Just giving you all a heads up not to call me on Sunday between 1:30 and 4:30 pm. I won’t be able to pick up the phone because I have exclusive, VIP tickets to attend this season’s hottest, most anticipated event, otherwise known as the Income Taxes for Artists Workshop.
(Tone it down, dear readers: I can hear your envious sighs and green-with-jealousy lamentations that “Dana L. has such an exciting life and mine is so boring!” all the way from my ghetto apartment in distant Victoria, Canada.)
It is shocking to me that I– the one who dropped math like a flaming hot potato at the very first opportunity in university– would be the one in charge of The Numbers in my relationship. Even more absurd is the fact that I willingly enrolled in this income taxes workshop (and paid actual dollars to register!) I’m not even going to deny that I’m looking forward to this workshop. Since when do math and I plan such hot dates together?
Taking a step back to look at my history with math somewhat objectively, it strikes me that I started out loving numbers openly and unapologetically. As a young child in kindergarten, I would bring pages upon pages of long addition to Show and Tell, which were naturally greeted with bewildered stares from my classmates (“what means 4? where are the dinosaurs?”) and even a hesitant sideways glance from my teacher (“oh dear– she doesn’t even realize how nerdy she is, the poor thing!”).
I would literally spend hours upon hours creating gigantic numbers in my head, writing them down on paper and adding them together. I loved carrying numbers, I loved looseleaf paper, I loved writing gigantic numbers down on looseleaf paper– I loved everything about this magical skill of long addition! Having my mom teach me this ninja math maneuver at a relatively young age made me giddily happy. You have no idea. I even asked Santa to bring me pads of looseleaf paper one year for Christmas so I could “do math” on them. Heh. My family has it on tape. And it’s so wonderful to have my inherent geekiness captured on record for posterity… *she says with dripping sarcasm*
I don’t recall when and how it happened, but eventually I developed a highly sensitive superego and equally potent fears of failure and rejection. For whatever reason, a tiny voice inside of me laid the moral groundwork that I would live according to for many, many years: “It’s good to be smart, but it’s imperative not to love being smart in public”. Being unabashedly smart in school meant being branded with the dreaded ‘nerd’, ‘geek’, ‘teacher’s pet’, and ‘goody two-shoes’ monikers, and I desperately wanted to fit in with my not-as-smart, possibly-below-average-intelligence peers. Being openly smart also meant risking failure– e.g. what if the teacher called on me in class, expecting me to know the correct answer, and I didn’t have a clue? Or what if I scored miserably on the Spatial Relations Test and people found out? I would be mortified, shamed, and cornered into a lifetime of irredeemable failure. That was unacceptable to me.
So I toned it down with my love of math. I still excelled in All Things Numbers, but my public attitude towards the subject was much more casual. “Oh, this lousy numbers class again? Whatever.”
It wasn’t until high school that math got the better of me. I took advanced math courses (in the IB program, for those of you geeky enough to know about IB), and Grade 10, 11, 12, and Advanced Calculus math classes were completed by the end of Grade 11. It was all a blur. We studied too many units and problems at the same time, desperately trying to cram all the learning in before the impending International Baccalaureate Math Test, which was standardized throughout the whole world and would be sent to Switzerland to grade. (For real!) Even though I ended up with an artificially high, dramatically inflated average of 98% in high school math, I don’t remember a single thing about it, save for answering “4″ to any question I couldn’t for the life of me tackle. (You’d be surprised at how many times the real answer was 4.) What I did take away from these rigorous, speedy math classes was nothing more than a really bad taste in my mouth and a pressing desire to pursue any career which didn’t require math pre-reqs in university.
Communications Studies, it was! Not one, solitary math class required. Perfect. (So what if it isn’t exactly recognized as a legitimate degree in some cases? Who cares if COMS can’t prepare you for any specific career when you graduate?)
But, you know, math is sort of like the underdog movie character who keeps trying to win the heart of the beautiful heroine. There are many obstacles along the way: heroine falls in love with a different subject in school (Psychology, perhaps?), heroine blatantly tells underdog subject that she never wants to see him again, or heroine prefers more muscular subject types (like rugged Greek Mythology) to the tall and lanky type of the underdog (Geeky Stringbean Math). But Math keeps trying. Then one day, the heroine unexpectedly finds herself in an Accounting position, out of all the possible jobs in the world!, and Math embraces her passionately, saying “I forgive you! I always knew in my heart that we were meant to be together. Stop fighting it– it’s OK to love me back!”
That’s essentially what happened to me with math. Having no accounting training or experience whatsoever, I landed an honest-to-god Accounting position at my former workplace without actually trying/officially applying (and then I proceeded to just sit in front of my new adding machine blinking like a dumbfounded idiot). I was stunned to be in this position but also determined to WIN AT ACCOUNTING if that’s what needed to happen. My supervisor was wonderful the whole time– patiently explaining the difference between a ‘debit’ and a ‘credit’ to me when I just wanted to talk in terms of ‘pluses’ and ‘minuses’, and spoon-feeding me nuggets of accounting wisdom whenever possible. Her: This is the Cash Receipts spreadsheet. What do you mean, you’ve never used Excel before? Um… [awkward silence]. Me: Uh, is the answer ’4′?
I started out in that job like I was walking on 13 inch high heels– I was shaky and decidedly lacking confidence. However, after more than 2 years of flexing my Accounts Receivable and Payable muscles, I finally settled into a comfortable relationship with math once again. We’re like life partners now– not ultra-passionate like we were in the beginning together (oh, young love!), but content with our relationship and committed to each other.
Enter the Income Taxes for Artists workshop.
I am the Numbers One in my relationship now. I take charge of all the receipts, spreadsheets, banking, income, expenses, and yes, even the dreaded taxes. I’m still not entirely confident with the taxes part (i.e. knowing what can be claimed and how everything must be documented, understanding how I fit in now that I work together with Marty, etc.), but I’m willing to learn. So don’t call me this Sunday afternoon– I’ll be the one with the all-access pass to the “Math! Taxes! Accounting! Hooray!!” concert. I know, I know: I’m totally rubbing it in. Salt. In. Jealous. Wound!!
PS: Because Tori seems to have sprouted a direct neural pathway to my brain and keeps
stealing my blog post ideas beating me to the punch, you can read about her own torrid love affair with math here (if you haven’t already). You won’t regret it, I promise.