You know that part in Cryptonomicon where Bobby Shaftoe is explaining about how being in the military and having to take orders is actually a pretty swell arrangement? You know exactly what you're supposed to do, and then you do it, and then you're done. You don't have to worry about what the overall plan is, because that's the business of the person giving orders; if there's a big screw-up, it's their fault, not yours. You can rest easy knowing that you did your job. You are concerned with neither the levels above you nor the ones below.
I could understand and sympathize with all of that, because a lot of the time, that's exactly what I want. I just want someone to tell me what to do. I want you to give me a problem, small, big, whatever, just as long as it's self-contained, and tell me "Solve this" and then leave me with it. I can then invent whatever system I like to solve the problem, use anything I feel like using. You don't care because you don't want to hear from me again until it's solved, and that's fine because I'm not interested in talking to you again until it's solved, except maybe to get a couple of the tools I need.
The trouble with all of that is that none of the problems I'm given in life are ever self-contained, and nobody's ever willing to tell me exactly what to do. And that's why I have such a hard time with my music senior project. I hate doing independent projects. I just want to take a class with plain old regular lectures and exams and readings and discussions and homework assignments. The way it is now, I just don't know what is expected of me. There's no place in which the problem is clearly defined. Every time I try to pin it down, my adviser wriggles away from me, saying "or not" after everything as though he's worried that he's making it too frustrating of a problem. What he doesn't understand is that for me, the thing that makes it so frustrating is not that it's too hard, but that I don't know what "it" is! He made me make my own syllabus, and I was paralyzed for a good two weeks. Think how much I could have learned in two weeks if only I'd been taking a regular class. I dunno how to make a syllabus. I'm not a professor. And now he's not holding me to my own deadlines. I need him to say "I need such-and-such by such-and-such date", but he just won't. I had to make my own schedule for writing in my project journal. I decided on three times a week. Writing in the journal three times a week I can handle, but deciding on three was really difficult. I mean, how am I supposed to know how often is enough? Isn't he supposed to be the one with experience teaching? Why isn't he holding up his end of the teaching bargain? Isn't he supposed to know all about how journaling can help you learn, or not help you learn? How am I going to know if I'm putting too much time or not enough time into it? And that's just the journal -- that's not even the music I'm supposed to be writing. That's a total loss. There's a reason why the composition part of my project is going badly while the piano-lessons part of my project is going very well. My piano teacher understands how I am. He tells me exactly what he wants me to do, and I try to do it. And if it's good we move on, and if it's not good enough he tells me to work on it some more, and I do, and day by day we progress, and I've come a long way. But I'm not sure how much longer I can take the other crap.
The project's going better now than it was when I wrote that to myself a few days ago. I actually have one piece done now! Okay, so I'm supposed to have almost three done now, but still, this is huge, guys, huge.
I'm freaking out about school. I can't manage to catch up in one thing without falling behind in another, and it's more complicated because I'm also trying to think about CS grad schools. Not like I've been accepted to any. Or even applied. Or even finished any applications. Speaking of which, would someone mind letting me know what my research interests are? Thanks. 'ppreciate it.