This is my love story with mathematics, and why I decided to end it. For a great part of my high school life, I was in love with mathematics. Being in scientific section, many people would assume that maths was the most stressing part of my academics. The truth is that I practiced maths when I wanted to take a break. Maths was my chill time activity. Everyone that noticed our little romance would ask me why I loved maths so much; and I would just answer with a shrugging of my shoulders and a simple statement: “It’s just easy”. But I, myself didn’t understand why until long after.

The first step to that discovery was in grade 12, when my Psychology teacher asked each student to stand and say what they wanted to be in the future. That question left me quite puzzled. My whole life I had been told what to do by my teachers and the adults around me, even though, of course I knew that a day would come when I would have to choose a career. Maybe was I subconsciously waiting that they choose that for me too. Nevertheless, when my turn came, I stood up and picked a field that had not been mentioned by anyone, for the sake of appearing original: “I want to be a lawyer”. I didn’t think on it any further.

Time passed like it does in our generation, fast and unnoticed. In my last year of high school, that confusing question popped up again; this time not from the mouth of a teacher, but, it seemed, from everyone around me. Teachers, parents, uncles, aunts, even friends. It was the topic of the year and everyone was expecting me to answer without wavering. Confused and frustrated I decided to find an answer to it but where to start? What options did I have? What was I even permitted to pursue? What if I chose the wrong path?

My dad gave me a hint: “What do you like?”

You would think that helped but it brought even more confusion. Being raised in a Burundian home I knew that the definition of indecency was the display of emotions. So how could my life path be related to my feelings? What did my career have to do with my passion? What if I had no passion?

That is when it dawned on me. I loved maths because it taught a set of well defined steps that brings to a known result. In maths all that I had to do was to listen to my math teacher when he was teaching a new lesson; then apply everything he said to the letter. Which didn’t take require my any energy to think or reflect; all the opposite of subjects such as French where the “questions de comprehension” where always taking up my entire mind. The worst was that there was never a right answer, but we were still assessed by one mind that had to put a number on our thought process. There were no right answers, but apparently there were surely wrong ones. At that moment I wished my life was like a math problem: clear target, right path to follow, given steps to succeed.

I ended up choosing a field, and changing it three times…three years that taught me that life is not maths. There are no clear steps to where to go, no roadmap to a sure success. But that’s okay. Because it’s through that, following our heart, that we learn who we are and what we really want. So I decided to break up with maths and to choose life instead.

By Mylene Hatungimana

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