When I was little, my dream was to be a scientist.
I, like so many, allowed my dream to temporarily escape me because of my middle and high school problems with learning higher math concepts and my self-defeating attitude about math in general.
Now, I didn’t always struggle with math, though it was never my favorite subject. I had always been in honors math until 8th grade when I began having a slightly slower time than my classmates with the material, specifically algebra and “math for the sake of math” with few immediate real world applications.
My 8th grade honors algebra teacher recommended I go back to the general education math for high school algebra & I had an abysmal time in that freshman algebra class. The more behind I got, the more stubborn I became about even trying to catch up. It got so bad that I even had to repeat my senior algebra class the summer after my senior year in alternative school. Still, it was pretty telling of my actual abilities that I finished algebra 2 with a B+ in about two weeks that summer, with the self-teaching, “at your own pace” learning model of the alternative school I attended.
Despite my shoddy math record, I actually never experienced the same level of disconnect and difficulties in science classes, even when a lot of math was involved.
Math made more sense to me in the context of any field of science and I still excelled there with little effort, particularly in honors physical science and biology. I loved working on science projects and conducting experiments and have great memories of my homework for those classes (even if I admittedly actually slept through the classes themselves because I was 16 and instantly sleepy basically any time I had to sit in a desk).
Despite my obvious aptitude for science, I didn’t even consider that a career in a scientific field would be feasible since I had so thoroughly convinced myself that I was “bad at math”.
So I ran as far as I could to the least math-y of my interests: the performing arts.
I have loved to dance and perform as long as I have loved learning about the world around me so it seemed like a natural choice since I could avoid “excessive math” and instead spend my class time pretending to be bacon frying in a pan and doing Brooklynese accents.
Fast forward to post-graduation with my theatre performance degree and I’m making most of my living working full-time doing a lot of math all day in a clerk position for a purchasing department. Very basic financial math, of course, but still lots and lots of math.
Over the course of three years in this job, I became more comfortable and confident with numbers than I had been since elementary school and doing mental math still isn’t easy but it’s easier than it ever has been. I used to freeze and feel anxious just looking at an equation or even just a long string of numbers, but now I can take a breath and not panic and work my way through it at my own tortoise pace without worrying about what anyone thinks about how quickly or slowly I learn something.
Also, while working in this office, I discovered that the best way to stay alert and focused in my little cubicle world was to listen to either an audiobook or podcast.
The light bulb went off when I started listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio.
This is really what gave me the final inspiration I needed to return to school for a science education and a science career. Listening to Neil Tyson and Bill Nye and their guests discuss different fields and new developments in science made me realize that that is the world I want to work in and the world I belong in.
So I am finally going back to school this fall for biological science and specifically forensic science. I want to work in a criminalistics laboratory processing evidence and solving crimes.
I plan to document my journey from the stage to the crime lab here on this blog and hopefully show that being an artist and a scientist are not and have never been mutually exclusive.