As an English major studying at The University of Georgia, all I wanted to do was take literature classes, write short stories, study Shakespeare, and go to poetry readings. But college doesn’t quite work that way because I also had to fulfill math requirements. It was a necessary evil, so I plowed ahead: algebra was easy, I actually liked geometry, but then there was Trigonometry . . . a class taught by a foreign exchange grad student who had such a thick accent that I couldn’t even determine his nationality.
I didn’t understand Trigonometry. I didn’t understand my professor. Combine the two and there you have it … a disaster of epic proportions. I stayed after class, I went to tutoring in the Math Lab, and I asked questions, but by exam time I was headed for a big, fat F . . . my first, ever. So I threw myself at the mercy of my professor: “I am an English major! This is my LAST math requirement!” And just for good measure . . . “If I have to take this class again I will die.” (English majors have a flair for the dramatic.) The professor barely spoke English so I know he didn’t understand half of what I was saying, but desperation has a language all on its own. In the end, he gave me a D in the class (and I have no doubt he was being very, very generous).
As someone who was always an A student, I REJOICED in that D. I called my parents with the news. “I got a D in Trig!” They were (understandably) confused. “But a D is bad, isn’t it?”
I paused. “Well, yes. I mean no.”
Whatever. I got a D, and I would gladly take it thank-you-very-much.
So, taking into account that I don’t have a math gene in my body, I am awed at those who do . . . not because I think they are smarter, but because they are smarter in something different. And every day I am awed that this English major, Italian speaking, bad poet, and sometimes writer has sons – three of them – who are good in everything that I am not.
When I listen to my husband discuss a physics problem with our son, a problem with so many steps that it takes an entire sheet of paper to solve, it takes my breath away. When I walk past my son doing his homework and all I see are numbers and scientific notations, I marvel that writing something can include equations. I have one son studying computer engineering, another who will be studying math and accounting, and a third who is all about engines, architecture, and creating. Sometimes I think, “Who are these guys?”
And then I’ll think, “These are my math guys . . . and I’ll write a story about them.”