Frustration, or Somebody’s got a case of the Tuesdays

This is going to be an entry about my algebraic topology class.

My previous topology classes were taught by someone who’s amazing <i>as a mathematician</i>. Most people in the class would agree, however, that this person was someone who was terrible as an instructor: Somehow, I made it through a graduate sequence of coursework despite receiving terrible grades throughout. This happened despite my spending 50+ hours a week on every homework assignment and slaving until I was on the verge of breakdown week in and week out. Somehow, I got a B.

My topology experience thus far is certainly not one of my finest achievements.

Fast forward to now and I’m in an algebraic topology class taught by someone who’s amazing. Amazing. Not amazing <i>insert quantifier here</i>, no – this person is simply amazing. And this topic is beautiful. And this class is hard.

This class is hard, too, despite the fact that we have no continual responsibilities. Indeed, we have zero homework whatsoever: Not required problems to turn in, not required problems to keep, not even suggested problems for our benefit. We simply have <i>zero homework</i> in this class. That’s a huge relief after last semester.

What we <i>do have</i>, though, are exams. We have three of them, and I have zero doubt now (nor have I had doubt at any point this semester) that my ass will be kicked by each and every one.

As a result, I’m working hard.

A week-ish ago, I spent some time going through the preliminary parts of the stuff we’re talking about (homology theory). I did examples, I spent lots of time drawing pictures, and I didn’t stop until I got it.

That’s right: A week-ish ago, I <i>got it</i>.

Today, however, I’m sitting in my office, frustrated and almost-defeated, blogging to you all and mourning the fact that a lot has apparently changed in the last week-ish. 

Today, I just don’t get it.

If I were to make a list here cataloging the number of screw-ups I made trying to solve one problem over the course of about 20 hours, I’d be (a) making a really long list and (b) really <i>really</i> embarrassed.

I’m really <i>really</i> embarrassed right now.

Finally, after re-reading and re-re-reading Hatcher, I found source 1 of my confusion. Later, after consulting the online resources of mathematicians greater than myself (case in point here), I found the remaining sources of my confusion.

The upside is that now I’m no longer confused. On the other hand, the fact that I was as confused as I was (and about such basic material as that happened to be) makes me really <i>really</i> uneasy moving forward.

I need an intervention.

In the meantime, I’m going to try to dust myself off, hit the salt mines yet again, and lose my frustrations in the never-ending cycle of Lana del Rey that’s been permeating through my office for the past couple hours.

3 weeks, 2 days.

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