I thought I would share with you the results of our latest writing assignment. The subject was epiphany. It’s a first and therefore, rough draft.
When I think of the phrase hitting me like a ton of bricks, — that’s happened on a few times. Once, and quite possibly the most important because it was the first, was in the 5th grade. For two years prior to Mr. Beirstein’s class, and through a different small town school district, I struggled to understand the untold complexities of math. A study that may well the most difficult, theoretical science in the world. It’s applications are endless and contrary to elementary and high school belief, you do use them in every day instances.
I had struggled with math from the get go. In 1st grade I recall my lower jaw hitting the beige school desk when Todd Wilson was able to answer, with ease, the sum total of 12 plus 13. It was an extra credit question, pure brownie points at the end of the term and the last math class. I remember studying the problem on the board and trying to figure how on earth anyone could approach such a problem, and even after it had been explained I was confused. Thinking back on this, I believe it is here that the seed of truth – “some people are innately better at understand Math, then others,” was planted.
It was finally in 5th that I had my first breakthrough. Sent from the classroom in shame because my homework was not finished, I sat on the floor trying to figure out multiplication. I just could not, for the life of me, figure it out. I would desperately try to think of various formulas, equations, utilizing my powers of logic and reasoning all to figure out the sum total 123 x 678. I knew the rules back and forth. One must begin by multiplying the right most bottom number with the top row, start a second row, with the second most bottom number, and so on. The key, as it was drilled into me many times over, was to add a zero in the right hand side each time, and then in the end add up the numbers. What I didn’t understand was the exact placement of the elusive zero. Then, in a complete moment of desperation, I threw the zero in a spot I had never previously considered. Suddenly, my answer was correct, as it was verified by Kyle Winslow who also sent into hall purgatory with me. I quickly tried another, and another and all, without fail were correct.
What I had been doing was:
To those who are more mathematically inclined, this is obviously wrong. What you probably knew, as I knew then, when a curtain of darkness was lifted from eyes was that the problem should really look like:
(please disregard the “_” — I needed it to format the HTML)
I felt like I had won a major battle. Though I wasn’t bloody, scratched and still had all my limbs, I had emerged from this multiplication war as a victor. I was filled with the euphoria of ‘understanding’ and ‘comprehension.’ I finally had the secret inside scoop on how this worked. I thought, at least for a few days that I had finally conquered the number war that was a major part of basic education.
Though this problem would plague me well into my adult years, from plodding through basic algebra, to advanced basic, algebra, to geometry in high school to the mandatory math credit that one had to pass in college in order to be considered well rounded. Even with the help of a personal professional tutor, a whole class devoted to tutoring and the assistance of a yellow haired boy from Lodi, who I suspect had a crush on me – I couldn’t not pass the midterms for Algebra 1, both times I tried. It was finally Computer Science 131 that allowed me to graduate with the final grade of D, which I couldn’t have gotten without my genius boyfriend help on the final project.
Even now, shopping at Target, JC Penny and Sears, I am eternally grateful for the for little plagues that show consumers like me, exactly how much 30%, 40% or 70% off of the original price of a fantastic, cute little skirt equals out to be. Until they started having these signs, I would desperately try to cobble together a formula of my own. Of course there were easy ones, like 50% is half, but anything more than that was a challenge. I would rely on the old for 10% is one dollar of ten, and 20% is two dollars of ten. It generally worked well enough to get an rough estimate of how much something was, but it hasn’t entirely saved from register shock when I realize I was completely wrong.
But in my darkest days when I confront other complexities in my life such a relationships, self realization and home improvement, I often think back to that one incident. A time when I suddenly understood the impossible and I harbor hope that there will be many more incidences in my life where I have the same groundbreaking, epiphany.