The Solution


Your fortune is not something to find, but to unfold. – Unknown

I am a mathematician. I love numbers and I love solving problems. When I read the problem, “If Tillie takes the train at 5 p.m. and arrives home at 6:15 p.m., how long does it take her to get home?”, a surge of excitement rushes through me. I snatch up my scratch paper, grab my pencil, and I dive into solving the problem – extract the relevant information, discard the unnecessary, set up my problem, and work it out step by step until I reach a solution.

[Please note that my sample problem fairs on the easy side of complexity. One would quickly know that the answer = 1 hour and 15 minutes. :)]

I love this stuff – collecting evidence, extracting information, and trying to prove whether something is true or not. I’m a nerd, I know. I believe I was born for this type of stuff. The bottom line is that I expect a solution and I expect results. I apply this type of thinking in every aspect of my life, unfortunately. Expect, Expect, Expect.

Sometimes we expect more of others because we would be willing to do that much for them.

As you can imagine, when the intended answer does not arrive, I get hurt. Another let down. Another disappointment. I almost always fall apart. My need for expectations and precision can be my downfall. I have suffered many unnecessary heart breaks because of expecting too much.

Frustration + disappointment = collapse.

I paint a picture of how it is supposed to be, because “how it’s supposed to be” keeps me far removed from how it is or how it was (chaotic, dysfunctional, no regard, and non-existence).  The picture I have painted is not abstract either (as expected). The lines are so clearly drawn and defined and the shades of the colors visibly convey my thoughts – perfection and no room for error.

I planned a trip to Gatlinburg, TN for months. My friends and I would leave at 2 p.m. on the dot and arrive promptly at 6 p.m. EST. I had plans for the evening – soak in the hot tub, consume some wine, and catch up on the details of life. I envisioned the night so perfectly. I could smell, taste, and hear all the details – the background noise of mother nature (crickets chirping and tree bugs humming), the roaring sounds of the jets from the hot tub, and the laughter spilling out between sips of wine.

However, what you have planned does not always unfold exactly how you wanted. Case in point. Instead of leaving at 2 p.m. sharp, you leave around 3:45 p.m. You encounter an accident on I 40 which brings traffic to a stand still. Thirty minutes later, you are on the road again, expecting to make up for lost time.

An 1 1/2 into the trip, your new car, Black Betty, decides she can’t accelerate above 60 mph. You panic and begin to wonder if she can maneuver through the rugged terrain of the great Smokey Mountains. You call the dealership, but they are closed. You toy with renting a car or driving back to Nashville to pick up your friend’s car. You don’t feel comfortable abandoning your car, so you decide it is more logical to return home and pick up your friend’s car.

You grab Starbucks and get back on the road at 7 p.m. – 5 hours after the intended departure. At 12:03 a.m. after twisting and turning up the grade of the steep mountain, you pull into your home away from home all set to sit on the porch to consume that highly anticipated glass of vino. Your plans come to a screeching halt when you are greeted by Tilley, the owner of the place. Her glowing eyes and her firm stance let you know you are not welcome outside. Maybe not ever.

tilleyYou resist the desire to tempt mother nature, actually your friend threatens to lock you outside if you open the door. Instead of relaxing on the back porch, you have your not so glamorous wine while standing on the front porch. *sigh*

Life has a way of showing you that not everything is going to unfold exactly as planned. The algorithm used to arrive at the answer, or the solution may end up carrying you the long way around or in a totally different direction altogether.

As life continues to distort my beautifully crafted picture, I realize the need for precision often suffocates the possibility of something exciting and never seen before happening. In our desperate need for the solution, we miss out on something great, something wonderful, and something unexpected.

This mathematician is learning the hard way that there is more to life when you let it all go – let it all unwind, unfold exactly as it should, errors and all.  Who knows, you might just find it was the solution you were expecting to find this whole time.

PS. I hope you learn from me in the laboratory and not the field. 🙂



Misconceptions About Love


Every once in a while in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale. – Unknown.

Girls were born to dream. We dream about our careers, our wedding, and babies – lots of babies. We have played “house” and dress up since we were old enough to talk and walk. It didn’t really help us that every night before bed we were fed fairy tales and left to dream about our prince charming that would rescue us and be our true love.

Who grows up living in a castle or a forest for that matter? Do we actually live happily ever after? Is there real magic that can break the spells of pain? Where is our prince charming anyway?  It seems I am still hanging out in the tower awaiting my rescue.

I think we were doomed from the start. We were set up with high expectations that could never be met. On the first day of kindergarten, reality met us like a head on collision and we discovered that boys stink, they can be jerks, and they will break our hearts on many occasions.

Their actions taint our view on love and the thought of a fairy tale ending slowly begins to fade. We slam the book shut unwilling to open it again. By this, we settle. We choose mediocre and boring love. We flee from the dragons instead of slaying them for real passionate and all-consuming love.

Maybe we have misconceptions about love and what entails a true fairy tale. Maybe love cannot be spelled out in a short story book. Maybe it needs room to grow, and many chapters for the plot to unfold and the conclusion to be reached. Maybe it needs more characters, more villains to outlast. Maybe we need to kiss a few more frogs before he turns into a prince.

In the borrowed words of an unknown source, I’ve learned that…

love isn't praticalMy path to love does not necessarily follow a script, it is taking its own path. It’s presenting me with obstacles I have never had to face. It’s not easy either nor is it enchanting. The main character seems to be missing too. Maybe my prince has gotten lost and cannot find the shoe to fit my soul. Maybe he is not quite strong enough to climb the tower yet. Maybe he’s afraid to love because it might just magically disappear. Who knows?

What I do know is that magic has no use in my story, only hope. Hope allows me to keep turning the pages and to keep on reading. It makes me hang on and hunger for more. It makes me believe that at the stroke of midnight my prince charming and I will meet. The timing and the setting have to be just right. It makes me believe in fairy tales again, the real kind and not the make-believe versions either. Most importantly, it reassures me that I will live out my happily ever after.

The End 🙂