I have titled this post “..experience” because there is no real word for what “battle” I have fought to learn, complete assignments, and study for exams in the classes I am taking for Computer Science at Stanford.
Imagine a hike when you are making it up a steep hill, thinking that is the top, but as soon as you reach it, there is merely a degrade in elevation, and an even steeper hill ahead. Each such hill is like each assignment. And sometimes, there are booby traps along the way (the nearly forgotten lab assignment due on Fridays).
As you ascend each hill, there are many paths, and although more than one path leads to the top, some of them are multi-mile detours. In delirium, you sometimes take the wrong path, so absorbed in the code and how it runs, that you barely see past your nose. You sometimes just count the stars.. not above, but those that dereference the pointers in question. Where does this pointer point? Eyes watery, brain throbbing.
Delving deeper, it’s like walking through fog, where you’re using your sense of intuition, adding binary numbers in your head, recognizing offsets in hexadecimal which may or may not be correct, recognizing function addresses just by the sheer number of times you’ve gotten lost in the code, and seeing it over and over again.
At the end of each “hill”, the fog clears, you look around for booby traps, then look at the murky bog that is the next assignment. And then when you’re done with the last one… the last thing is left is the final exam. For which you have to turn around, run back down the mountain of hills, marking each twist and turn you have come up on, and all in one weekend, climb the whole thing back up. This time it is faster, as the path has already been laid out by previous work. However, it is far from easy, wriggling through all the material for the class, looking again at all the asterisks, the lecture details, notes, textbook. Checking again and again, writing questions on the message boards. tightening the ropes, getting ready for the three hour brain-torture ahead.
The day of the exam. The day of the last trial, where you don’t know what what is ahead. You have to blind fold yourself just until the precipice. Then the blind fold is gone. You have all equipment and maybe more that you don’t need: ice axe, water bottles, ropes, fire extinguisher (wait why did you bring that? it’s super heavy.. well it’s just in case). Coffee, a bar of chocolate, more coffee, some fruit, coconut water, and coffee. Wait, did I mention coffee? Perhaps it’s just a mental cushion, the placebo effect. A furious run through the tasks, sometimes mumbling out loud “you can do it!” and “come on!”.. the clock tells true the time is done. You are done. Done? Flashbacks begin. “What did I mess up? What will my grade be? Will I pass the class?”
But it has hit you, you are at the top. And you are happy, exuberant. The fog behind you is gone! Maybe the way up was not perfect, but you have learned many many ways of solving problems, lots of times the hard way, but it was such an awesome learning experience. But then you get chilly. What’s next? Looking out over the horizon.. there is another mountain. And it’s even taller. And even more covered in fog. The chill envelops you, one more week until the next climb starts.
..and quite literally. you get cold. You get A cold.
*sniffle* *cough* *groan* Awesome 🙁