I am so glad that I found the perfect graph paper notebooks in bulk on Amazon sometime a couple years ago. Spiral bound with perforated edges. That off-white color that makes you feel like a real mathematician. The perfect cardboard backing for taking notes while sitting sideways and writing on your knee. They are fabulous and I buy them by the case.
In math today I asked my professor to go over a question. I found myself tremendously pleased that I am at the point in my life where I will actually ask for help in front of other people when I need it. I always want to just know things and not need assistance. And if I do need help I don’t want to ask for it in front of a group full of people I assume are smarter than me. But I did it today and that is awesome.
Big shout-out to Justin from my pre-calculus class who, after I asked that question, leaned back in his chair, smiled, and said, “Thanks for asking that. I was lost, too.” He didn’t have to say anything. Didn’t have to make me feel any less alone. But he took that little moment to say, “Hey, me, too.” People should do that more. I should do that more. Today, he did.
I started at my local community college today. I’m taking a mathematics and a symbolic logic course. I am so grateful to be at a point in my life where I have the support I need–both mentally and financially–to try something like this.
It has been really cold here the last few days. I mean, Seattle cold, not like midwest cold. But still, these temperatures make me realize how lucky I am to have the right clothes and a cozy apartment. I’m about to go running in 29-degree weather and that’s only possible because I know I have someplace safe and warm to return to.
When I was driving from school to work this morning I looked in my rearview mirror and saw our beautiful mountains. I’ll never think of anywhere else but the Pacific Northwest as home and if I’m going to live like that I’m sure glad she’s so pretty.
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.
Photo courtesy of Carlos Martinez.