The Value of Struggling

    We have a tendency to underestimate the importance of struggling. Recently, my son made me very aware of this importance. Math has never been my strong suit, but it is very necessary to know the rudiments to engage in the world. Working on my art degree, I saw no reason for me to take Algebra. A waste of my time, I told myself. In obtaining my first degree, I could reach the math expectation by taking Business Math. Now, this was a practical course I knew I would need for the rest of my life. Years later I am working on a BFA degree and I am told I must take Algebra to graduate with the coveted BFA degree.

How did I handle this situation staring me in the face? I procrastinated thinking surely I don’t have to take this course. Finally, after I had completed everything the art department had to offer, I began to think about pursuing Algebra seriously. Graduation was my driving force. I quickly began to realize what struggling is. 

If I had to take this course,  I was going to be into the class 100%. I sat on the front row in order to see the board better. I did all of the homework which thankfully counted as 20% of the grade. I went to tutoring classes twice a week, and I asked questions. All of the homework and tests were on the computer. If you messed up the homework three times, you had to start over. Just trying to juggle the computer was enough to send me over the edge.  Then, there was the first test.

 I studied hard and entered the test day with confidence. My hopes were quickly dashed when I received my grade. Algebra is not forgiving. If you leave off a comma or a bracket, the whole problem is wrong. How was I ever going to get through the semester?

Rather than throwing in the towel, I kept struggling and forging ahead. Thankfully, I did every bit of the homework. Most important, by sitting on the front row, the teacher knew I was really trying. Thanks to this teacher, I did pass, and I did pass the course and walked across the stage at graduation and did receive the BFA degree. When I walked out of the door, I shut my life on Algebra and said I would never think about finding the unknown again.

   That is until recently six years later, my son made me see how Algebra has helped me. We were discussing his son taking Algebra. I commented that I could understand the problems the son was having, and gave my same answer that Algebra has no reason for most people. That is when my son made me realize I had the wrong attitude.

I argued and said there was absolutely no reason that I needed to take Algebra. “Now, Mom, at your age, you are one of the most alert people I know. )He works in the emergency room at night, and he sees all kind of patients). He made me realize that through all of my struggling I had added lots of gray matter to my brain. “It forced you to work hard on something you did not like, and you did not give up.” I then for the first time realized that all of my hand wringing, tears, and staying up late working on problems was not in vain. I may not have made a high grade, but all of that struggling made me a more focused, alert person. I learned that is okay to make mistakes. I learn from my mistakes. Don’t be afraid to learn something new. Finally, I realized that, yes, it is very important for students to take Algebra.

What does all of this have to do with my art? I begin a painting with one idea in mind. Suddenly things go wrong; mistakes, it is not what I had in mind. The first thought is to throw the whole thing in the trash can and start over. No, that is not a good option. I have learned how to correct mistakes in watercolor. Watercolor is one of the hardest mediums to work with and takes much patience. I keep working with the painting until I achieve what I want. Many of my best paintings have come from almost giving up and starting over to continuing on. These paintings have turned out to be my best work. Perhaps I will never sit down and work an Algebra problem, but it has helped me to be very focused, to do my very best work, and to never give up. I have quit complaining about taking the course. I see Algebra in completely new light.








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