I took French for five years. I loved the decoding, the slow steps, the paragraphs that seemed so impossibly foreign one moment and so fascile just a few short months later. The entire process was a beautiful mystery to me, how my brain could learn to read, listen, and speak in an entirely new way. I also found it a little sad. There was some sweet, lonely mystery in staring at words and punctuation which held so very much but I could only appreciate the way the letters and symbols strung themselves across the page. There was part of me that liked being left in the dark.
This love of mystery prompted me, my first day of chemistry, to stare at the copy of the periodic chart that had just been passed across to me in a giant stack of unruly papers. I took a clear moment to focus on the signs and symbols in a purely abstract way. I shut of all outside sense as my own voice rung clear in my head, “Enjoy this. Enjoy the abstract. Because by the end of the hour this will look entirely different. You will never be able to enjoy this and not understand anything.”