Numbers or Words

I have always sucked at math.

For as long as I can remember, I have sucked at math. I have always been sort of an over achiever and a wee bit competitive. And I have always loved school, the idea of school and of learning. I’d still be in school, if I could, but at some point I had to stop, and get a job, so my kids could go to school, and love it too.

I remember way back before kindergarten, driving by the school down the street and looking at the building with the weird curvy roof, the multipurpose room, and thinking, since it was the room at the far end, that must be where kindergarten was. All I wanted in the whole wide world was to be in kindergarten so I could learn to read. I was four years old. When I finally turned five, you remember, I’m sure, the eternity a year was when you were that age, I got to GO TO SCHOOL! I was only mildly disappointed that kindergarten wasn’t held in the big room on the far end with the curvy roof. Kindergarten totally rocked, except we didn’t get to read. First grade was way better because Mrs. Wells was our teacher and we got to learn to read! I remember learning to sound out the letters posted on the wall over the chalkboard. Game on! I was determined to finish the “Sullivan Reading Series” before anyone else at Browns Valley Elementary School, and I had until some time in second grade to do it. There were thirteen modules with stories about Sam and Ann and their cat Tab, how random is that?

I remember, by half way through first grade, I was way ahead of most of the other kids in the reading program, there were really only a couple of kids I was in competition with. Two girls and one boy. I was so going to finish the thirteenth module before the rest. Game on. I loved my first grade teacher and prospered under her compassionate instruction. I was definitely in the running entering second grade. My mom was one of those moms, much as I was, that requested one teacher over the other for her child’s special, accelerated, and extraordinary educational needs. And, being a woman of well chosen words, in both cases, always got what we asked for, the “best” teacher in that grade level. Unfortunately, the “best” second grade teacher at Browns Valley that year didn’t think I was the best student. Sad face.  For my super-human efforts in completing the Sullivan Reading program, I came in second, after the other girl, but before the boy. But, on the bright side, I was reading a few grade levels ahead of second grade.

Math, on the other hand, not so good. I got addition. I got subtraction. Multiplication and division were a bit harder, but with concerted effort, I memorized the tables sufficiently. Word problems were the devil. And anything that even resembled solving for “x’” was an automatic “huh?’ “X” was a letter, it belonged in words, and only a few words, at that, it had no place in arithmetic!

Junior high is a dark memory. Actually, academically, other than English, French, Physical Education and Band, I remember nothing; math and science, to be exact, were a black hole. By the time high school rolled around, and college was on the horizon, my parents employed mathematically gifted family acquaintances to try to nurture me through Algebra and Geometry. It was a dismal attempt. When I applied for college, way back when, for a “state” college, all you needed for “guaranteed” admission was a 3.25 GPA. I had all A’s in my English, foreign language, physical education, arts and other electives. My perfect 4.0 was lowered to 3.27 by my consistent underachievement in mathematics, but, nonetheless, I had a red carpet entry into college.

In college, I was only required to take one math class for my chosen field of study. I had to successfully pass college algebra. Somehow, I totally lucked out and got a coke fiend for a teacher. I showed up for the first day of class and , tweaking, with a mustached encrusted with white powder, he explained his grading scheme; hand in homework, pass the tests and pass the class. Done. I think I showed up two more times all semester, to hand in homework (and the answers were in the back of the book) and to take the tests. He managed to show up for a few classes, and I showed up for even fewer. I got a C, an A on the homework portion and a strong D- on the tests. But, I passed, and never had to worry about math again.

Flash forward ten years and I, miraculously, unwittingly, graduated from college, because, if I had anything to say about it, I’d still be there! “Here’s your degree, now get out!”

I got a bachelors degree in criminal justice, but life is weird and somehow, I’m an accountant, which, you would think is all math. Luckily for me, Excel does the math and I just learned how to build a really wicked formula!

I’ve been in the accounting profession for twenty some years, and it has been good to me. My goal in life, for whatever reason, is to reach six figures by the time I’m fifty. Abstract, I know, and, additionally, I am well aware that money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s just a competitive thing. I will be fifty in July, this year. If I add up my salary and potential bonuses, etc., I will fall shy of my goal. I’m looking for things to sell, up to, but not including, my body, in order to meet my goal. I am extremely goal oriented and this is killing me, for whatever reason. I thought about adding a PayPal button to this post, but didn’t. Ugh.

So, what do I really want to do when I “grow up”, which, really, according to my personal philosophy is NEVER? I want to write. All I have ever wanted to do is write. I was first published in the second grade. I wrote a whole, well worded paragraph on being Amish and it was published in the Browns Valley School annual essay publication. I still have it, in case you doubt me. But, when my GPA was suffering in junior high and I almost got dismissed from the GAT (gifted and talented) program, I wrote an awesome, extra credit project and it cured the problem. In high school, I was published not once, but twice, in the annual essay collection. When I’d been in college for nine years and was still trying to finish up my general education requirements, I wrote an awesome plea to the dean and got the final twenty one units of general eduction requirements waived. Other than writing legendary Christmas family newsletters the kind most folks cringe to receive, and rarely read, and the occasional letter, blogging has been my only literary outlet since college. Sad face.

A way with words is a gift, and if you have it, you can rule the world, unless you’re really, really good at math, then you can rule the universe. At least that’s what I believe, and that’s what I’ve taught my kids. My son was born speaking in four syllable words. My daughter is an English major and a grammar nazi, bar none. I’m a little embarrassed to let her read what I write! From day one, I spoke to them as if they were adults, I never spoke baby talk to them, I spared no five dollar words. In our home, the dictionary was on the pedestal, the Bible was on the shelf. Sorry, God, at least the good book was in the house. I’ll be writing an admission essay to heaven, if necessary, and Saint Peter will cave at my eloquently worded plea for entry.

So, while numbers are currently what pay my bills, I endeavor to swap them for words. I know that none of us will ever be truly fulfilled until we are doing, in life, what we are truly passionate about. I have passion and respect for the job I do now, for the products I support, for the people I work with, and for, and for the company I am employed by. But, when all is said and done, I want to make my living as a wordsmith, not as a bean counter. Writing, and helping people evolve towards their own fulfillment, is what I am most passionate about. The progression is slow, but eventual, if for no other reason, because I am determined. And because I have bills to pay. And I have two kids in college. And even if writing is what I end up doing for a living for the last moments of my life, when I am too old and decrepit to do what I do now, I will still have succeeded in my goal. Simply this, I choose words over numbers. Count on it!

6 thoughts on “Numbers or Words

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