Life Lessons Through Algebra

Okay, I am now the proverbial back to college mom and honestly love it!  However, there are certain aspects of anything that can always be ‘not as pleasant’ as you had hoped. Algebra1 For one, not all of my credits transferred from a million years ago when I got my Associates Degree, a truth foreshadowed to me, which I had succumbed to its bitter reality.  What I did not expect is that I would have to retake algebra.

Let me explain something to you if you are one of those ‘weirdies’ who likes math…I don’t!  I took creative and clever ways to avoid taking it in my youth, I didn’t understand it and when I asked ‘why’,  ‘they’ just said, ‘because that is the way it is’.  This rationale was unacceptable!  So to avoid getting angry I avoided math.  Even when my kids had it in school I deferred them to one of the ‘weirdies’ in my world that liked math for help.  English YES, math NO. (And BTW, my kids laughed in my face when I told them I had to take Algebra.)

Now back to the goal of finishing my Bachelor’s, I am now faced with Algebra.  And why pray tell?  Bottom line is because I blew it off in my youth.  Yes, I passed it in my younger days with a D, good for my AA but an unacceptable transfer grade for my current school.  The ‘old’ me started to try to convince admissions that “I’ve lived this long and don’t really need it”, or ‘Can I just get a sympathy pass because I’m an older student?’  Nope, I had to take it.  No getting around it.  No sliding out of it.

So the next phase of my perseverant self rose and I stated in the mirror and to anyone that would listen, “I can do anything for 11 weeks!”  As the good little Christian mom and dutiful servant, I can follow anywhere!  Ok, I may have been grumbling in the inside, but I had a smile on the outside…what more can you expect?  I sat in that first day of class, unassuming, that I would bear this like the stigma that it was and endure to the finish line, even though it unfair and I was being mistreated.  And now you get to use calculators in class, how COOL is that!

I took the first review test to see where I was and promptly tested out that I needed to do many of the modules in order to pass the required skills needed.  This offended me.  Who were they to tell me that I was not prepared or needed these skills in my life?  Who were they to judge?  I had gotten along nearly half a decade without them, what is the big deal now? But grumbling I began to do the work.  Test after test and lesson after lesson.  I found out the class was self paced, so I set the incredible goal in my head that two weeks would be enough and it would be off my plate. Git er done, cowgirl up, all the proverbial sayings went through my head.

As I began to immerse myself in the skills, the tutorials, the pulling of hair, the ‘aaaaaaghs’ to my screen and the tests, something began to change.  In the quest of proving everybody wrong, trying to finish this burden, trying to befuddle something with a horrible attitude, I began to see some things in me through the many pieces of scratch paper that held the attempts of my failures.

1.  I can say all I want, but until I dive in and learn I am not educated

I don’t know everything.  I can think I do.  I can read a bit about it, but until I actually dive in and begin to learn about it I do not know it.  I have to begin to study and ingest the subject before I can truly understand it.  How many times have I had an opinion based on my world view, but when that world view opened up and I learned more about something, someone and more.  By result, my opinion and way of looking at it/them changed. I had been schooled on it!

2.  Not everything makes sense when you first begin

How many times have I made life choices because I don’t understand the why or even the whole process didn’t make sense?  I found that if you try to rush to the end, you might get the wrong result.  Or, if you get there without learning the steps to solve the solution you won’t appreciate the work it took to get there.  And if the problem comes again you will be ill equipped to solve it because you missed some steps the first time around and have to relearn how to do it.  I think of parenting.  If I knew everything from the beginning I may have rethought the decision, but yet I cannot imagine being a parent!  It is the daily, not the doubting, because you cannot always see the outcome of something epic.

3.  Trust the system enough to challenge it when you know its wrong

Am I obedient enough to trust the system, a system that has worked for a very long time and learn to work with it in order to grow?  Can I take the time to learn it or am I impatient and want it my way.  Do I know enough about the subject to know when something is out of alignment?  There is a great saying, ‘know the rules so you can break them’.  It doesn’t say, ‘assume the rules…’  Learning involves trusting the teacher that you are being educated well.

4.  Don’t give up; keep working the problem until the solution comes

When it gets hard don’t give up.  I wanted to give up so many times.  But how many times in life have I felt that way? (….and in Algebra too!)  If I work it, if I trust, if I follow the direction given to me with obedience the solution will come.  The answer may be staring me in the face (close enough to fish slap me) and it may not look like the answer I ‘thought’ it was going to be.

5.  Some problems have no solution

At the end of the day, when you know the order of operations and the process for life, sometimes you have to face the reality that not all problems have a solution.  Know when to admit this and walk away from it.  This is tough when all problems should have hope, but some issues are not your battle.  Simply checking, after all you have been called to do, check the box ‘no solution’ and move on to the next question.

I am thanking God …that at the end of this course in life that I not only passed, but learned more about myself in the process.  Through trust, not giving up and working hard with the right attitude I learned more than polynomials, I learned that if I have the right attitude I can learn so much more than I ever imagined.

And if you are wondering…I got an A.  May all classes in life be this rewarding!

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