Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Just so that I don't have to retell it

The other day, I was talking to I. and mentioned that I had to go and sit the admission exams for the biology undergrad course. I. said 'Whaaaaaat?!! Biology? You? What the hell for... and, are you feeling all right?” or something like that.
“I wanted to be a botanist,” I said, “and I thought it would be rather convenient to start going for that when I'm still young, with lots of synapses and otherwise generally functioning brain, y'know.” It apparently wasn't really explaining anything because I. was still surprised. “I always thought you'd been so passionate about art like... ever since, I could hardly imagine you could be that interested in anything else,” she continued to be puzzled. I was also puzzled since I've known I. for five years, we spent a lot of time doing things and going places together, ranting included.
In fact, it puzzles people quite often when my interest or an unexpected bit of knowledge is noticed. It is somehow expected that if I mess with liberal arts stuff, then I shouldn't be able to count and I shouldn't know a spruce from lettuce... or wtf.
I wanted to study botany since I was a kid. Or, maybe not specifically botany, I also liked various small furry aminals but I was indeed interested in plants. When I was five-ish, almost certainly before I started school, I got a huge plant atlas, an armful of plant atlas for a child and still decently large volume for a big girl and soon enough, I tried to use words like phytocenosis in everyday talk. With little understanding from the people around, so I probably soon stopped. I however learnt quite a nice bit of Latin at that time – neither that was appreciated by the folks. When Miss asked us in the first grade what we would want to do when we're grown up, people answered the usual stuff about princesses, trash collectors, nurses and astronauts. “Botanist”, I said, and Miss reprimanded me stiffly for using words whose meaning I do not know. (I suspect that my deep suspicion and general disdain to the ways of the school system have their roots somewhere there although it took many years before they became apparent.)
At the secondary school, I had a series of really lousy teachers for all science-related subjects. Not all of them were arseholes and sometimes there was someone really cool, as that crazy biology teacher who however left for better job, she was a researcher in genetics and for some reasons unclear to me, she taught at a local high school for two years. Or that guy who studied nuclear physics in Moscow, married a girl from my hometown and stayed there with no decent job prospect and a general lack of knowledge of the local language, when someone had that idea that he might teach physics in English at our pretty crazily experimental school. But, that wasn't enough to keep me interested. I however had history teachers that rocked.
In fact, I wanted to do Oriental studies, for reasons unknown but plain interest (maybe a heap of some romantic in it, who knows). Due to the rather strict admission requirements at the universities worth that name, everybody applied for the admission exams to more places... and that's how I started studying art history. Applied to the local university, 'just in case they didn't get me where I wanted'. Nobody knows why I picked art history and not something I may have had closer relationship with. Plain history, English, sociology, anthropology, whatever. I don't know it either. Divine inspiration, punishment for sins committed in previous lives or just sheer randomness of the universe. Or it sounded better than just history, who knows.
I started studying art history, then. I didn't have any particular inclinations towards it and it felt silly at best to see that everybody knows much more and much better than I. Usually, it felt pretty depressing. Combined with the sad fact that I took my stupid years not in puberty but between 19 and 21 or so, it's no surprise to me or any thinking observer that I miserably failed. Thinking of it, I did a decent job since it took me three years of muddling through before they kicked me out.
I worked for two years and then I applied for art history (meantime, I found out that I'm totally unable to study languages and that Oriental studies means a lot of studying languages) to three schools, passed the exams to all three and started studying at two. In two different cities, two different countries, just for the heck of it, and got as far as the postgrad course and people think that I'm good in it. I have my doubts, though.
Meantime, at my friend's birthday party... I arrived there pretty late, I was meeting K. who came to the country from wherever she studied, and to the town, and she's one of my best beloved friends so we met for a coffee and only then I went to that party. Most of the people were already more or less drunk. I was introduced to those whom I didn't know and then I picked a group of folks who seemed to be the most sober and chatted them up. One said he was a botanist … and then we retreated to some quieter corner to talk plants in peace, exchanged phone numbers and are friends since that day. Two years ago, M. took me out to the wild, he needed to do some field work and I kept him company. At a certain point, M. said pensively that I have more intelligent questions that a great part of his Master students and something at some long neglected corner of my brain connected.
In due time, I wanted to apply for the admission exams for undergrad biology but I blocked my internet bank access and wasn't able to lift my lazy ass from work and go to the bank to pay the test fee there. This year, I procrastinated the application for weeks, too, and ten days before the deadline my harddisk crashed, eating my operating system, data and access keys to my account. In one of those rather rare moments when my social phobia doesn't overrun me, I asked for help at a forum where my internet friends live and L. paid my fee, mailing to the office that it was her who paid for me; I mailed them with the same information as well. They wanted some other payment confirmation than what the bank application produced so there was some bureaucratic arguing involved... and I entered the files as (hopefully) interesting and lovable (for certain) troublemaker.
I passed the test.
Funnily enough, I got the letter with results where the address said Liisa Wennervirta, M. A. Well, yeah, I have that degree but I keep it almost secret because I have that feeling that it's a degree that says I haven't really done anything yet and I don't write it anywhere.. Apparently, since it's the same university, they share the database.
Should anyone want to know, no, I have no clue as how to solve all the ensuing logistic challenges. There'll be a lot of trouble for sure but I'll deal with it when it comes, no sooner. I don't have a clue as of what kind of trouble, anyway.

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