The semester has started for me, another 14 weeks of grinding. The class that I have purposely and intentionally put off, because it is rumored to be the hardest of the degree, has descended upon me. Hours and hours of effort this first weekend still has left me baffled about the idiosyncrasies of transactional analysis in financial accounting.
Unfortunately, this is not an unfamiliar feeling for me, I first was introduced to my mathematical deficiencies in 5th grade. Quite profoundly, I remember the teachers laying the groundwork for algebra and me sitting in class being overtaken by an experience I had not previously had: inability and deep fear related to that inability.
I spent my high school years barely passing my math classes, I nearly failed each time I was required to take statistics in undergraduate, graduate and again for this MBA. These B-'s were the only non-A's I received in all the years of school. I wouldn't have tolerated anything less than perfection in any other classes. There was a moment of reality when it became apparent to me that even though high grades were my personal expectation, they were out of reach in any class mathematic. I presume that my teachers in high school would say I barely passed my math classes because I was goofing off, telling jokes, passing notes and didn't apply myself. All of that was merely a cover up for the fact that I didn't understand the material. This became even more apparent as I moved into higher education and didn't have the cover of bad behavior and still couldn't master the material.
It has been a theme weaving in and out of my daily living, my best friend used to get frustrated when we were trying to fill out the bills and I didn't understand the numbers. She couldn't understand how I was as successful as I was and couldn't add or subtract well. My husband thought I was "acting stupid" when I didn't understand basic math. When I first go out with friends, these days they are flabbergasted that I need help computing the tip on food checks. This week, the professor outlined in the syllabus that we should spend 20 hours per week on the material for this class, the first week I spend 36 hours and still am confused and shaky on the basics. There doesn't seem to be a use in being tested for a learning disability this late in the game but when I took all the testing and assessment classes for cognitive assessment, I was encouraged to have someone else in the class conduct those tests on me. On the mathematical components I tested at about an 8th grade understanding of math. My SAT scores and GRE's were miserable and I had to get a tutor for months to understand enough to do decently.
All of this to say, for the longest time I tried to hide this deficiency from others. My worst fear was that someone would find this out about me and think I was a fraudulent Ph.D. Now, I tell the kids I work with, my colleagues, and my friends that I have a disability in math. Someday I will be tested so that I have numbers to back this up, but for now the stares of disbelief I receive from others is validation enough. I spend double the amount of time on math material to learn, sometime triple and it hurts my soul to still after all of that not understand the concepts. B's are always acceptable to me in math classes but not in any other class, I have adjusted my expectations and I am honest about my shortcomings with my professors in advance so they don't think I am not trying.
With all of this, I would not change it for anything. This experience has taught me that everyone does not think and learn then same. I have learned about digging deeper and doing my personal best, my best in math will never be what others expect of me, they will certainly expect more. It has also taught me about the deep shame and frustration that many of the kids I work with have about learning. It is clear in the latest statistics that nearly 80% of the incarcerated population has a learning or reading deficit. Coming to terms with this malfunction within myself and growing compassion for that little hurt spot has been a journey of maturing. On the other side of not understanding easily is my stick-to-it-ness, will, and dedication which I was born with an abundance of.
Back to transactional analysis and the grind, with a certain dose of pleasure knowing that the only way I will get through it is my own perseverance which I have plenty of.