Math and All the Drama

Standard

I’m a pretty smart person. I have a hard time admitting that a lot of the time, which is funny because I put a whole lot of my value in being a smart person. I don’t claim to make sense, my brain is a strange merry-go-round and I can’t explain it. The point is that the majority of the time I am used to understanding things with at least a relative amount of ease. Put another way, I am really not used to feeling stupid and I’m really bad at it. Math makes me feel stupid. Like really, really stupid.

I will admit that some of this is probably how math was taught to me. My mother is a super good with math kind of person. It comes really easily to her, which I have always imagined must be nice. As she was homeschooling us, it was quite a shock to her to discover that for at least two of her children number were basically a complete mystery. My mom is great with math and a really bad teacher. She knew her kids were smart and she simply could not accept that we were not understanding these concepts that came so easily to her. I think I did okay at things until I got to algebra and geometry. Like I can do all the basic stuff and do it fairly well (preferably with a calculator but whatever, the point is that I wasn’t such a dunce that I didn’t understand the basics, okay?) but the minute I got into… you know what? It wasn’t even algebra. I think the trouble started once we got into fractions. From that time forward math became a battle. Every day I ended up crying at the table and mom ended up yelling at me because she was so sure that I must just be faking it. That was apparently the only thing that made any sense to her. I was smart, there was no reason I couldn’t understand this, therefor I must understand it and just be pretending not to. Or possibly she was just insanely frustrated and this was the crazy thing she threw at me. It’s hard to say. The point is that my memories of math all involve a whole lot of sobbing and being yelled at. So something that I was not likely to ever be any good at to begin with became something I was essentially terrified of.

The point of all of this is that I am taking a math class this quarter. It is not an advanced math class, of course. I would not have placed into an advanced math class. It should be the only math class I have to take in my entire college career, fingers crossed. But the other night I looked at my book and was filled with a deep and profound sense of dread. I am legitimately afraid of not being able to do it. I have, up until this point, had a perfect 4.0 gpa and I am afraid of screwing that up. I don’t remember how to do these things. Like legitimately, I don’t even remember how to do long division. I mean, it doesn’t matter. You can do it on a calculator. Which is why I don’t remember how to do it. Look, I used to have this argument with my mother constantly. “I am never going to need to USE this!” And my mother would insist to me that that was not true, that it was useful in day to day life. But here I am at almost 30 and I know for a fact that she is full of crap. Because the reason I don’t remember how to do any of these things is that not a single time in my day to day life have I ever had to do any of these things. Any math things I have had to do I have been able to easily use a calculator for. I have never needed algebra. I know it was nonsense. Of course there are people with jobs who very much need these skills but I never needed more than the basics that I was totally competent in. She always told me I wouldn’t have a calculator everywhere I went but guess what, mom? Didn’t foresee cell phones, did ya? Totally have a calculator everywhere I go. I’m set. So you know. Here we are. I’m taking a class that I am mildly resentful about having to take and I know that really the mild resentment isn’t resentment at all, it’s basically terror. I’m totally freaked out of something that I can’t bullshit my way through, something that makes me feel stupid and that I may very well not do awesomely at. Because being a perfectionist is a bitch and because I never did learn how to fail at things, or even not do well at things. Mostly I just avoided things that I wouldn’t be good at.

I have a friend who offered her son to help tutor me. I should definitely take her up on that and I haven’t yet in part because I feel a little ridiculous? Like the first chapter is literally stuff that I know you learn in like… 7th grade. I did learn the stuff in 7th grade but I don’t remember it. And I am fairly sure I can probably get through the first couple chapters with a calculator. On the other hand… I’ve actually never been tutored in anything before and I should probably just be a big girl and deal with it and say “okay, so realistically at this point I have about the math comprehension of a 6th grader (slight exaggeration but maybe not much? I’m actually not sure) and I don’t actually have a problem with that but my GPA might, please fix me.” I am not sure what I will do on that front.

So. Probably I will update at least at the end of the quarter with whatever important life lesson I’ve learned. I’m counting on an important life lesson here because I think that is the absolute least I can expect from this nonsense.

Failing/Not Failing

Standard

So since February of 2012, I have been writing on this website, http://www.750words.com and it is the best thing ever. I mean, seriously. The best thing ever. I have been journaling with various degrees of success since I was 11 years old and my mother told me that keeping a journal was a required part of my school (but that she would not read it). This was, admittedly, without a doubt the best thing my mother ever did for me in the name of school. That is also a super low bar but still. I have my journals from back in that time and they’re super boring and hard to read and I couldn’t spell or punctuate and honestly, what does an 11 year old have to write about anyway? Spoiler: Nothing. I then went through a lot of time in my teenage years where I decided the copious amount of poetry I was writing was just as good as a journal, somehow. Because clearly in a few years I would know what I was writing about. Yeah. That worked out well. One of my major regrets is how little I really know about what was going on during that time period because I just didn’t take the time to write it down.

Part of why I journaled irregularly is because I have bad wrists and I hated how slow it was but I was very attached to the “romance” of paper journals and such. I gave that up about 7 years ago and moved to typing. That did help my consistency but it still wasn’t happening as often as I’d like and I missed a lot of what happened. Then one day I discovered this site and it was awesome. You get little badges for completing things. It only takes like 15 or 20 minutes for me to type 750 words or so (I often do more) and it’s enough to keep up on what’s happening. Considering how much has changed in the last year and a half, that’s a good thing and I’ve been super consistent with it.

This morning I woke up at 6am and suddenly had the crushing realization that I forgot to write my words yesterday. I was on a streak of 436 days and now I am back to 1. Or will be anyway, once I write today. I honestly was so broken up about it. If I had gotten to 500 days, I would have been a Space Bird! And being back to 1 day seems so demoralizing after being on such a high number. I couldn’t go back to sleep, I just laid there and almost cried and thought about how incredibly stupid I was and how could I have forgotten after that many days?

Well, let’s see. How could I have forgotten? I mean, I started school again this week. This is always completely exhausting for me and I was so tired yesterday that I just passed out for an hour. Then I woke up, read the chapter for today’s class and spent the rest of my evening watching one of the best bad movies I have ever seen with my best friend (well “with” is relative. We have weekly Skype dates where we watch streaming things together). Everyone should immediately go find Meant to Be on Netflix and just watch it and love and hate your life. Anyway. And I was exhausted. Passed out at midnight. That was that.

Here’s the alternative perspective, I guess. I started on this website in February of 2012. Since then, I have written on 579 days and I have written a total of 616,359 words. That is a shit ton of writing. I have kept extremely close track of some of the most intense and monumental changes in my life. I’ve developed one of the most important habits that I have and I have kept it up more consistently than I would ever have thought possible. The reason this blog can even exist is absolutely because of that website. I’m a better writer than I was a year and a half ago (although I still have a long way to go). So fine. I feel like I failed everything but, objectively, that’s probably not so much the case.

Being a Perfectionist or Why I Have No Practical Skills

Standard

I am a perfectionist. Somehow I did not discover this fact until I started school in the beginning of this year, although everyone who knew me seemed amused when it came as such a shock. The first quarter I was in school, I took 20 credits. I got a 4.0, obviously passed everything with flying colors and yet I was still frustrated. Care to guess why? Because I had gotten 100% on every assignment except for one final in which I had missed 5 points. Yes, 5 points. 5 points which I was quite sure I should have gotten, it’s just that I have always been so terrible at remembering which branches of government do what exactly (I swear I love politics, it’s just that exact details always escape me when I need them most on any given subject). Obviously there was no excuse for me to miss the few questions that led me to not receive that perfect score. If you are sitting out there, reading this, thinking that everything I have just written sounds insane, congratulations. You are probably a much more balanced individual than me, at least on this subject. I do understand that those 5 points are not super relevant. I still got my 4.0 and no one will ever look at my transcripts and say “Well, she did pretty well but goodness, why did she miss those couple of questions on that one final she took her very first quarter?” (Also, to make this story even more ridiculous, it was a class I realized by the end of the quarter that I didn’t even have to take for my program)

Since that first quarter, I have begun to realize just how deep this particular rabbit hole goes and, to some extent, why I never realized it before. I had this idea before all of this of what a perfectionist was. I always pictured those super high achievers who freaked out if everything in their life didn’t go exactly right (which, as it turns out, is what I turn into on the flip side). But there is another way to deal with perfectionism. See, until this last year or two, when I suddenly started to make the rather unprecedented decision to start jumping off of metaphorical cliffs and actually do something with my life, I dealt with this with a fairly simple approach – I just did my best to never give myself an opportunity to fail. You would be amazed how easy this is and how many areas of your life it can apply to. Essentially if I didn’t feel I had natural talent at something, I just would refuse to try. Because gaining talent at something takes practice, it takes work and, of course, it takes failure. I could blame mommy and daddy here and I’m sure upbringing has a role. It wasn’t that we were held to high standards so much as that there were no explicit standards. To me it always felt like there was a bar but it was never explained and I could never reach it, so what was the point? Yes, I’m sure that played a part but I’m a big girl and it’s been a number of years since I was under that roof. The honest truth is that I just settled in and gave up.

One of the side effects of this is that I have almost no practical skills. I mean, there are very few people in this world who are simply born amazing cooks or magically knowing how to fix cars or computers or…. I don’t know. Insert something practical here. Those are just useful things I think about sometimes. Of course there are occasional people who are just incredibly naturally gifted in these things but I was never one of them and so I simply never tried. I still remember that when I was in high school I once screwed up macaroni and cheese and hamburgers. I somehow (to the bafflement of my aunt, who was standing there watching me) once managed to screw up microwave fudge. It tasted fine but it had the consistency of wet sand. So when I think of cooking, which is a skill I honestly need to learn at this point in my life for a variety of reasons, my immediate reaction is just “Nope. I can’t do that. Me and a kitchen are bad news. I have screwed up like 3 times and that is too many and means I should not be allowed to do things.” I have occasionally made resolutions to change this and try anyway but I have yet to follow through on them. I will admit this is partly because, as of yet, I do not like cooking. I find it boring, I get distracted (which no doubt contributes to my occasional failures) and there are so many other things to do… but despite all of that, my food situation is getting a bit ridiculous. I am practically 30 and I’ve heard rumors that my body will probably need nutrients or something crazy like that. The long and the short of it is that I need to have food and take better care of myself. I’m training for and heading into high stress work and cooking is one of many skills it might be nice to have for myself.

That’s just one example, really. I mean, just imagine how my life might change if I actually convinced myself that failing wouldn’t end everything. And when you imagine it, let me know how that looks, kay? I’ve been working on imagining it for a couple years now, with limited success. My 4.0 has remained intact. I have managed to resign myself to not getting 100% on every single thing (although it still stings whenever it happens) so I suppose that is progress of a sort, but I still get very stressed if I don’t get an A so it’s a very limited sort.

This week, I am trying a kind-of silly thing but it’s something I literally really haven’t done since high school because I was never any good at it – I’m painting my nails. I painted them a super light pink a few days ago, so you couldn’t really tell where I messed up and that was nice but they looked so pretty and I decided I really do have nice nails and perhaps if I practiced painting them, I might even get better at it. So tonight I am painting them blue. They are not perfect and I’ve had to redo one of them already (and that’s before I’ve even gotten to the right hand…) but hey. Tiny, tiny baby steps? What do you all think?

Nails

It’s hard to see the mistakes in the picture but THEY ARE THERE. 😛