Last year, I wrote a post about what I wanted from my academic future. I cockily ended that post with “I’m sure I won’t change my mind!” – I should have spotted the potential for irony. Although arguably, I’m not changing my mind. I’m not regretting the decision I made at the time. It’s just that new information and experiences have arisen, and now I am making a new, different decision.
I’ve almost finished the first year of my distance-learning degree, which means it’s time to choose the modules for my second year. A few weeks back, I was in a bit of a crisis about the decision. I was torn (as I have been for most of my life) between psychology and physics/maths.
I say physics/maths, because they are in the same category to me. They fit together and they belong together, and it’s the combination of the two that I’m interested in. Psychology, on the other hand, does not fit together with them. They are two very incompatible subject areas. And don’t bother trying to find a compromise, either. I don’t care about “the psychology of the universe” or “the statistics behind psychology”. I am interested in them in two extremely different, separate, and irreconcilable ways.
Then I had something of an epiphany. I realised that, while I am interested in both areas, I only feel a need to contribute to existing knowledge of psychology. I want to gain new information about autism, and improve the way that people understand it. Whereas I just want to learn about physics. Seeing as my ideal career (in either subject) involves higher study and eventually research, it makes sense that I should choose the one I feel the need to contribute to.
But, then, not long after that epiphany, I had another one – sort of. I watched The Theory Of Everything (the film about Stephen Hawking). And I was overcome with the urge to be a physicist. Everything about the film just made me think “this is the kind of life I should have” and “those are the people I belong with” and “these are the things I need to learn about”. I was reminded just how strongly I feel about physics, in a way that I’ve never felt about psychology. I realised that there’s no point in going with a ‘practical’ choice if it goes against the way I actually feel about the options.
There’s also the fact that it’s possible for me to spend time contributing to psychology without getting a PhD and being a researcher. I’m doing that right now! I am blogging, surveying, working on a book, and I’m about to become an assistant presenter for educational courses about autism. By virtue of my own autisticality, I am already a kind of psychology expert. I don’t need to worry about losing touch with my interest in psychology. I’m always going to be autistic and it’s always going to be relevant.
Whereas I have been reminded that it is worryingly easy for me to lose touch with my interest in physics. My science module this year finished slightly earlier than my psychology module. And in the few weeks since I finished studying it, I am already missing it! But it’s difficult to stay involved in science at the level I am interested in, without formally studying it. I am going to carry on blogging and writing and thinking about autism no matter what else I’m doing with my life. But if I really want to be involved in physics, then I have to actually make it happen.
So, I’m making it happen! I’m switching to a specific Maths + Physics joint honours degree, and I’m going to be a physicist.