I earned my Associate of Arts at Portland Community College in 2011. Transferred to University of California, Berkeley to work toward a degree in Linguistics. Withdrew three months later for a lot of well-intended reasons, but mostly because I fell in love. Moved to Seattle. Fumbled through a few classes here and there, but ultimately abandoned any dreams of getting my Bachelor’s. Of earning a university degree.
Most of that was because I couldn’t see my own future. Couldn’t see a time when I would need or really want anything enough to spend years working for it. Never imagined I’d be around long enough to earn it anyway. Like most things in life, I just couldn’t motivate myself to care. Depression is sneaky like that. So often it comes wrapped up in apathy.
But lately I’ve been thinking about it again. Not because I’m unhappy with where I am in life right now. I love my job, my partner, my apartment. Not because I feel like I need a degree to feel good about who I am. Not even because I want to make my parents proud. Instead of all the usual reasons, it’s because I really want to learn as much as I can about something. Want to stretch and grow. Want to expand. It’s not the destination, but all the little pieces on the way. The only thing that sounds fascinating from the beginning and truly never ends.
As soon as I realized I understood I’d known what my major is supposed to be since my senior year of high school. When Fred Baumgartner took over my sixth period and changed the way I view an entire subject: mathematics.
After that it was Mark Brosz. Then Bryan Johns. It took three teachers for me to finally get that it wasn’t just a fluke. Some amazing luck that I’d had three people make something seem fascinating. That helped, of course, but the real reason was because I love this subject.
When preparing to go back to school the last time, I brushed up on my pre-calculus for my placement test. I spent hours solving equations for a month and never felt bored or frustrated by it. No matter how hard to figure it always had a solution (even if that solution was undefined). I took graph paper and a textbook on my honeymoon to Hawaii and did math on the beach while my then husband read. I’d never been more content. Haven’t really been since.
Yes, I’m still awful at simple arithmetic. Yes, it probably takes me longer than a lot of people to figure things out. But math makes sense. It makes me happy. It makes me want for a future. And I can’t imagine anything more important than that.