NOTE: The following was a post I typed a while ago, before I decided to remain in computer science. I thought I’d post it here, just in case there are other people out there with whom my words might resonate.
I’ve now withdrawn from CS 240 and CS 251 (shame! boo!). I’ll be continuing this term with MATH 245, PMATH 352, and CS 241. It was a fun ride, and I learned a lot of interesting things, but I think I’ve reached a conclusion: I will no longer study computer science. *Crowd silence*…
Although I’ve withdrawn from those courses, I haven’t officially dropped the major yet. Am I really going to give up on CS? I’ve been repeating that phrase in my head over and over for several hours now. So why am I leaning towards dropping CS as a major? The reasons follow, in arbitrary order.
First off, I’m an odd person. I can’t deal with reality. I can’t deal with the fact that in the real world, not everything is pure and theoretical. Not everything is the way it is for a mathematically indisputable reason. Let’s consider computer science: Programming languages. Network protocols. File formats. Standards, in general. These are all things people have come up with, and there is no sure-fire pattern behind their composition: there is a lack of naturality, a lot of arbitrary choices that have been made. It feels ugly, like the way it felt when I was forced to do paper-mâché as a kid. When I started out in CS 251, I didn’t realize immediately that I had to deal with this, but it slowly became apparent. This weird characteristic of mine manifests itself in virtually every aspect of my life, from the way I talk to the way I eat or prepare food. Maybe I suffer from OCD or something, but I think that’s only a small part of it.
Computer science is not only theoretical computer science. As a friend of mine pointed out, “sufficiently theoretical computer science is indistinguishable from pure mathematics”. I agree with him here, and this remark made me think about whether I truly liked CS, or whether I only thought I did because of the particular branches of it that “resembled” pure math. I don’t know if I can warrant doing “decently well” in a double major program when I could be doing significantly better with only one major. I’m afraid of getting crappy marks in courses I find uninteresting, and I’m afraid of the impact that may have on my prospects of attending graduate school in pure mathematics.
I also miss having a decent amount of time to sit around and just think about interesting conjectures, try to prove them, etc. To me, marks aren’t exorbitantly important; sure, it would be great to get on some Dean’s Honours list, but I’m not going to turn into an insane zealot just to push myself that extra 2% or so. I’d rather spend my spare time thinking about things I find interesting. Marks, for the most part, are just something I seek so I can keep doing what I enjoy.