Passion, and a Lack Thereof

Zack Fogarty

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This year I learned about passion, not through some outside lens, making observations on someone else’s life, but through my own experience. I discovered areas of academia that I can wake up and be excited for, rather than just make it through.

I don’t want to offend any of my previous teachers, and it’s very possible that this is just a result of maturity, but until this year, nearly every single one of my classes has been more of an obstacle than anything else. For my history classes, learning has always felt more like cramming; the only time I’d be caught textbook in hand was during the days prior to a test. If I had studied a week in advance I’m confident that the information would have flown out my ears by the test date. Now, if you asked me anything about the history curriculum from 6th-10th grade the only thing I’d be able to tell you about is the Mongol conquest of Asia: how stirrups and drinking horse blood led to the decimation of the world population. And anything I’ve learned about politics would have come from watching Steven Crowder analyze and systematically destroy liberal ideology.

My English classes over the years have no doubt made me a better writer (who knew that writing essays at 8pm the night before was actually an effective learning strategy), but if you had asked me about grammar, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything besides the definition of a “noun”. It wasn’t until my 4 month ACT crusade that I actually learned proper grammar. It’s a topic that we’re never taught thoroughly in school but are still expected to know. What I’ve learned about philosophy and the human condition hasn’t come from the legend of Holden Caulfield and his trademark red hat but rather through social experience and my sporadic youtube track history, ranging from videos on Plato’s greatest contributions, to videos that could be described as nothing other than an actual existential crisis.

The only class prior to Junior year that I had sincerely looked forward to was studio art. I can’t say I learned much from an academic standpoint, but Mr Sandler’s whims combined with his passion for art gave me a real way to consistently enjoy coming to school. Despite the chaos of an art classroom, sitting on the potter’s wheel, half covered in clay, trying to make something that resembles an urn, was arguably my closest shave with nirvana.

My passion for advanced mathematics is almost ironic. Calculus especially is historically a class that can make even the most dedicated student want to divide himself by 0, but the way that it connects to every aspect of mathematics and science is, needless to say, amazing. There are so many aspects of advanced mathematics that are quite literally out of this world, like the complex number “i” and how e^πi somehow equals -1, not to mention how many infinite ways there are to go about doing the same problem. A lot of people label mathematics as having an utter lack of creativity but I find myself more creatively endowed through the language of math than the language with which I now write.

I’ve always had a knack for the scientific areas of academia, though, up until this year I never actually thought I would use any of the knowledge I picked up in my many science classes, but if math is a language then physics is its translator to the real world. Nearly every single interaction that happens on or off God’s green Earth can be described and calculated by physics, and the vast majority of the subject is intuitive and without memorization. Even the history of physics is entertaining; Isaac Newton, for example, not only discovered gravity but dabbled in the pseudoscience of alchemy, wrote 169 books on the topic, and, despite being a scientist, was a bible fanatic, writing more on religion than he ever wrote about physics.

My parents always told me I’d have to try a handful of things I dislike before I’d find something that I could grow a passion for, but it’s hard to believe that it took 16 years to find a serious academic topic that doesn’t feel like a conglomerate of busy work.