Right now, I am currently double majoring in communication and math. I never pictured myself as a math major. But back in the beginning of my freshman year of college, I met with an adviser who spent all of 10 minutes convincing me to pick up a math major. (Note: this is exhibit A of how I might just be the most easily swayed person ever.) Sometimes, I still don't really see myself as a "math person." Sometimes, I get stressed out when I have to spend hours on just one problem or constantly go to as many office hours and tutoring sessions as possible. Despite the stress and frustration (and loads of homework) that comes with every math course, I really and truly enjoy studying math.
Like I mentioned before, my math classes do take up a good amount of my time and tend to frustrate me. I've definitely thought of how much easier it would be to drop all my math classes. But every time I think I'm done, I decide that my math classes are worth the lengthy homework assignments, the hours spent in the library, and the late-night frustration when solving a difficult problem. Studying math has taught me what it means to really love something. What it means to do something because I really want to, not just because I'm good at it or because I have to. What it means to decide that the hard work is truly worth it.
Last semester, I took a vector calc problem session class where we would do very challenging problems in groups. Now, I know that vector calc problems aren't really relevant to the general public. But in this course, I did not just learn more integration techniques or how to find volumes of weird-shaped figures using multiple integrals at once. I mean, I did learn these things (or at least I tried to), but more importantly, I realized why it can pay off to trust in a crazy idea and to go as far as to see it through. When trying to solve a problem, my group members would always come up with some method that I doubted because I assumed it would be too complex and far-fetched to work. But honestly, their crazy methods were right about 90 percent of the time. In the beginning of the course, I was skeptical whenever someone would throw out an idea that seemed too long or too complicated to give the right solution. But as the course progressed and as I noticed how taking a risk and doing something not according to the rules paid off, I decided to embrace their suggestions and ideas. Taking this course made me realize a lesson that applies to more than just math: it's important to take a risk and not be stuck on this idea of having only one set method of doing things.
Another life lesson that I've learned from studying math is that it is perfectly okay to ask for help. Math is hard. Like, really hard. Sometimes, it's easy to get so caught up in how difficult the work is that you forget that there's always a way to get help. All the professors and TAs I've had are intent on helping the students as much as they can. Sometimes I get caught up in my pride, finding it hard to admit that I am struggling to understand a concept or keep up with the homework. And sometimes, it seems intimidating to go to office hours and talk to your professor one on one. But every time I've gone to ask for help it has paid off. Studying math reminds me of a truth that I tend to forget: You can ask others for help.
Now, I'm not saying that everyone should go and pick up a math major right now. (You all probably aren't as easily persuaded as I am so you would need more than 10 minutes worth of convincing.) But I think everyone should try to study a subject that really challenges them and sometimes even frustrates them. A subject that they may not be naturally talented in but allows them to realize how hard they can work. A subject that actually makes them grow as a person and a student. Because as difficult and frustrating as it can be at times, studying something that you love is truly rewarding in every sense of the word.
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