Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You Blinded Me With Pastry

Today's word: tokamak.  Definition: A doughnut-shaped chamber used in fusion research in which a plasma is heated and confined by magnetic fields.

Okay, you had me briefly at "doughnut," and then you lost me.

I'm the first to admit that science is not my strong suit.  My strengths lie in the verbal region, not so much in the quantum physics area ... or maybe even basic chemistry.  Wouldn't know, never took it.  Avoided physics like the plague.  I can't read a periodic table for shit, but I can knock you out a quality limerick in about five minutes:

There once was a girl with a blog
Who kept her kind readers agog
With quick random thoughts
Some not quite for tots
Her daily life became a log

There you go.  Is this a useful talent?  Probably not.  I'm not going to discover a cure for cancer via wordsmithing, and I haven't yet been able to turn these skills into anything remotely marketable or profitable. 

Maybe I should have concentrated on the sciences in school.  I did enjoy biology, but that was largely because my high school teacher showed us controversial videos and conducted a class urine lab, before which my friend Josh's sample leaked in his shirt pocket. And also because my friend Rachel danced her fetal pig across the table for me just before we dissected it.  Good times.

In college, I took the bare minimum science requirement, putting it off until spring semester of my senior year.  In fact, I ended up taking it with my sister, who's two years younger.  Just before our final exam, she tried to persuade me to put in a long study session with her.  I chalked this up to sophomore zeal and, suffering from a terrible case of senioritis, did the one rebellious thing of my liberal arts career and blew off preparing for it. 

The next day, as I paged through nine terrifying pages of test, realizing that I knew almost none of the answers, I glanced over to find a tiny smile on my sibling's face as she breezed through it. She aced it -- I passed.

Despite those two hours of panic, I don't necessarily regret that decision.  Honestly, if I had college to do over again, I would have blown off more study sessions and had a bit more fun.  As it was, I worked my ass off for four years, and none of it was easy.  Well, except for "Shakespeare: The Movie," which was perhaps the greatest class ever invented.

But you have to go with your strengths, right?  I mean, I'm reasonably intelligent and have a pretty decent memory, so I'm fairly confident that I could have prepared for a completely different career path and been at least competent in my field. Case in point:  I'm not good at math, but I pulled straight A's in high school simply because I went in 45 minutes early every morning and got help from Mr. Smart ... who was, indeed, very smart, although Mr. Patient might have described him better.

Would every day be torture if you weren't doing what came naturally to you?  Maybe.  But it might be the kind of torture that comes with a much higher salary, and that would make up for some of the pain.  Don't get me wrong -- nobody is more surprised than me that I can actually make a living with an English degree.  Excerpt from every career conversation I had during college:

Small-minded person:  "What are you majoring in?"
Me:  "English.  With minors in history and religion."
Small-minded person:  "What are you going to do with that?"
Me:  "Correct your grammar, remind you that all this stuff has happened before, and debate whether there's anyone up there who actually cares."

(Sidenote:  I never correct people's grammar.  I find it insulting and pretentious.  Just so you know.)

So I guess we take the talents we're given, even if they seem as minuscule as fixing misplaced modifiers and run-on sentences, and we run with them, and hopefully spin them into something we can stand to do for 8 hours a day and sometimes beyond. We all have our little niche. Some of us are ridiculously amused by misspelled words, and others geek out over doughnut-shaped tokamaks.  But we shouldn't try to pretend we're something that we're not.

Mmmmm ..... doughnuts.

1 comment:

The Warden Family said...

When I read the word for the day I thought, "Wow. How is she going to write several paragraphs about that one!" But you never cease to amaze me! (You do know that my favorite work you've ever done is the book about the kids getting locked in the mall!)