Friday, October 23, 2020

Ms. Terror – A Tale Of A Wound That Never Heals

Gawr Gura fanart by me. Sad Shork Still a QT

By Cynia Mirasol with assistance from lordcloudx

Whether we like it or not, we all have our own particular weaknesses – parts of ourselves which we try to hide from others for fear that we may be negatively judged. This week, I am baring one such particular weakness – a different part of me that many of you are probably unaware of.

While admittedly, I may pale by a lot in comparison to my husband when it comes to academic achievements, I have never been insecure about my own intellect – especially in a battle of wits. Indeed, while outwardly, I am always quick to point out how brilliant my two kids are and how they really take after their father, at the back of my mind, I’ve always secretly thought that: “It takes two to tango.”

With that aside, if there is one subject that I really look upon with great disdain, it would be mathematics. I know, I know, some of you may be thinking: “but math is fun.”

I’ll give you this much: while I may never ever grow to love the subject, I will not deny that experiences can be subjective.

It wasn’t always this way for me, though. You see, there was a time when I didn’t really hate math. I was never really good at it because I just lack the patience to learn technical subjects but perhaps, if it were not for this one incident during my younger days, I wouldn’t have grown to dislike the subject so much.

How much do I hate math, you might ask? The answer is that I hate it to the point that I actually have trouble with the four basic operations. I am actually quite adept at addition and multiplication, so I can solve things that require adding numbers or repeatedly adding numbers quite quickly, but I’m quite hopeless when it comes to subtraction and especially division. I know enough to get by since I am a Masters degree-holder after all, but if I can avoid math in my daily life, I will definitely do it without a second thought.

I believe there is a psychological aspect to this as well. Just like anyone else who would care to admit that they are actually human and without hypocrisy, I like to receive things – whether it be money, jewelry or just some kind of material gain in general, but I really don’t like losing anything – especially objects with sentimental value to me. Over the years, I have accumulated so much memorabilia that my children have dubbed me as a “hoarder.” To put it simply: I like gain, but not lose. Of course, this also means that I tend to treasure the things that have been given to me; therefore, rather than thinking of it as a negative trait, I believe that it’s a bit of a gray area – as is the case with many things. As I have mentioned previously, the world is never just simply black and white.

The irony of my aversion for mathematics is that I actually come from a family of mathematicians on my mother’s side. My Mama Delia, along with all her other siblings were a family of mathematicians.  As a schoolteacher, when the division office required any reports with computations and mathematical skills, they always turned upon Mama for help. Furthermore, come election time, my Mama was the person asked to compute the consolidated results for the different polling precincts.

To further validate my claim, some of you may be familiar with the late Mayor of Iloilo City and later Senator “Roding” Ganzon. He was classmates with my Mama at Baluarte Elemenray School -- and of course, as brilliant as he was, Mama was always second to him in almost all subjects – all subjects except mathematics. If any historical documents exist of the time they spent there, you can easily confirm this. Look for Delia Dela Cruz.

This is why it is a bit embarrassing to admit this, but despite my pedigree, there was never a time when I was good at math.

Still, I do believe that there was a turning point wherein I firmly decided that mathematics was my enemy – nothing more than a necessary evil created by humanity in a vain attempt to quantify the world into understandable symbols and measurements, a subject that I should avoid with a vengeance.

This story took place during my teenage years – a rather appropriate time as for many of us, this is the turning point from childhood to adulthood, a state of transition, so to speak.

I was in third year high school and unfortunately, our algebra teacher was the most famous “terror teacher” at mathematics at that time. Knowing fully-well that mathematics was my weakness, I really tried my best to do well at her subject, but like it or not, my brain just wasn’t made for mathematics – especially not the way it was taught.

During the first grading period, I did pretty okay – lower than most but still pretty much average. Come the second grading however, I got the lowest grade in the entire class. How did I come to gain this information? Simple, my teacher had this policy of placing the grades of two particular students she handled on the classroom’s blackboard for every grading period – the grade of the student with the highest grade  and the student with the lowest grade.

At that moment, I just wished I could turn invisible. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t even want to show up for class the next day, the day after… or forever for that matter.

But of course, I had no choice. My mother told me sternly to show up for class so as not to embarrass her and she reassured me that she would lend me her skills and be my personal tutor in algebra. The next day after I learned of my humiliating results, I crept into the classroom early and changed my seat to the very back of the class. I turned my eyes downwards and tried to avoid making contact with my terror teacher as much as possible. I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me, judging me, stripping me naked for the dunce that I was.

This was when I learned that my torment was far from over. No matter how I tried to avoid interacting with my teacher, she saw it fit to call me up for recitation as well as to walk up to the blackboard to solve some algebraic equation. I failed every single time even on questions that were so simple that everyone should have known the answer. My consistent failure just seemed to spur Ms. Terror to continue punishing me even more. Who knows, perhaps it was her way of trying to help me, but she called upon me more and more frequently as the school year went on even though the results were the same every single time. I felt like I was going to go insane – but you know what? I didn’t even have that option.

Unlike today’s snowflake generation who have all generally become so hypersensitive that they fall into depression and suffer a labeled mental breakdown requiring therapeutic care at the slightest hint of what they perceive to be oppression, the idea that you can take your life and take the easy way out wasn’t “trendy” back then. Of course, I only have my personal anecdotes to go by on this – so I could very well be wrong statistically – not like I have a reason to trust statistics. I hate math after all.

Thus, I suffered through two more grading periods and of course, I always got the lowest grades in class. The teacher contacted my mother to strike a deal that went this way: “Baw Del, pigado gid ya si Cynia ah, buligan mo gid na sya bi daw indi gid sa kapasar.” (Del, Cynia is in a really bad situation, you need to help her or she will never pass.)

Mama had to strike a deal to help me pass. The teacher knew that I was a side leader in the cheering squad. She said that the team had to win first place in the cheering competition we were entering and in addition, I had to bribe her with “Darigold” labels. The company was collecting these labels in exchange for all kinds of prizes – a common practice back then.

My mother helped out with the Darigold labels by asking her students for some and fortunately, we managed to somehow win the competition – this was the only reason that I passed algebra. Truth be told, I knew nothing about the subject and I still know nothing about it. I can’t tell my X’s from my Y’s or whatever a polynomial is for the life of me.

Looking back, this experience really left an indelible mark on my character. No matter how much other people may try to convince me, I could never like math ever again. From that time on, I was deathly scared of my terror teacher whenever I crossed paths with her… I don’t think I’ve ever made eye contact with her again to this day. Even in graduate school, statistics was the one subject I struggled with the most.

Unfortunately, although I would like to leave you on a happy note, there is no happy ending to this particular anecdote. This is a story of a wound that will never heal – one that will continue to haunt me to my grave. I have forgiven, I have tried to move on, but at this point, I have also come to accept that this hatred will never die.

This is me.

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