Comeuppance is the only way I can think to describe it.
Or maybe realllly rusty.
But no matter how I look at it, re-encountering the math in my Model Thinking course has been sobering. I’ve never been so grateful for the video replay feature in my life.
Remember when Teen Talk Barbie was released in 1992 and one of her 270 randomly available sentences was “Math class is tough”? Remember the uproar? How dare they perpetuate the girls-can’t-count [read: girls don’t count] stereotype? I’d always been strong in math, always took a kind of personal offense to any assumption that this wasn’t or couldn’t be an area in which I might excel. Not only was I good at math, I liked math.
So imagine my surprise when I could not get my head around the mathematics in these first few lectures. The course description warned some calculus might help, but that solid algebra would be sufficient. I figured: no problem – got that. And maybe I do, but it has clearly been in cold storage, if not a musty basement, for some years and things are a tad…sluggish.
It’s an uncomfortable parallel to muscular fitness: my once exceptionally limber body isn’t; my once sufficiently limber math chops aren’t. Yet. I am determined to regain my strength. Yesterday I made three humiliating tries on one fairly straightforward problem in the little pop quizzes between lectures. My notebook is full of the scribbling, charts and diagrams it takes me to get to the right answers. I am definitely “showing my work” — and hellbent on limbering up again, mathematically speaking.
As aggravating as it is, the rust is strangely gratifying. It’s giving me a reason to push, making me break a sweat, allowing me to experience a sense of accomplishment when I finally get it.
Humbling aside, the reframe is striking. What to do with my self-image of someone who is good at math when I’m struggling with the stuff? Am I someone who used to be good at math? Someone who might be good at math again, eventually? Do I even need a math identity?
It’s all such an interesting convergence of my recent musings on mindset and the power of words to describe ourselves and how we move through life. I remind myself of my admonition to the kids, it’s okay if it’s hard. That’s how you know you’re accomplishing anything.
I should listen to myself more often. Struggle : skill :: lemons : lemonade.
Life Lesson #14: It’s okay if it’s hard.