Tuesday, February 20, 2007

x equals kicking some ass

The GRE? She is my bitch.

It's peculiar. I've done a lot to be proud of (and a not-small amount to be ashamed of) in my adult life, but the most satisfying moment of my entire weekend was sitting at that computer wearing dopey noise-blocker headphones, swaddled in my grotty Universiteit van Amsterdam sweatshirt and realizing that I STILL KNEW THE QUADRATIC FORMULA AND WAS CAPABLE OF SOLVING FOR X IN MULTIPLE STATES. I was really ridiculously proud of this, maybe a bit more so than of buying a condo. Hell, anyone can email a realtor and a lender, but can everyone out there multiply radical fractions? Shit no, soldier.

Math and I have always had a nasty relationship. Knowing from an early age that I would never work in a field that would require me to know what a factorial is or to care about the density of anything except a stupid colleague, I would cheerfully have ignored math for all of my days. Except, math, in the form of mandatory graduation requirements from the state of Michigan, sensed my disinterest and set out to destroy me via its most powerful weapon: impact on my high school GPA. Alphabetically listed, my record is a series of unblemished As - English, Drama, History-- until we get to "Math," which, bored with the distinguished company it keeps, skips straight on down to C territory. No sense wallowing in the B range when we can infect more insidiously, right?

So after math destroyed my chances of getting into a great college, it almost took away college for me, period. It was second semester, senior year, and I'd been accepted to my first-choice college for four months. I'd officially stopped caring about anything related to school, my hometown, pretty much my entire life up to that point and was now living entirely in my head. Trig class, in particular, was spent staring out the window mentally decorating my dorm room and fantasizing about striding down the marble halls of the Capitol, stiletto heels clacking as I breezed through the history-laden halls on my way to a Very Important Meeting where my opinion would Matter.

Since trigonometry is founded on the principles of triangles and not superiority complexes, it shouldn't have been a shock when I found out I was failing. But of course it was. Seeing an actual "E" (we didn't use F; some bullshit about how it's bad for self-esteem or whatever) on my midsemester report snapped me back into reality. Well, what really did it was my mother filling my head with horror stories of students whose college admission she'd personally revoked based on their senior grades. It was a brilliant strategy on her part. She never actually had to finish the story, saying "... and after I revoked his admission he went to community college, dropped out the first semester and now works at the car wash on Stadium and Hill." The merest hint that I wouldn't be able to leave my hometown come August was enough to make me pay a tutor out of pocket to teach me everything I needed to know about sines and cosines to finish the year.

As in all relationships cemented under fear and threat of physical duress, math and I have warily circled one another ever since then. I bust it out pretty much only when I have to calculate a tip, and in turn, it's been generous enough to leave me pretty well alone. I managed to graduate from college never having taken Calculus, a loophole in the graduation requirements that is probably the main reason I still give money to my alma mater. I even managed to avoid math as I prepared for the postgrad world, choosing to take the LSAT and instead spend months practicing logic problems (which, in a Stockholm syndrome kind of way, I found myself really liking by the time I took the damn test).

But then I decided law school was not for me and that I would get my master's in an arcane social science instead. Wait, you mean there's a MATH section on the GRE? I am DONE with that shit! I shoveled out that brain space long ago to make room for Herodotus and Thucydides!

The last several months have been full of probably not enough GRE studying. There was lots of sitting with Kaplan and Princeton Review GRE books in my lap, vacantly watching Instant Star or reruns of Scrubs but the actual studying, the kind that involves taking practice tests and writing out vocabulary words and algebraic formulas, didn't really begin until I went to Michigan to take care of my Dad. Like, um, a month ago. I work well under pressure, what can I say?

Apparently, I work best under the kind of pressure that leaves the scholar curled in the fetal position mumbling "IcantdothisIcantdothis," because when my score popped on the screen on Saturday it took every ounce of self-control in my exhausted body not to go "EEEEEEEEP." Because not only did I score much higher than I needed to get into my program, my math score was forty points higher than my verbal.

I'm pretty sure that this means we should all be preparing for the apocalypse, and I highly encourage you to get your affairs in order, tell your loved ones that you love them and start praying to whatever God you worship. Because the day that I do anything math-related better than anything involving big words and being a windbag is truly a sign that we are living in the End Times.


I-66 said...

Congratulations, EJ.

If it's any consolation, you're the most enjoyable windbag I know. And I mean that in the nicest way.

Sharkbait said...

Nice job!

Definately treat yourself, because that is hard work! :-)

Lillian said...

Yay--congratulations!! Just think, you've slain the dragon, and won't have to deal with math tests ever again. :) Well done!

Lindsay said...

Wow...congrats. Math is my worst subject, too, so I totally know how it feels to actually, like, get some problems correct, much less kick ass on a test.

EJ Takes Life said...

Thanks guys! Lindsay, it's like I keep telling my friend Libby who is at LSE right now-- you were so smart to go to a grad school that didn't require the GRE!