I don’t know how to find the area of a trapezoid. As a result of this, and the need for many other formulas I haven’t had committed to memory in at least 5 years, I did poorly on the quantitative portion of the Graduate Record Examination. The reason I’ve taken this test twice now is that I have uncertain plans of applying to graduate programs in literature or creative writing – both fields in which I will obviously need to solve many quadratic equations. The analytical writing and verbal sections I can understand, but honestly, do I really have to do an extensive review of middle school math to get into a masters program in literature?
A few days after I realized for the second time that I am simply too far detached from my 8th grade algebra class to do any better on the GRE, I found myself sitting on the BART train coming home from San Francisco next to a girl who had probably just completed her 8th grade algebra class. She looked about thirteen or fourteen, on her way home from somewhere with her sister and auntie, and she was hard at work coloring a page of her notebook. There was a healthy stash of fine-point markers, highlighters and mechanical pencils in the small zipper pocket of her Jansport backpack, and she used these to decorate page after page of binder paper in her FiveStar spiral – all while quietly singing American Idol Kelly Clarkson‘s hit, “Since You’ve Been Gone.”
I kept peeking at her artwork and couldn’t help but crack a condescending smile or two. She’d splattered the page with little phrases that I’m sure were significant to her and was working on coloring them. They went something like this:
LiSTeN tO yOuR hEaRT
CASH rules EVERYTHING around ME!
MuSIc is the way i LIVE
sOmeTImEs we WoNDer if tHe FIGHT is wOrtHwhiLe…
And so on and so forth. I sat there remembering what it was like to be that age – only a short eight or nine years ago – and the way everything seemed terribly important, terribly real, the way all of our thoughts seemed profound, bold and original (especially when embellished with a fresh set of glitter gel pens). As I shook my head and giggled to myself over her silly melodrama, quietly judging her petty, adolescent frame of mind, I realized something that sobered me right up: she would probably do better on the GRE quantitative section than I did.
While I’m glad to have left most of my teenage melodrama at my senior prom, glad that I no longer enjoy writing words with a variety of capitalization, there are clearly some things that I would have been wise to hang on to (at least according to the folks who write the GRE). I mean, her notebook was kind of silly, but I found myself wanting to borrow one of her markers and I couldn’t get the Kelly Clarkson song out of my head all night. Though, from my experience, it’s probably safe to say that she’ll remember those song lyrics long after she’s forgotten the pythagorean theorem.
Since you’ve been gone, I can breathe for the first time. I’m so movin’ on, YEAH yeah…