Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Here I have to pen a belated valentine to my beloved X.

I met him for lunch in Campustown today, and we were talking about my classes. I was telling him about battling a serious case of (beginning) programmer's block, and how I figured out how to fight it on Sunday evening by getting out my notebook and just writing pseudo--

"Code," he finished. "I was just going to suggest that." He also suggested something else I hadn't thought of: when he doesn't know where to start, he starts by writing descriptive comments: i.e. "This program will do _____," or "The user now inputs _____ variable."

From the moment that I, while contemplating the end of my full-time job, came up with the idea of going back to school, he has been, without any hesitation whatsoever, my biggest cheerleader. Actually, the general response from my boss, co-workers, and assorted friends and family members has been overwhelmingly positive...not really surprising, considering that most of the people I work with or hang around with are geeks who think computer science is good for everybody, but it's still a revelation compared to the general reaction I got from family, friends, and acquaintances when I started graduate school fifteen years ago, which was mostly veiled hostility, outright suspicion, and, in one puzzling case, malicious glee. Only X was unconditionally supportive.

But this time he's not just supportive, but excited. I suppose there's some inherent risk to having a spouse who long ago mastered everything you're studying now, that he might push or be impatient with you, but X has been none of those things. While I struggle with code late at night he sometimes camps out in a recliner in the library and dozes, in case I need his help with something. I think his training as a professor probably contributes toward his unflappability in the face of my ignorance and occasional stubborn inability to learn. He's also deeply aware of all my old math and computing hangups. More than anything, I think he wants me to fly...and he doesn't want to do anything that might damage my fragile wings.

Now he smiled at me, in the noontime sunlight. "It makes me so happy that you're doing this," he said, again, for maybe the hundredth time. He knows I won't fail. For him, this whole decision is a no-brainer. He doesn't know what the future will bring for me, but he knows that this will only help me, that the unpaid leave from work, the tuition (inexpensive, but still around $1500 a semester for a full courseload) is an investment, that it will make me more valuable in the future, when things are better. And for once, I don't find negative thoughts interfering with my ability to concentrate; I don't find myself questioning the purpose of what I'm doing, how I'm spending my time. I want to make this whole effort entirely worthwhile, and I want to make him proud of me, and there's really no need to keep these two goals apart.

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