Back to My Roots

Trinity College Library
Trinity College Library by Nic McPhee

I was a nerdy, bookish child–the kind who got As (if not always straight As; a B or two might slip in, but nothing less than a B), the kind who read under the bedcovers with a flashlight after I was supposed to be asleep. It felt like there was so much to know and I couldn’t seem to soak it up fast enough.

My parents are to blame, of course. They read to me at bedtime from before I can remember, probably before I understood the words. I knew the alphabet when I started kindergarten and then taught myself to read. (I’d memorized the picture books and matched the words to the pictures.)

My Mom would take time to answer any question I asked, and if she didn’t know the answer (“Why is the sky blue?”) we’d go to the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia and try to find out. She was also fascinated by the space program which probably contributed to my curiosity. It didn’t really click until, nine years of age, I stayed up late to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon.

Dad contributed. After he introduced my younger brother and me to baseball, he began to explain the statistics. Long before my class studied percentages I could calculate a batting average, won-lost average, or even an earned run average.

By the time somebody at school told me girls aren’t “supposed” to like math and science, I was getting As in both—and had seen men walk on the moon, seen Earthrise, and figured the earned run averages of every Mets pitcher.

It continued in college. I started as a chemistry major, realized my career as a research chemist wouldn’t go anywhere when I was always the first person to be sick or stoned in organic chemistry lab, and switched to an English major. Only people who didn’t know me thought this was odd.

So when I looked at suggested topics for this month’s Blogger Love project, “Back to School” jumped out at me. Except I have a suspicion I’ve never really left school. Left formal education, certainly. That drastic change of majors required and extra semester to earn my degree and by then I was ready to get out of the classroom and do something. But I wasn’t ready to stop learning.

I didn’t stop learning. Years later—last year, in fact—I combined that baseball stats/chemistry major geeky with the English major who enjoys reading and writing and started this blog. The name Circle of Ignorance came from a friend’s e-mail to me in which he wrote, “So we all have a circle of knowledge and on the circumference is our exposure to ignorance.” In my first post I wrote, “We not only learn things we didn’t know before, we learn of things we didn’t even know existed before. The more answers I get, the more new questions I discover.”

As a Baby Boomer I’ve witnessed amazing things in my life: men walking on the Moon; technology that used to be available only to large business becoming accessible to almost anyone (faster and better, as well as cheaper); the end of the Cold War and now maybe a democracy movement in the Middle East and North Africa. I’ve seen some bad stuff, too. But for the most part my first half century has been an exhilarating show.

I thought about this a bit last week, sitting in an auditorium before a Social Media Week event began. I had my laptop open, tapping into the venue’s wi-fi. Around me were people in their 20s and 30s with iPads and smart phones—and suddenly I had the feeling that my laptop was just a little behind the curve. Ah, but so far ahead of where technology was even a decade ago!

I remember the first time I saw the Internet. We’d gotten connected at work and I started up Netscape on my desktop computer. It was like I’d died and discovered heaven is a terrific library—and the Web wasn’t nearly what it is today. But I could get so much information, so quickly, without visiting a library or worrying that somebody else was using that book. (I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if there is one I hope it’s like Dublin—all the books in the gorgeous gallery of Trinity College library, infinite time to read, with pubs and tea shops a short walk away when I want a break from reading.)

So the bookish little girl I used to be has grown up to be an explorer and a blogger. Back to school? Nope—I never left!

5 thoughts on “Back to My Roots

  1. Karen E. Lund March 13, 2011 / 5:09 pm

    You hate chemistry? May I remind you that your entire body is made of chemicals? (Yeah, but somehow we smell better than an organic chem lab.)

    It sometimes surprises me that I “meet” people virtually and then discover we have much in common, but I’m changing my thoughts on that. We are explorers–with books as children and now online as adults. Kids who grew up reading apparently become bloggers and readers of blogs… and sometimes we find one another.


  2. Paula Lee Bright March 13, 2011 / 6:35 am

    It seems, Karen, that we are exactly two of a kind. Every memory of the world that you have, I have. Every bookish reference could have been about me! My parents, too, taught us anything and everything we were interested in.

    No wonder we seem to have so much in common! Ooops—one caveat. I HATE chemistry! Sorry about that. I picture you so much more clearly in the scholar/reader/writer arena. Superb post!

    Enjoying @Heidi Cohen’s #BloggerLove game. :)


  3. Sherry February 17, 2011 / 11:42 am

    Oh, how I adore this post. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a dabbler in all types of learning. I’ve always leaned more toward what is considered the “creative” side of things, but was good at math and science, too. Now that I work at a science center, I see how creative the sciences really are.
    P.S. My husband would love you; he is a major baseball stat-head geek!


    • Karen E. Lund February 18, 2011 / 11:22 am


      Working at a science center sounds like a perfect job for a dabbler. (I worked at the American Museum of Natural History for many years.) Bridging the divide between artsy/creative and science/tech is interesting; I’ve sometimes found myself out-classed by the specialists, but love the generalist’s role in tying it together.

      Baseball is probably the most statistics-intense sport. In retrospect it’s amusing that my younger brother and I practically begged to learn harder math so we could understand more stats!

      Thanks for the comment,



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