Doubt, as odd as this may sound, can actually be essential to our living. We all make decisions and later have questions on whether we made the right choice or not so doubt will help influence our next decision when it comes to the same question or choice. While doubt is a natural part of the human conflict in all of us, discouragement in itself is a different story. Intentional discouragement can be uncalled for at times. I get upset when I hear someone tell another person “oh, you’ll never be able to do that.” Such pessimistic statements like that one end up destroying a person and their self esteem.
When I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college. I was thinking of going into engineering because I grew up with the mentality that “all Asian males should become engineers or doctors.” I had a strong interest in the social sciences but I geared myself towards the math and science that I very well knew I would be pushed towards. After I graduated from high school, I registered as a Physics major. It had its advantages. I could grow my hair long and people wouldn’t question it! At registration, I signed up for Introductory Calculus with some question as to whether I was adequately prepared for it. Well, if I wasn’t prepared, I would prepare before classes start. I immediately went home, gathered a few of my Calculus textbooks, and began to immediately grind away at some basic concepts.
I met this guy in my Calculus class who was a complete jerk. This guy seemed to know everything under the sun and anything I said, he would immediately argue with and many times I just wanted to punch him really hard across his face. Anything he said was derogatory towards me. Just to preserve my peace, I sat far away from him as possible. Anyway, I did so-so on the first two tests, but I was determined to do well on the third test. The only problem was that I also had a US History exam and an English exam on the same day so I had to learn how to manage my time…
Test day came. I walked into the classroom with blood-shot eyes. I was unshaven and clearly stressed out. The test was even worse. For some odd reason, I couldn’t seem to remember how to do this or how to do that. After about two hours, I walked out of the classroom with frustration and I called my father and told him about the test. I remember sitting at the edge of the sidewalk next to the student center with my phone to my ear, my hand on my head and my eyes closed and contemplating about tomorrow. Many times, I questioned if I had what it takes to go into Physics and wondered if I can make it. I ended up dropping Calculus that semester but I still attended every class (the professor was kind enough to allow me to attend).
Upon hearing my struggle, my jerk-of-a-classmate walks right up to me and goes “hey Philip, you say want a Ph.D. in Physics right? Well you know Georgia Tech has a really tough Physics program and you have problems with Calculus. You can’t do it.” That did it for me. I looked up and said “and who says I can’t? There were many before me and many that will follow. I struggle for a while but I’m not alone. You are no one to tell me what I can and cannot do.”
It turns out that my classmate ended up getting a mid C in the class. When I took Calculus the next semester, I ended up with a high B (which I’m proud of). The lesson here, however, is that you should not let others tell you what you can and cannot do. Don’t allow people like my classmate to discourage you from achieving what you want to do.
Anything you wish to do, I say go for it. I for one wish you the best of luck.
I have a BS in Information Sciences from UW-Milwaukee. I’ve helped manage Physics Forums for over 17 years. I enjoy learning and discussing new science developments. STEM communication and policy are big interests as well. I have a lovely wife and a cat named Mason.