Happily, the bronchitis went away after a course of antibiotics, but I still remember the nightmare. I cannot recall having had a nightmare in recent times, and this has therefore remained in my memory. I still think about that situation with a shudder as I remember the sense of betrayal and hopelessness that it created in me.
I was thinking today about a couple of things that made me feel like a misfit, and I recognised a certain interesting pattern.
In 1992, I went back to do an M.Tech. degree in Computer Science after 5 years of working in the IT industry, I had a definite problem area that I wanted to do my thesis in. I had felt the need for a better design tool for database designers than the classical Entity-Relationship Modelling approach. The traditional ERM approach resulted in the simplest data model that reflected the application domain's data structure, but often needed tweaking for performance under real-life usage because it was a relatively simplistic design. My enhanced technique aimed to utilise information relating to the way that data would be accessed (such as the number of records impacted by queries, the frequency of access, the degree of overlap in the records affected by two queries, etc.), so that the designer could receive automatic recommendations for the most appropriate performance-enhancing strategies.
The tool would effectively enable a novice designer to come up with designs that would perform as well in the real-world as those produced by more experienced ones, because it would encompass the kinds of considerations that they made.
However, there was a troubling aspect to this exercise. I noticed two simultaneous problems with the technique I had developed. One of the professors on my thesis evaluation committee gave me a hard time because my work did not meet his exacting standards. I had merely illustrated my method's efficacy using a few examples, but had not offered a theoretically rigorous proof of its correctness. Back at work in my old company, I found that while my colleagues expressed mild interest in what I had done, none showed much enthusiasm about applying my method on their own projects. A couple of people told me that they found it "too theoretical".
I had fallen between two stools - My work was not rigorous enough for academia, and not practical enough for industry.