A couple days ago, I received one of the best compliments I have heard in quite a while. I was chatting with my math advisor about my course of action for the rest of my time here. After discussion about graduate classes, TA opportunities, and so on, I made some comment expressing my concern about getting into the BA/MA program, to which my advisor replied, "Don't worry, I can tell you're one of us."
My urban upbringing was dancing inside my head to make me curse in joy, but I refrained at the time (although it is still ringing, and with a proper accent).
There are very few pleasures grater than or equal to that of when someone can see how passionate you are. It's sometimes hard to feel like I belong in the math department. I was looking over the list of grads in pure math and it seemed that the BA/MA is not populated by my demographic. So I have to show that I'm serious. It's just like at the comic con conventions: you have to prove that as a fanboy/fangirl, you are just as dedicated as cosplayers.
I've wanted to study mathematics professionally since the seventh grade when I got into a blistering fight with my teacher. She was coach of the math team I was on, and we generally got on well until one day we argued over the mathematical meaning of "or." It got fairly ugly. She told me that I didn't know what I was talking about because I was young and sent me across the hall. Needless to say, I quit the math team. But since that day, it became incredibly important that I learn as much math as I could, partly in order to show her that I knew what I was talking about. What was really cool was that when I went back to visit my middle school, she seemed to have forgotten about the whole incident. I told her that I was studying math and she got super excited. She then asked me to tutor some students and we now chat occasionally. I know that a lot of people are friends with their old teachers and can discuss all sorts of life stuff with them, but my favorite teachers are those that I have academic conversations with; simply because that's all we want to talk about.
Seriously, I geek out with my high school math teachers. It's pretty sweet.
Anyhow, back to what I tried to start on. I'm feeling pretty good after being told by a faculty member that I am one of "them." It means that someone can see that I adore what I do and am more interested in learning tons of new things than how my GPA looks; I've been in honors courses that have punched me in the face, but goodness, the things I've proved!
People think that the nicest things to say about me are, "You're cute!" or "You're really smart!" You know what I'm actually a sucker for? Tell me that you admire my excitement about non-Euclidean geometry (shameless plug: this class is fantastic and requires only basic high school geometry). Compliments don't have to be romantic; they're just an easy way to express, "Wow, you're a b.a.m.f."
You know what it means to be a b.a.m.f? Being A Mathematics Fanatic. (Okay, okay, I just made that up, but it sounded cool in my head. Looks stupid on paper, but eh, totally worth it.)