In Which Ella’s Name Will Not Be Affixed to the Wall

The Senior Awards ceremony is tonight. You know, the one where the winners get their names stuck to the plaques outside the Main Office to forever live in glory (and have their names ridiculed by petty teenagers). Ever since freshman year, I have wanted one of those awards. I got the big academic award in middle school and was voted most scholarly (The picture in the yearbook is hilarious. I’m wearing a green shirt with a clashing green scarf, golden brown wire framed glasses and have the nerdiest expression on my face.), which was a huge deal to me at the time. Being smart was how I defined myself and how other people seemed to defined me. It felt good to be that person.

Tonight when I walk into the Auditorium to sit on the springy green fake-velvet seats and watch the proceedings, it will not be to receive one of those big fancy awards. I’ll get my gold pin for four years of community service, and that’ll be it. My friends and many of my classmates will win awards, and I’ll enthusiastically clap and take their picture, but it won’t be the same as walking up to the stage myself, shaking someone’s hand, and getting whatever they give you to commemorate it. I know that I’m being selfish. I know that all I should feel is happiness for others, but I can’t I really, really can’t. I am far too sad over my insufficiencies and how much my emotional problems have messed up how I wanted and want to live my life.

In Which Ella Declares Her Love for the Idea of Math and Gets Defeated by Trig Identities

I am absolutely fascinated by math. I love the way that it explains the world around me and makes sure that the buildings I am in don’t collapse. I love the way that circles are actually just bloated triangles and that rhombuses aren’t the same shape as squares. I love how it can help me figure out the likelihood that something will happen, and how close I am to finishing tasks. Unfortunately, this appreciation has not transfered into prowess.

Now, I know that I am not an exceptional math student and will never be able to become an actuary or engineer, but I like to fancy myself somewhat capable. If you teach me a concept, I can quickly grasp it and repeat it with high accuracy, and this has been the case ever since I was introduced to the concept that when you put two groups of things together, you get more stuff. (Interestingly, most babies can do addition and subtraction at a few months. And by addition and subtraction, I mean they look surprised when you show them one object, put up a screen, and then drop the screen and show them two or more of the same object.)

So I’m stuck doing the entire Trig/Calc curriculum before the end of the school year. It’s actually been quite easy so far and kinda fun. I follow the directions and boom! I get the answer. Of course, I don’t know when I’ll ever use this stuff again, but it’s nice having something to do that’s methodical. No one is asking me to analyze anything, and perfect answers are both possible and easy to obtain. The security of knowing that you are entirely right and that no one will ever challenge your answer is so reassuring. (I only feel this way about simple mathematics, though. The fact there are no entirely right answers or perfect solutions is one of things I love most about the world.)

Today, I gamely headed off to the library to enjoy the air-conditioning and work on my Chapter Seven packet. I did the last few problems on the first page easily, and flipped it over to discover that 7-2 was all about Verifying Trig Identities, and for me, that is a really funny joke. I have been taught how to verify trig identities four times. Once by my old math teacher, who besides being senile, was not very good, and three times by the teacher I have now. It’s rather embarrassing.

I settled into my chair, tucking one leg between my chest and the table and sitting on my other ankle, and spent a good forty-five minutes staring at the worksheet. I answered the one my teacher helped me start correctly, and finished another that may or may not be right. (It probably isn’t since I changed the sign of a number to make the verification true, which you’re apparently not allowed to do. So much for being creative.) I felt like an idiot. It wouldn’t make sense no matter how hard I tried. I know that the problems are doable, and they make sense when other people solve them, I’m just clueless when I do them on my own.

But I am going to figure them out. There has got to be some secret that will make this all make sense, and I am going to find it. I’ve watched all the Khan Academy videos, and I’m going to go in to get help tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes, but I refused to be defeated by something as simple as trigonometry.

On Stupidity and Here Comes Treble

I like to consider myself the sort of person who is quick on the uptake. However, I did not realize until ten thirty tonight while driving in the car with Cecelia that Andy Brenard of The Office’s a cappella group’s name “Here Comes Treble” is a play on “here comes trouble.” I had just thought that it meant that treble notes are coming closer to the listeners when the group sings.

And it’s not like I just learned about Here Comes Treble yesterday. I’ve been watching this show for THREE YEARS.

In other news, I have the AP Literature test tomorrow. If I fall asleep on my desk, I will kill a small animal in my mind.

Failure and Success, All Melded Together

Back in January I sent off an application to Pippa’s boarding school for a post-graduate year. I decided to do this for three reasons. One, I was not ready for college and hoped that a post-graduate year would ease me into the whole studying-away-from-home thing, two, I thought that it would be an academic dream come true with small classes and excellent teachers, and three, the whole romantic side of going to a New England prep school really appealed to me. Somewhere in between having a great time with my new found independence, studying subjects that I really love, comparing beach homes with the super rich kids, and wearing formal dress everyday, I thought that a post-grad year would be the best thing to ever happen to me.

So I went to an admissions event, shadowed Pippa for an afternoon, had a good interview, wrote some great essays (I posted one of them here), submitted a writing sample (posted here), and shoved it all into the mail a week before it was due. Even though I felt confident about the application’s content, I knew, I just knew, that I wasn’t going to get in. I may have straight A’s and have been taking AP courses since my sophomore year, but I also have this charming thing called an IEP. And when schools see those three letters and how much school I missed last year, they tend to run for cover. All they’re thinking is giant liability.

I heard back from the school today. I called Pippa at lunchtime to get her to check the mail, and sure enough the letter was there. She opened it and read it aloud to me over the phone while Clara held my hand.

I didn’t get in.

Sure, I was disappointed, but the voice of reason was the prodominate internal voice. This surprised me because instead of giving over to self-defeating thoughts, I was just annoyed, really, really annoyed, because that IEP has to be the reason why they didn’t accept me.

I excused myself from lunch, went to the Child Study Team and did a little crying, but there were no hysterics. Mostly, I’m just concerned about how colleges will respond to my applications next year. Because getting into a good college is a heck of a lot more important than prep school.

In a weird way, I feel liberated. I don’t have anything that I’m required to do for the coming year. I could go work for my cousin’s anti-corruption non-profit or I could spend time focussed on my writing. I could do anything. Anything at all. It’s my choice.

So here’s to success, and here’s to failure.

But most of all, here’s to my totally awesome plan to bring the rejection letter to school, make people write things that they hate on it, and then burn it in the kitchen sink.

The Magical Math Elves

Last year, I missed six months of school (fun times) due to mental illness. While I was able to keep with English HH, AP US History, and Government Studies all on my lonesome, AP Biology, Trig/Calc HH and AP French went into the garbage pail. Teaching yourself those subjects is incredibly difficult. I managed to learn enough biology to do well on the SAT II, but I can’t exactly look at the plant cells required for AP labs when I’m in an outpatient facility all day. And me successfully figuring out derivations on my own is a joke. A really hilarious makes-your-sides-hurt joke.

Despite all that, I like math, I really do. I love figuring out angles, percentages, and prices, playing with triangles, circles, and squares, and figuring out the heights and areas of things. I did incredibly well in Geometry and Algebra One, but I just managed to squeak by in Algebra II.

This year, I’m stuck in Pre-Calculus Honors because Trig/Calc HH wouldn’t fit in my schedule, and man, do I feel like an idiot. I managed to miss almost every class in January and February, so I not only have no idea what’s going on right now, but I also have no idea what led up to it. Apparently, knowing that cos^2 α + sin^2 α = 1 is essential to figuring out equations that use cos 2α = cos2 α − sin2 α, and wouldn’t it be great if I knew what the heck cos^2 α + sin^2 α = 1 meant so that I could just attempt cos 2α = cos^2 α − sin^2 α?

Everyday last week I sat in class willing the numbers and letters to somehow make sense. I was just dying for that Eureka! moment to happen so that I could leap out of the bathtub and run through the streets naked, just like Archimedes did when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose. Only, I wasn’t on planning on discovering that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of object submerged, I just want an A on Wednesday’s quiz, preferably a high one.

But I’m just completely mystified. I’ve spent several hours in the library with my math textbook, trying all the verifications on my own before looking them up in the back. So far, I haven’t been able to complete a single one. When I’m in class, staring at the board and furiously scribbling notes, I sit there wondering how on earth the teacher knew to input that formula or knew to flip those numbers. It all just seems to happen arbitrarily.

This has led me to the conclusion that I am not the stupid one here. Instead, there are these magical math elves that are creating these crazy answers just to mess with me. But let me warn you, elves, I’m on to you and ready to take you down.

The Great Comma Confusion

I am an overzealous user of commas. I mean a really, really bad one. And most of the time the rest of my grammar isn’t all that fabulous either. This is probably because the only year that I had an official grammar class (40 minutes, every day) was fifth grade, and I spent most of that time trying to avoid being kicked under the table by a girl named Hannah.

I try, I really do. And I did do quite well on the Writing section of my SATs (Being in the 98 percentile isn’t too shabby), so I can’t be all that awful.

So this is my big, official apology to anyone reading this blog who finds themselves thinking, “Geez, this girl does not know how to use a comma, and sometimes her grammar gets really…uh…creative.”

Because Gosh Darn It, I Wanna Be An Expert

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re not exactly a notable person? I know that I certainly have. I have yet to do anything really interesting, and I’m not spectacular at any one skill. Now, one of my life goals is to have a Wikipedia page all about me (Really, Ella? We all know that isn’t going to happen.), and if I ever want that to become a reality, I’ve got to become an expert in something. Unfortunately, I haven’t determined what this thing is yet. What I have determined are a lot of things that I will never be an expert in.

1) I will never become an expert in hair. While my life’s dream from the ages of three to six was to become a “hair-cutter-er”, I only succeeded in proving my ineptitude with a pair of scissors. Once, I cut off a good portion of Pippa’s hair with these. Another time, I cut off some of her hair and then sprayed her head with air freshener. If you didn’t know already, air freshener burns your skin. Pippa spent the next thirty minutes in the bathtub crying while my mom called Poison Control. A little while after that, I gave up and decided that I wanted to be an author. I’m not a complete failure in this department, though. I can trim hair and replicate hair styles pretty well. I just will never, ever, ever be a hair stylist.

2) I will never become an expert in anything that requires Algebra Two. Anything. Freshman year, I spent that class (a Junior year course that I took at the high honors level) staring out of the window, looking at the clock, and thinking, “WHY ON EARTH DID I GET PUT IN THIS COURSE?!? I DON’T UNDERSTAND ANY OF IT.” Let’s put it this way, I did not fail or get a D, but I really did not do well.

3) I will never become an expert in any field that requires me to dance. Remember this post where I wrote a short story about ballet? And remember the part where I talk about the girl being kicked out of her dance class? Well, that happened to me. Thankfully, I came to terms with this failing many, many years ago, and it has never truly upset me. Still, dancing is firmly on the list of skills that I really want to become an expert in.

4) I will never become an expert in avoiding accidents. If there is a set of stairs, I will trip. If I am sitting on a desk and someone has left their cup near me, I will knock it over. Once, I accidentally hit a cup of soda and it went flying across the classroom. That was also the day that I knocked over three other cups (Of course, none of those cups were empty, and all of them belonged to other people.) and later fell over while going down the stairs.

5) I will never become an expert in any sport. Half of the reason is explained above, and the other half is the fact that I have minimal upper body strength and no hand-eye coordination. In fact, the one season that I did play soccer in elementary school, I missed or kicked the ball in a bizarre angle more often that not.

This list could go on and on. The list of things that I’m bad at would also go on for a very long time. Some examples: Waking up when one of my five alarms has gone off at an obscene hour and is blaring, handling loud noises, et cetera

I wish that I knew of some clever way to end this post. Some way to appear witty and optimistic. But I don’t. Instead, all I can say is, I want to be an expert, a true expert, in some field. I don’t want to be just mediocre or somewhat good at a few things. I want to be remembered for some sort of excellence. Thankfully, I’ve got a few (more like 70) years left to work this all out.

Goodness, I sound whiney.