Today is my 29th birthday, so it seemed kind of fitting to finish today my story of learning mathematics. Obviously, this is by no means a finished story. I still have a lot to learn and I hope to continue learning mathematics my whole life. This is however the story of how I got to where I am today.
This blog entry is a continuation of the post: It's Never Too Late to Start. My Story of Learning Math - Part I.
In the part I, I finished at the moment when I decided - once again - to switch majors.
I finally had my "advanced" high school mathematics exam passed, so now I could apply to any of the STEM subjects I wanted. My grade from the exam wasn't great, but it was enough to attempt getting accepted into one of those majors.
Initially I was thinking about applying for mathematics. I was however unsure if I will get admitted, so I decided to also apply for computer science. It seemed like a degree that was math-focused enough, with lots of logic and theoretical subjects.
In the end I got admitted to both of them. I decided to go with computer science, just because I thought that this time, after studying cultural studies and philosophy, it would be a good idea to choose something more practical at least once in my life.
I had never programmed before, but I quickly got very interested in it. I was working hard in my initial programming classes and soon enough writing code became a second nature to me. In fact it became boring to only write terminal programs that calculate something, so I started learning web development, because I wanted to create "real" programs.
My first semester went well, but after that my grades started getting worse and worse. To be honest, I had other things in my mind back then, like partying and dating girls. I was still fascinated with math and theoretical computer science, but you couldn't tell that by my grades at all.
I started coming to the computer science building before classes and staying after classes, to work by myself on the subjects. That is also when I started to use resources in English, because I felt they were easier for self study than the Polish ones.
But my grades were still far from perfect. I also really wanted to start working. I was already 24 years old and I was still dependent on my parents. So I started looking for work in web development and soon I landed my first programming job.
At the beginning I had tried to combine studying and working, but it just wasn't feasible. So I decided that working was more important to me. I loved having my own money and all the freedom that it gave me and I did not wanted to give up on that.
So I dropped out (for the third time!) from the university. For the next year or so I was just working as a web developer. I got promoted from junior to mid, I got a significant raise and I moved out from my parents house. Things seemed to go very well for me. But I started realizing, I am not really happy. Something was missing and I quickly understood what it was.
So I came up with a new plan. I would switch from web development to machine learning. Machine learning jobs require both programming and math skills, so it seemed like a job created for me.
At the beginning I intended to study on my own, but I quickly discovered that there is a part-time math degree program (with classes on the weekends) in the city near to where I lived. So I decided to give it a shot. I applied, I got admitted and just like that, at the age of 26 I was studying again. My fourth degree...
At the beginning I traveled on the weekends to the city where the courses were and still lived in my hometown. But this quickly became tiring. So I decided to move. It was quite exciting for me. It was the first time I would live somewhere else than my hometown.
I moved, I found a web development job in the new city and after 2,5 years of studying I have achieved my goal. I got a job as a junior data scientist, where I would do machine learning and other mathematical and statistical stuff.
This is where I am right now.
I still however have a degree to get. My math bachelors takes 3 years and I am just about to finish it. So lately I decided to focus on studying more and when I was looking for good resources to review some topics, I realized it would be amazing to have one place, where free (and legal!) mathematics resources are listed. That's how this website was born.
I don't know what I will do after getting my bachelors. I definitely keep fantasizing about getting a PhD, but I am not sure if this is really what I end up doing. I would love to continue working on this website, to create a place where people like me - whose story of learning mathematics is more complicated than usual - can find help and support.
I am not a "successful" mathematician by any means. Hell, I am not even a mathematician really. But I hope my story proves to you, that you can start studying mathematics, on the university or on your own, no matter who you are and what your previous background is. Will it be difficult? Of course! It was never meant to be easy! Will it take you a long time? It doesn't matter! You can see it is taking me ages, and I simply don't care and keep pushing forward.
Remember that when you study difficult topics in math, you might think you are alone among all those geniuses around you.
You are not.