It’s amazing the effect one person can have on a life.
When I started college, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I wasn’t really interested in anything until I took a linear algebra class. My professor was so passionate about the subject that it sparked the love of math in me. From then on, I found math incredibly interesting, and I wanted to learn everything about it. I declared my major that same semester. I decided I would go to graduate school, get a Ph.D., and stay in academia forever, all because of what I gained from my interactions with that one professor.
Then, in graduate school, I had an advisor who was not as supportive as I would have hoped. In hindsight, I think he was supportive in his own way, but our personalities and expectations of each other clashed. As a result, my confidence in my mathematical abilities was diminished, and my dreams of becoming a math professor faded. I stuck with it for three years and got a master’s degree, but in the end I felt I wasn’t cut out to be a mathematician. It’s difficult to say whether I would have been able to get a Ph.D. had I had a different advisor, but there’s no way to know.
Despite the struggles I had with my advisor (and with math in general), I look back on graduate school with only fond memories. The friends I made and all the good times we had trumped all the difficulties that came along. One friend in particular was always there to pick me up when I was down. I don’t think I would have been able to make it through graduate school without her friendship.
Whenever she needs me (and even when she doesn’t), I’ll always be there for her. Knowing there is at least one person always on your side can make all the difference.