by Brandon Summers | March 2016
Math is hard. That is a universally accepted truth. But I like hard, and I like solving problems. Calculus is definitely is the epitome of hard, yet I got an A in Calculus III during the second semester of my sophomore year. I performed well in most lower level math courses (and in school in general). Irregardless of the difficulty, I enjoyed the courses and I had a lot of confidence. I had momentum moving into my junior year of college.
That all changed when I took Theory of Numbers my junior year at Fort Valley (Fall 2008). I’m okay with being out of my comfort zone, but this class was altogether foreign, difficult, and uninteresting. I could barely stay awake during lecture or stay focused while doing homework. I managed to pass with a C. I was under the impression that this course was just an outlier. My confidence remained intact. But when I took Advanced Calculus the next semester, it was apparent that this stuff was not going away. It was a disaster— a kidney shot. My confidence began to erode and then shatter. I got an F in this course, my first ever. Ironically, I passed the other three courses I was taking with an A. I was now a senior in college— a depressed, disillusioned, and apathetic senior.
I still had an opportunity to graduate on time. At this point, I told myself that I could just muscle through the last year of my major. All I had left was Chemistry I, Chemistry II, Linear Algebra I, Linear Algebra II, Advanced Calculus (again), Complex Variables, and Abstract Algebra.
I took Linear Algebra I and Chemistry I at UNLV. I barely passed Linear Algebra I, but failed Chemistry. I was hobbled with depression the entire time.
When I arrived back on campus Fall 2009, I was a mess. I was emotionally detached from myself and reality. I still had my scholarship and was in good academic standing, so I just went through the motions. I passed Chemistry II and Circuits I, but failed Complex Variables and Abstract Algebra. At this point it was impossible to graduate on time; and fortunately, that didn’t bother me much, honestly. Coincidentally, my core circle of friends slowly evaporated around this time. This was punctuated by an unexpected breakup— It was a rough time.
With the pressure of graduating lifted, the second half of my senior year wasn’t so bad emotionally. I still struggled with depression, but I had enough going on socially that it didn’t stop me from enjoying what I believed to be my last semester at Fort Valley. I still struggled academically and only passed two of the five math courses I attempted. I ended up leaving Fort Valley just four classes shy of graduation. All I had left was Advanced Calculus, Abstract Algebra, Linear Algebra II, and Chemistry I. It seemed totally manageable at the time. I was upset, but held my chin high.