Background: BS physics MIT, 4 attempts at graduate school, including Ph.D. math, Ph.D. physics, and MA Math (which I finally got, mostly to demonstrate that I can finish things.) 20 years as a professional tutor, full time, math and physics etc. When I was 6 I knew I wanted to be a scientist. By age 10, it was physics. By age 12, it was fundamental theoretical physics. At age 28 I gave up. Apparently I'm not smart enough to be a physicist. Not being rich, being shy, and developing chronic disabling hand pain was just three strikes against me. I review linear algebra, and find I've forgotten complex calculus. I relearn that, and differential equations are rusty. I practice that, and I forget differential geometry. I relearn that, and the linear algebra is rusty again. Part of the problem is that I never get to USE any of this. It's as if I were studying a dozen foreign languages while never being allowed to speak any of them. My job allows me to stay sharp on all the basics: calculus, vector calculus, basic diff eqs and basic linear algebra and probability and statistics. No problem. How do you actually get all the way to an interesting problem? I have lots of questions, curiosity about physics, but if I actually try to read something, I find that I must first study some subject as a prerequisite. Then that prerequisite has a prerequisite. Then that has two prerequisites. Eventually I find a place to make progress, but I'm so far away from anything interesting that I only get anywhere via tedious grind. I left graduate school because I felt that I was losing my MIT education faster than graduate school was adding anything, and decided that however badly I would do on my own, it couldn't be worse than grad "school," which felt like an active impediment to learning any physics. I'll die of old age before I feel ready to learn QFT. I own hundreds of textbooks and have probably mastered chapter 1 of half of them, some farther. I feel as if I can ace anything facing freshmen, and have to struggle with anything more advanced. I have worked nearly every problem in the first 6 chapters of Bransden and Joachain (graduate QM, though it felt about equal to my undergraduate QM at MIT.) I had to teach myself generalized distributions in order to make any sense out of the sloppy Dirac deltas used. I have worked through nearly every page of Shilov's Linear Algebra. I filled three binders with notes, expanding Spivak's Calculus on Manifolds into something comprehensible by mere mortals. I have put on my hip waders and slogged through philosophy of physics. I taught myself optics, electronics, the first four chapters of Group Theory by Hammermesh. But I quit Hammermesh, for example, because it was some of the dullest and most tedious junk I've ever seen--despite the chapter titles sounding exciting! I keep seeing that--every physics and math subject seems to be a mix of the absolutely fascinating and the mind-numbingly boring. I drag myself through the boring parts for the sake of the good parts, but sometimes, the good part was just a mirage, or the carrot moved, putting another prerequisite in the way. I teach for a living. I help other people learn, get them past roadblocks, show them what they need to do. But just as doctors make the worst patients, I find that watching a typical physics lecture, they might as well be writing the equations with their fingernails. Years ago I resolved NEVER to try to learn math from a physicist ever again, for sanity's sake. I know that by actually talking to physicists and physics students (more than I ever managed while I was in college), I am probably endangering my qualifications as a crackpot. But I really do want to know...how do you do it? How can you stand to wade through the boring bits? How do you ever GET to the good bits? How do you ever get to USE any of this material? Am I just completely unsuited for physics? And if so, how was I supposed to figure that out? I know my fate is most probably to be a dabbler for the rest of my life. I have hopes of writing textbooks to save others some of the grief I had to go through. I'm told I have a gift for teaching. But I really don't know what was so wrong with me, that I couldn't be a physicist.