enjoyed Architecture more. But then again, I do not enjoy Physics. We shall see where it takes me though.

emma said...

it seems to me that there aren't too many women mathematicians who have done any notable work in this field, so i hope you discover something amazing, solve some crazy problem that's been plaguing those male mathematicians for years. good luck with whatever you decide to do.