Re: A first time hello from Alaska!

Lyle Burkhead (
Sat, 10 Apr 1999 00:23:06 -0700

Hi John, welcome to the list. Apparently you think we have something to offer, and you are right. There are ways to deal with all the problems you mention.

You say

> Originally I wanted to wanted to start college
> by taking an intensive remedial program to bone up
> on the academic basics. But I tested high
> so they strongly recommended that I go into deeper waters.

You tested high, but then when you get in a classroom you can't learn. One way to solve this problem is to stay out of classrooms! I have a similar problem -- I can do just about anything, unless somebody stands over me and says "Can you do it?" Then I freeze up. This must go back to some early trauma with my dad. So I just avoid situations where I have somebody standing over me. Likewise, you should avoid situations where you have a teacher grading you. Seek out situations where you "test high."

There may be a lot of things you can't do, but there is one thing you do very well. You would be amazed at how many college graduates can't write two consecutive sentences that make sense. You have written several pages. I noticed a couple of typos, but apart from that your essay made sense. You may be a slow learner, but after 31 years you have learned to write. That's a talent that's worth money in any big city. It doesn't matter how long it took to learn, and it doesn't matter if you have a hard time learning other things such as martial arts or math. One talent is enough. Use it.

You don't have to passively accept your situation. For example, you could move to a city that has public transportation. In San Francisco, for about $35 a month you can get a pass that's good on all buses and subways in the city. That will solve your mobility problem. Similar passes are probably available in Seattle and Portland, I don't know. (As far as that goes, I'll bet you could drive just fine if you didn't have to take a driver's ed class. It's not that you can't do things, it's just that you can't do things *in class.* ) Any of these three cities will offer *vastly* more opportunity than Anchorage. There are also a lot more women in all those cities, many of whom don't care if you're broke. Hawaii would be all right too. Anything is better than staying where you are.

John Conway, the mathematician who invented the "Life" game, was a shy nerd in high school. He had no social life. When he got on the train to go to Cambridge, he thought: "When I get there, nobody will know me. If I adopt a new persona, nobody will know that I'm putting on an act." So when he arrived in Cambridge, he pretended to be confident and outgoing. It was difficult for the first few days, but people made allowances -- he's new here, he's getting adjusted. He persisted, and sure enough, within a few weeks he had adopted a whole new personality, and nobody knew what he had done. His friends at Cambridge thought he had always been that way.

What if you *pretended* to be a fast learner with a can-do attitude? Would anybody know? You would know you were just pretending, but that would be your secret. As long as you're not in a classroom, you can pull it off.

John, get out of Anchorage. It's a big world out here. Once you start making changes, you will find your passion. Your old life in Alaska will fade away like a bad dream that you can hardly even remember.