When I first met Steve at Cal Poly he was switching out of electrical engineering into liberal studies to be a math teacher. When I asked him why, I remember him saying that he liked working with kids. I always wondered why he had started in electrical engineering though. I didn't have any idea about his background at that point. In fact, to be honest, I always knew he was a smart guy but it wasn't until he started his Masters at Texas A & M, where he competed against other math students like himself, that I really began to understand his exceptional abilities in math (that was about 7 years into our marriage!).
Now, when we talk about his undergrad years, he wishes he could go back and tell himself all that he could do with an engineering degree. He truly didn't know. He had not caught the vision of what his future would look like working on projects that utilized his skills and catered to the way his mind is built. He just really had no idea. He stayed in liberal studies for the year and a half that we were dating. He hated it. It was not the right fit for him. So the first quarter we were married, he switched into math and that was the degree he earned upon his graduation.
As I am sure you can imagine, this kind of path lends itself to a lot of baggage. Steve was young and didn't quite understand how his choices would affect his future. However, as time went on, it became clear that he hadn't made the best choices with regards to his education. And he regretted it-big time. He knew he had wasted a lot of his potential. He carried that regret around inside of him all the time. Often he would talk to me about it. I didn't know how to help him with it. I just prayed for him.
We started having children, he began his career in teaching and we still talked about those years. He ached inside to learn more math, to solve big problems but felt his opportunity to do so had flown past him. He would tell me how it felt like he was already forgetting what he learned in some of his classes at Cal Poly. He liked doing math and physics everyday for his job. But he wanted to be challenged. That's when he started talking to me about his masters. He had found Texas A & M's Masters in Mathematics program online.
We had two kids at the time. I thought it was impossible. But he kept at it-which was very surprising to me. I knew how school had gone for him the first time around. I was afraid of what it might look like with him working full-time and with us having children. As a result, in mind, it was risky and it was expensive. At the time, it was the only Masters in Mathematics program online. We put it off because I didn't think we could pay for it.
By the time Joshua was a baby though, Steve couldn't get it out of his mind. He had to go for it. He asked to just take their entrance exam to see if he could pass it. He had to get at least an 80% to put in his application. Of course I was in agreement. He got 100%. Then he said he wanted to take the GRE. I stepped out another step...he got a perfect score in the math! Thank the Lord for his test scores, for at the time, those test scores are what got him into Texas A & M. Without them, he probably would not have been accepted.
He did not start the masters with an intention to switch jobs. He liked teaching. He just wanted to do more math. And he really wanted to be challenged. Nevertheless, about two years before Steve graduated from Texas A & M, he started to change his mind. One of his friends from Cal Poly, an electrical engineer, told him, "You know, once you're done, you can do anything you want. Many companies out there want guys like you." He was right in the middle of the Numerical Analysis series at the time, which is pretty serious stuff. I remember him telling me, "This series will determine how I do in the program. If I can do well, then I know I'm going to make it just fine." They were only the 2nd and 3rd classes he took. And after tons of hard work, he got A's.
Steve didn't ever think a career change was possible. He thought his time had passed. Yet, the longer Steve was in school and the more success he had in his coursework, the more we both knew that he had to make a job change. He liked to teach. But he liked solving really big math problems much, much more. However, these types of changes don't happen over night...especially with lots of little people to feed. We had to be certain. And to be honest, we just didn't know the direction we were headed.
So...we were moving toward some sort of change. Where, when and doing what? We had no idea.
But we knew this-Great is God's faithfulness. He would be with us, every single step of the way. Plus, Steve had a great job. So we weren't in a hurry. We could take our time, let him finish up the program and in the meantime figure out the direction we were going.
In time we'd know.
In time we'd know.