I am, thank God, not insane enough to go for a double major (though I still have most of my college career in front of me.) My English major is... it's not easy, but it's certainly not a challenge for me. I started out reading the hardest books I could find. When I really got into reading, back in sophomore year of high school, two of my first extracurricular reads were Moby-Dick and Atlas Shrugged. So, when I moved through the grades and finally breached headlong into college, reading the Great Gatsby (for the third or fourth time) for a 300 level course really wasn't much of a challenge.
Having written a good four or five or six or seven... many times more than most 21 year olds have (or most 40 year olds... most people) I have no problem banging out paper after paper after paper. It's a challenge, but I'm well adapted. I'm majoring in my natural state - a book worm and an obsessive writer.
Then, like the fool I am, I discovered a second passion which challenged my first. I love the brain! I really do love neuroscience. Fortunately, after taking my first neuro class in high school, I tapped the shallow well of literature on neuroscience, reading a couple Oliver Sacks books and a wonderful, almost self-help book called The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (I think) and then letting my obsession fall to the back burner while I focussed on further refining my English abilities.
Then, after a year and a half in college, what do I realize? I've almost finished my English major. I binged English classes. I have that rare, precious thing - free time... an opportunity for another course. A second course. Reenter the periodic obsession.
I start reading online literature. I start reading chapters out of my old text book. I read A User's Guide to the Brain by Ratey. But it's not enough. So I decide to take classes. It's not enough. I'm a cognitive science minor in the psych department. I hope this is enough - this is possibly the only thing that could take the place of the goal I've had since the age of seven (to become some sort of novelist.) There were moments when I was inches from becoming a "science" student as opposed to an "English" student, though I think I could do both.
No amount of novel-reading (or even non-fiction reading) could have prepared me for the kind of reading I have to do in the classes I'm taking this semester. Well, no, not classes. One class I am in, very simply titled Perception is already challenging me beyond what any of my comfort-zone English classes could (except for maybe Shakespeare.)
I've just finished reading about the eye. Sure, in that high school class we did a lot of work on the sensory organs - but this shit is hard. Giving a damn, actually wanting to know something - not just for school / good grades, but out of a genuine desire for knowledge - is exhausting.
Satisfying! It takes me about three or four hours to read a single chapter in my text book, Sensation and Perception, whereas, had I been reading a novel for that period of time, unless it was Russian literature, I could have pounded through half the book. 30 pages in three hours. Flash cards, notes, underlining, and an online test...? Is this that other me? If I hadn't been turned on to writing back in the third grade would I have become a lab-rat, a science junky?
Would I be happier?
Would I be more successful?
I am neither unhappy nor am I unsuccessful, but there is always that "what if" itchy question scratching at my thoughts. Might it have been better if I had abandoned Rand and Melville in favor of Darwin, Dawkins, Pinker, and Sacks? Why do I feel that I can't do both!? Where is it written that I can't be some sort of neuroscientist and be a novelist? Nowhere. Why do I think that there is some edict against dual direction? Time! I only have so much time - not so much in school, but in life. School is direct. I know exactly what to do because administrators, councilors, and teachers all tell me what to do. Real life isn't so forward. I feel as though I have a one track mind. So, which way? Novelist or neurologist? I think I still need some time to figure that out.