Volcanic ash

I used to watch the Discovery Channel or National Geographic with my parents sometimes. It was on one of these channels that I saw a programme about volcanoes. There was a professor — I think he was a professor at Toronto — who was mentioned — you could give him volcanic ash and he could apparently study it and tell you where it came from. I think that’s pretty amazing. I mean, how many people can do that?

But what’s the point in being able to tell which volcano some ash came from? some people might ask. To be honest, I don’t know, but that’s because I’m ignorant in all things to do with volcanoes. Maybe it doesn’t do much, even to those with volcanic know-how, but I still find it admirable. He has a piece of real knowledge that most people don’t have, and even if it’s a tiny piece in the great big picture, it’s a piece nonetheless. This is his niche, what he knows, and no one can take that away from him. And I bet he loves what he does, or he wouldn’t have got so far in his research in the first place.

In the long run, most people won’t be able to rock the boat of knowledge as we know it. But everyone can bring a small something to the puzzle. That professor’s piece might seem insignificant to some people because they’re only looking at it as one single piece. Six billion pieces of the puzzle, however, is a lot, and there are all the billions of pieces that the people who lived and died before us brought to make the picture clearer. And he has a firm hold on one piece.

I’m jealous. I want to find my volcanic ash. I want to find something that I’m really good at and that I love more than anything else. It’s only the second week of classes and I’m already questioning whether I really want to do English after all. This, for me, is a very scary concept. I have never genuinely doubted my dedication to this subject; when I was applying for university, I thought briefly about other subjects, but I always skipped back to English. And, of all the subjects I’d ever tried in secondary school, I do love it best, but now I’m in university, everything has suddenly expanded many times over. There are so many things that I want to try, I can’t possibly do them all. (I mean, I never thought I’d have any interest in agriculture whatsoever until I went to the UBC Farm. Go figure.) What if the love-of-my-life-subject-wise is something I never get around to trying? Then how do I know if what I’m doing is the right thing?

This doubting could all be a temporary phase; I might just be very excited about my new classes, and it will pass. I’m wary about making major decisions in the first flush of excitement. On the other hand, I’m scared of being a stick-in-the-mud and refusing to do something I might possibly love even more, just because I’m questioning if this is a temporary thing. Of course I have lots of time to decide — thank goodness majors aren’t declared until third year — but it’s rather queer to be so insecure about what I once thought I knew was certain.

Growing up, all I’ve managed to conclude is that I’d rather not be a teacher if I can help it, and that I’m not even sure if what I’m studying is what I really want to be doing. I want to be small again. Being one was fabulous.

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