When I was growing up, I was the “smart one”. You know how everyone has a role in his or her family of origin? My oldest brother was the rebel, my middle brother had “Middle Child Syndrome” – we called it MCS, for short. And I was the “smart one”. My brothers went away to college when I was in high school, and I encountered algebra for the first time. Suddenly, I didn’t have to play the role I’d performed for fourteen years, and I didn’t feel very smart at all because at school my math papers were returned with D’s (or sometimes a D+, which I considered an oxymoron) and I failed the majority of my math exams.
So I began to talk in class. I began to build a new persona – the fun, laughing, who-cares-about-math girl who excelled in her AP English and history classes and deemed that as “smart enough”.
To this day, I’m a communicator. I laugh and talk and have a very expressive face. I’d rather write a book on how I came to dislike math than solve for x. I’d challenge you all day long to a grammar contest, before I’d spend one minute figuring out how much money one point difference in interest will save you over 30 years.
But something happened last week that changed that for me. Thursday and Friday I attended a class in financial analysis. I grumbled and griped all the way through the preceding week, learning how to use a financial calculator. The second day of the class was my birthday and I basically demanded a cake of the office manager. I said, “If I am going to spend eight hours of my birthday learning MATH, there better be a buttercream-frosted cake there for my trouble!” There was, and it lulled me and several of my colleagues into a sugar coma for most of the afternoon.
Just before noon, though, on the first day, things began to click. There were formulas, not at all difficult to master, that provided fascinating information. I could help people with this stuff! I had the stats to back up my general impression about how great the Tri-Cities Real Estate Market is. If someone was deciding between buying a duplex or a condo or investing in stocks, I could counsel them about the best route to take. I had the tools in my hands!
I felt smart again! It had been almost thirty years since I’d felt confident and proficient in any mathematical equation, and I was here again!
At the end of the class, the instructor asked us what new thing we had learned that we felt would make the most difference for us. He didn’t ask me, and I’m glad he didn’t. At that time, I had about a thousand thoughts rolling around in my mind. Over the weekend they’ve crystallized. The number one thing I’ve learned wasn’t new at all. It was more of a rediscovery. Now that I have it back, it’s not going away. I can talk the talk and I can also walk the walk. I can do the math. I AM smart. I always have been, but I lost my confidence in that fact. That was the best birthday present I’ve received in a very long time.