Show Your Work/Maths Makes Me Cry

SHOW YOUR WORK. Oh?! Panic. Frustration. Lump in throat. Tears in eyes. Every. Time. I hate maths. And as a child, every time I got to a question where these words were written at the beginning of it, I would be struck by this irrational anger at the fact that some nasty, clever person wanted to sit there and laugh as I unfolded the uncoordinated twists and turns that my mind would take to reach what would, inevitably, still be the wrong answer. At the time, I was convinced that this was the only reason to ever ‘show your work.’ Purely an exercise in humiliation. It didn’t seem fair that after I dutifully wrote out all of my workings, they would be cruelly crossed out and scribbled all over, because I had done exactly what the question said – I showed my work! What I quickly came to learn is that there was a very specific way of doing things if you wanted to get a nice big tick from the illusive green pen or, better yet, a smiley face or even a shiny sticker!? My brain didn’t seem to want to follow the usual mathematical routes but I eventually got better at not getting lost down the path less travelled when it came to carving out my calculations… enough of the time to get my school certificate anyway. (In no small part because the teacher who ultimately got me through my GCSE in maths was nothing short of a hero. Slowly but surely she provided me with a ladder to climb out of the deep, dark number shaped hole that I had spent many years digging for myself. I still fall into it. Frequently. But now at least I know how to get out. And these days I’m big enough to buy my own stickers. The fancy ones. With extra sparkles.)

Anyway, the point of this little saunter down memory lane, is that I realized the other day, although I am happily not in any way on a mathematical career path, I have been struck recently by that very same fear of ‘showing my work.’ What if it isn’t very good? What if it’s… wrong, or nobody understands it or… it’s too small, or not as impressive as it should be? I’ve been swirling around in this ugly little eddy for many months now and today I decided that the water is getting cold and my fingers are wrinkly so perhaps it is time to get out. It may be that this isn’t the most graceful exit – I would have loved to arrive back on the blog with some incredible piece of writing that would have everyone glued to their monitors waiting for the next installment. Instead, I sort of feel like I’m clambering out onto the side with my clothes all awkwardly stuck to me, with only one shoe on and some pond weed in my hair. But damn it, I’m here! What I have realized is that, much like with algebra, in terms of living the life of an artist, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. But what I do know is that my head and phone and diary and computer are all overflowing with thoughts and concepts I’ve been working on that I have been too afraid to share. So, as terrifying as it might feel to do it, I’m going to let some light in… change the bulb maybe. Get myself one of those fancy LED ones that last for ages!

So, dear readers, look forward to lots of potentially terrible poetry, some questionable photography and a few other mediocre bits and pieces. Somewhere in the middle of it all there might be some gold. You’ll see it here first but, for now, whatever it looks like, I am going to Show My Work.

See you very soon…

Anna x


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