Though it gave me trouble growing up, I was lucky to learn different languages in childhood. Languages fascinate me, and the early start helped me when it was time to acquire others. I reckon my abilities as follows:
- My parents met when my father was in the Navy. Two years later, I came along, two weeks late.
- I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, spending my summers in Gaeta, Italy.
- My parents believed in the importance of a well-rounded individual, so I learned to play music, including the trumpet and the piano. I never quite learned the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata back then, but I remedied that recently.
- I was one of the last paperboys, and at one point was running 3 different morning routes simultaneously. That was not a good week, but the rest of the two to three years I did that was great. There's a lovely stillness to the world at 4am, that I just can't put into words.
- Some people fall in easily with others; I fall out easily. I discovered at a young age that I didn't fit in.
- When the personal computers came onto the scene, I was immediately fascinated, and quickly frustrated. It took me a long time to take to programming.
I've also surprised myself by deciphering the occasional Portuguese. One day I'd like to learn Greek, German, Arabic, and Hebrew, but I doubt I'll get there.
- English (obviously)
- Italian (fluent)
- Russian (very basic conversations)
- Latin (reading, with a dictionary handy (classical and ecclesiastical))
- Spanish (slowly and unreliably)
- French (can translate)
- Esperanto (used to read, now forgotten)
- Hilton Elementary School, a traditional alternative school. We learned to raise our hands before we asked or answered questions. The world would be a better place if such politeness were common, but it isn't, and I still have trouble getting past that. The structure was almost certainly beneficial to me.
- Booker T. Washington Middle School, a traditional alternative school. See above. I had both my first pen pal, and my first disappointment when it ended.
- Warwick High School, my “neighborhood” public high school, a “majority minority” high school. I had black classmates in elementary and middle school, but here the ratio was reversed. Alas, the ratio reversed yet again in the advanced classes I took, though our valedictorian was a very smart black girl. I played in the marching band for three years, and played soccer for a couple of years, but that “fitting in” issue arose with a vengeance by my senior year.
- Virginia Governor's School for Math and Science, in Blacksburg, Virginia. I belonged in the pond, but was nevertheless a fish out of water.
- Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Math Education.
- Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. I went here to get away from the allergen-rich climate of Virginia, and it worked wonders for me. I fell in love with northern Arizona, and grew mathematically in their program, though not as much as I should have; I grew discouraged too quickly. I graduated with a Master's degree in mathematics, thinking that a doctorate was not for me.
- University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. This is a major Catholic seminary, and at the time I was convinced that this was my path. It was one of the happiest periods of my life, but I ended it when I realized that “real-life” diocesan priesthood would be very different. I may well have done better as a conventual friar or monk, but somehow I never managed to make the final step back into a program.
- North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Increasingly intrigued by the notion of doing symbolic mathematics on computers, I wanted to study symbolic computation, also called “computer algebra”. It took me a good while to warp my mind around how one does research; I had no trouble with the book work, but couldn't seem to make progress on my research problem. I remained here for about six years. I finally graduated with a PhD, and thought with relief that I was finally done with research.