Before I could read, I could do math. My father, a math teacher, would hold candies in each of his hands and combine them together, showing me how 1+1=2. It wasn’t an abstract concept, and I grasped onto it easily. It fostered a inherent calculating, analytical and logical mind. When I was 5, my father showed me calculus. I relied on a calculator, having not learned division or multiplication. Even so I understood the basis of it, because all it consisted of was a pattern. If all I did was follow the formulas exactly, I would get the right answer. This security was something I clutched on to, not realizing what a fleeting concept it was.
As I got older, I realised that life didn’t follow a formula. I went into school, where I got bullied and receded into myself, because that’s where it was safe. Even years later, in my pre-teens, when I had good friends and was never teased, I still couldn’t open up. I had built a shell so thick around myself that I didn’t even know where to start to break it - even if I wanted to. I tried to find some sort of pattern in my life to make sense of things, but with my parents splitting up, family members dying, and my own growing pains, it seemed clear to me that there wasn’t one I could grasp onto. That unlike in math, where I was secure and safe in the knowledge that I had even a chance of being right, life didn’t have clear right and wrong answers. The grey areas in life made me uneasy, and I began to develop anxiety that made me unable to get through the day without doubting myself and my place in the world around me.
In high school, I was in math class when I heard someone call me fat. Of all the places in the world that I was expecting to hear something nasty, it wasn’t in my safe space. In one of logic, where I could have a base of understanding the world. I certainly didn’t expect it to be there that the world crashed down around me. And I was broken. It got through the shell I put up to protect myself and went to my very core. I carried myself with the knowledge every day that I was fat. Knowing that was the way people thought of me, even though I knew that it didn’t matter what one person said about me; I let it define me.
After that day, math found a new place in my life. I reverted back to three years old and counted the candies in my hand. My brain was constantly doing math, analyzing the calories that were in a certain food and calculating whether it was okay to eat - or most likely, to not eat. Logical thinking was again an important part in my life, something I had missed since I was a small child. Even though the world around me was crazy, I had security. I once again saw things in black and white when I focussed on food, and that made me feel safe. I dropped pounds almost as fast as I dropped friends. People around me started to compliment me, saying I was looking better than I had ever looked in my life. Then they started saying that I was sick, and looked terrible. However if my mind was constantly calculating and doing what was right, it didn’t matter what they said. I’d finally figured out how to make my shell impenetrable. I felt internally like I was broken and putting the pieces back together. I didn’t realise that I was actually shattering myself a little more.
It was only after my parents found out and I went to a plethora of doctors that I realised that math didn’t have the place in my life that I once thought it had. Even though life didn’t follow a pattern, I could create one for my own that gave the same stability I got through restricting that I had recently lost. More importantly, I learned that I was holding myself back trying to look at everything logically.
Life is a cliff that I was afraid to jump off of, because it didn’t make sense. I was teetering on the edge, not realising all that I was missing. Once I jumped, the world opened up. I discovered art and abstract thinking. Open ended, philosophical thoughts like “what is the meaning of life” are questions that I am now starting to think about, rather than shying away from. I by no means have things figured out in life. But by opening myself up to different ways of thinking, I’ve opened my life up to new opportunities. Suddenly the world can be whatever I want it to be. I can dream, and I am no longer held back by my own ideas of what’s logical.
This is a personal essay I wrote for school and wanted to share with you guys too :)