(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Wondering if I dropped off the face of the Internet? Still here, but was limiting most of my Internet visits to searching for references for my most recent work project. And, boy, did I need references!

I realize that you’ve probably heard me yammering about the value of the liberal arts and how important I think it is to study a variety of subjects. I really do try to live the liberal arts; however, I do have to admit that some subjects are natural fits for me, while others continue to be a bit of a struggle.

But struggle is good for the brain, right? And my brain should be so much fitter than it has been after the last two weeks of proofreading a chemistry textbook.

Yes, chemistry was the course that derailed my quest for becoming valedictorian. You could say that chemistry was the teacher that started me on the road to understanding that education is not about the marks you get, but about what you learn. You can struggle with the concepts of a subject, but still learn quite a lot about what they mean, even if you don’t have the aptitude or desire to learn more.

Despite having a father who was a pharmacist and despite having a high school lab partner who is a big name on the Genome Project, my understanding is not as developed as I’d like. I was really glad my son Jackson was available to help me with some of my questions—even if I was asking more for my own understanding than for what was needed from me in the scope of the assignment. Finally I had to concede that I was letting past emotions get in the way of the work—I acted as if I personally had to know how to solve the equations even though my job was simply to look for discrepancies. People with deeper knowledge than mine had done that work—and I could check their work by using references.

After my asking several questions, Jackson said, “You really don’t get this (chemistry) like you do most things, do you?”

No, but I got it enough not to be bored while working through the textbook—which shows that I am much more interested in learning for learning’s sake than I was when I was chasing grades. It’s safe to say that while I am much better at understanding the theoretical aspects of beginning chemistry now that I am older, I am still not likely to understand the hows as well as I understand the whys.

I’m still not going to grow up to be a chemist—and that’s OK.

“What’s next?” you ask. Astronomy, baby. Seems my (lifetime) liberal arts education is taking a decided trend away from the arts and toward the sciences right now. To infinity and beyond! Yup, the sky’s the limit—or limitless—or something like that—and all sorts of other metaphors I won’t even pretend to understand. If you don’t hear from me for awhile, it will only seem as if I have fallen into a black hole.

Odds of my growing up to be an astronomer? As likely as odds of my becoming a chemist—which is zilch. Odds of stretching my brain? Somewhere further on the spectrum of possible than if I just stick with what I already know.