One year ago and math anxiety.

First, I should tell you that these things are not related.

One year ago, we closed on my condo and carried the truly astounding amount of stuff I brought from Texas into my new place. My first place. Hurricane Earl was threatening to blow into Boston, and between that and my own special control-freak neuroses, I couldn’t seem to stop myself from moving continuously up and down the stairs, out to the truck, back in to the apartment, arms laden with boxes of books, clothes, books, picture frames, books, kitchen items, books, bedding . . . you get the idea. And then Dad and I would take ends on the heavy or bulky items, like my giant bookshelf, my couch, my recliner, my tv console. I remember wondering if it would really be worth it to have these items here, doubting virtually every choice I made about what to bring with me (which was, essentially, everything I own not related to horse care) as my arms and legs ached with the effort of carrying each item. My parents and I were utterly exhausted by the end of it, but we got it all in before we quit for the day.

Now, I’m looking around the place that has become home, and you know what? I love this place. I love the way it stretches across my building, making the small place feel sprawling and bigger than it really is. I love that you can stand at one end and see all the way through to the other side. These are things that I liked immediately, the first time I walked into the place. After moving in, I quickly came to appreciate how much natural light there is, and how it seems to be soft and beautiful coming into every room. I love being greeted by gentle sunlight as I sip coffee on sleepy mornings, or when I come home after a long day. And this summer, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the way that air moves through this space. I could count the number of times I’ve felt compelled to run my ac units this summer, which is partially due to the mildness of the weather here this year but also partially due to the air flow. I’ve even come to like my tiny bathroom and small, awkwardly shaped kitchen (it’s a backwards L shape). And just this week, I replaced the one thing I truly hated about this place–the ugly, blue, faux woodgrain, formica kitchen countertops–with a beautiful granite.

Gradually over this year, I’ve made this space my own. I’m glad I’m here, and I’m even glad I brought all my furniture with me. (And books, but that goes without saying.) So glad, in fact, that if I don’t get into a Boston-area university for my PhD, it will break my heart a little to leave this sweet little apartment that’s come to feel almost like a friend.

And speaking of PhD applications, I’ve been studying up to retake the GRE because my old scores are out of date. This week, I started studying for the math section. Ah, math, my old nemesis. I first learned to hate math in second grade, during the timed math drills. My teacher (who, by the way, was possibly the nicest person on the planet) had these gallon-sized ziplock bags with a seemingly infinite supply of math worksheets. We would have thirty minutes to open our ziplocks, pull out a sheet, and work through it. We could spread out around the room and work wherever we wanted, so I always chose the little alcove where our lockers were, maybe because it made me feel hidden. And I would pull out my sheet and work and work, but the time always seemed to go by too quickly for me to finish. If we didn’t finish, we would have to start over on the same sheet the next time. If we finished a sheet before time was up, we could move on to the next. I never finished early and sometimes spent two or three or more drills working on the same sheet. Sometimes I worked on the same sheet often enough to remember the answers to the first few rows of problems. I was deeply embarrassed about it, and convinced that everyone in the class knew how slow I was. Which, of course, didn’t help.

I could go on with my traumatic math experiences (like trying to memorize multiplication tables in third grade (shutter) or feeling like a failure all the way through high school math classes (when, by the way, I was making solid Bs. Perfectionist, much?), but I won’t. Instead, I’ll just tell you that ignoring higher math doesn’t make math anxiety go away. I’m working through my study book pretty slowly, trying to re-understand concepts that, let’s face it, were never solidly in my brain ten years ago the last time I took a math class (in college, one of two Cs as an undergrad). My previous GRE math score was laughably low, and I’ve been hoping for a little higher this time around. But I’m not particularly confident.

The bad news is that I have to take the math section, and I have to study for it. The good news is that English departments don’t really care about the math section. Right? Am I right? I am, right?


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